The Corporation

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I watched The Corporation in the Odeon on Wardour Street. The film is a good primer covering extreme neo conservative beliefs represented by Canada’s Fraser Institute and those of the anti-globalisation movements. The usual suspects appear from Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky to Michael Moore.

It started with a use of graphics and footage that would not have been out of place in an MTV film, with fast edits and paradoxical overlay of audio and video components to increase impact, but it was when it used specific case studies that it managed to hammer its message through from allegations of IBM’s intrinsic involvement with Hitler’s final solution, clothing sweatships, to drug and chemical scandals.

The most discomforting aspect I found was the section with commentary by child psychiatry expert Susan E. Linn to the advertising and media buyers use of ‘pester power’ as an agent of persuasion was quite chilling; particularly as it accuses marketers of exploiting developmental vulnerabilities in young children. This hit home hard probably because a few hours earlier I was playing host to one of my best friends and her two pre-school infants. It did not help that the advertising industry was defended by Lucy Hughes a vice president at media buyers Initiative Media. There was not an adequate right of response, recognised by the comments from the audiences as they left. The most telling behaviour of the audience is that they broke into applause as the end credits ran on screen.Synopsis of Nag Factor research

MarketResearch C’mon, Mom! Kids Nag Parents to Chuck E. Cheese’s

It’s one thing to know the effect of kids’ nagging. Or that the parents they nag respond in four different buying styles. The key to savvy marketing, however, is knowing how to leverage that information, gleaned from the second wave of The Nag Factor study conducted by Western Initiative Media.

Since the first wave of the study, which Selling to Kids told you about last year, the research company has looked at how nagging kids affect purchases of apparel, quick-service restaurants and place-based entertainment.

The study “reinforced our intuition that kids are critical to the whole purchasing process,” says Dick Huston, EVP at Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza and a Western client. For example, the study found that 41 percent of the parents who took their kids to an entertainment facility – like Chuck E. Cheese’s – did so only because their kids asked. That confirmed the company’s strategy to direct all of its broadcast ads to kids. “One of our cardinal rules is to have kids in our commercials, casting older kids that the audience will want to emulate,” Huston says.

The ads attract 8-year-olds with fun and empowerment themes, demonstrating how kids can master games and rides and win prizes. “They can pick games and sometimes do better at them than their parents,” says Huston. The ads aim at the restaurants’ younger target – kids ages 3 to 8 – by featuring the Chuck E. Cheese mouse character.

Pushovers or not

The study found that the way kids’ nagging translates into purchasing decisions depends in part on the type of parents they have:

* Indulgers are impulsive buyers who can’t say “no” to their kids’ requests. One-third of all parents are indulgers. They are the second most affluent category and are very busy.

* Bare Necessities resist their kids’ nagging and advertising. They’re the oldest, richest and most conservative group. Another onethird of parents fall into this category. They interact the least with their kids and expect to make all purchase decisions.

* Conflicted are single and/or divorced parents. Trying to be moderate, but guilt-driven, they often cave.

* Kids’ Pals like to play as much as their kids do. They’re easy to advertise to – just show parents playing with kids. They’re the smallest and least affluent parental group.

Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants probably appeal more to Kids’ Pals than other parents who are most likely to want to play games with their children, but Huston says the parental types research hasn’t changed his marketing style because he targets kids, not parents.

How to reach each type

Brainstorming on the spot, however, Huston says that “if a marketer were underperforming with kids of Bare Necessities parents, it seems to me you would go in on the value end, focus on any educational aspects, and stress values and benefits.”

Huston’s own TV campaign contains benefits capable of cracking the tough Bare Necessities group because it focuses on “what did you do to deserve” a visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s. In one ad, a boy is promised a visit if he cleans his room. The animated mouse character shows up to help him do it quickly.

In another ad, a kid has to practice piano, “something kids really don’t like,” Huston says, but the mouse arrives to turn the kid into a rock-and-roll piano player. In still another, the character helps a kid walk the dog to earn the treat. The idea of rewards for positive behavior is reinforced with an in-store frequency program.

Nag style counts too

It’s smart to show the benefits of a product even if you’re talking only to kids, because Western’s research also found that that if kids nag with a sense of urgency or persuasion rather than with whiny persistence, they’re more likely to get what they want. So a benefit-rich commercial gives kids the material they need to make their case.

One size doesn’t fit all

The study also indicates “how you talk to parents through kids,” says Cheryl Idell, chief strategic officer for Western. The four styles of parents show it’s difficult to find one message that reaches everybody. It may not take different ads to reach all types, but it may take different copy points.

Indulgers, for example, would respond best to kids’ arguments that a product is something the kid really needs because their parents have so little time, she says.

Busy Indulgers are less likely to go to time-consuming theme parks, but a QSR (quick service restaurant), the second most naggedfor purchase after toys, may be a perfect balance because it’s convenient, fast and saves time on preparing a meal.

Among QSRs, 66% of surveyed kids had eaten at a McDonald’s – named most frequently – in the 30 days preceding the study. Of those, a full 56% of kids went because they asked to go.

Says Huston: “I don’t want to go so far as to have kids nag – it’s an extreme word – but I do want them to ask for it. We know these are treat occasions and that there are a million choices.”

Kids are asking for it. He says sales for the first quarter of 1999 were up 24% over the year ago period for the Dallas-based chain of 330 restaurants. Reported 1998 revenues were $379 million. (Cheryl Idell, Lucy Hughes, Western Initiative Media, 310/854-4880; Dick Huston, Chuck E. Cheese’s, 972/258-5506)

COPYRIGHT 1999 Phillips Publishing International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group