Thursday, 24 February 2011


My daughter has started a new school, and along with other pressures comes the need to be seen as ‘a good mum’.

Last Friday she announced she needed a blue nose. A request like this usually implies an entire costume is required at breakneck speed for an assembly or charity day.

‘What do you need it for? I’m not sure I have a blue eyeliner…’

‘Not a blue nose Mummy! A Blue Nose! It’s an animal with a blue nose – everyone in my class has one, but Emily says if you don’t want to, she will ask her mum to get me one.’

Okaaay. I look slyly at Lily. Does she realise she has just performed the most perfect piece of pester power on me? She smiles sweetly, ‘It’s true – she says she won’t mind!’

Five minutes later we’re at the toyshop. Bluenoses are ugly, unimaginative ‘plush’ creatures with dead eyes. I know it, she knows it. She keeps glancing furtively at the Sylvanian Family section. She’s wanted a Dalmatian baby for a while now….

I suggest a Blue Nose key ring – visible the whole time on her bag but only £1.99. She accepts and I then buy her the Dalmatian baby anyway simply because she didn’t ask for it – bizarrely the second most perfect piece of pester power.

The reason I seem so weak is because I actually don’t have a problem with school crazes – they’re part of school life, and more often than not, they occur organically rather than are brand driven. I’ve asked around – the passion for Blue Noses isn’t replicated at any other schools around here – nor was the obsession with Mighty Beanz last year in my son’s class. Yes, they are designed as kid’s collectibles, but I think it just takes a couple of kids to kick-start it - and the herd follows.

But what happens to my point of view when a pester is clearly brand driven – usually through advertising or a website? I feel my shackles rising. Nothing annoys me more than a request for an obscure item that I must then go and research – only to find more stuff aimed at seducing kids. So how am I feeling about the brand now? What emotions am I attaching to it?

Ultimately, I still hold the purse strings, and nine times out of ten I will say no on principle. Yes, I know I’m tough, but I’m sure those parents who give in do so under duress rather than through warm feelings towards the brand.

By all means talk to the kids – but talk to the parents too. At my agency (1000heads) we go further than that. We will not target kids under 16 at all. [] We speak to parents, communities and schools – in a language which seeks to inform, stresses the benefits and ultimately results in a positive attitude towards the brand. Instead of a one-way pester, you get a two-way conversation.

It’s an ethical decision – but a smart one too!

Monday, 7 February 2011


I think I have finally accepted that I am ageing. Notwithstanding the fact that I am the oldest in my office (bar the MD) by some 13 years, I am now fully advertising my advancing years through my latest (and most expensive) fashion accessory - reading glasses. I didn't even know I needed them until my best friend produced hers. Naturally I tried them on and WOW! Suddenly I was acutely aware of how I had been increasingly holding books & papers at arm's length and squinting in that way older people do when they can't read clearly - yes, and now that older person was me...

The next day we were all in town when I decided to pop into D&A to get my eyes tested - they did it straight away, and my fears were confirmed. The kids had a lot of fun helping me choose the frames but drew the line at getting a chain (I was torn - yes I know it really does consign me to old biddidom quicker than comfy slacks and a pair of Van Dals, but I know I will lose them ALL the time).

I eventually plumped for a pair of black Ralph Laurens, which cost the best part of £250, but do give me a certain air of intelligence. I know this price doesn't seem much to those of you who have always worn glasses, but I was a bit taken aback. Of course, I know how lucky I am not to have had this expense before, and anyway, I could easily have picked up a pair from the chemist for £14.99, so more fool me.

I swear most reading glasses are purchased after trying on a pair of someone else's - the minute mine arrived Mr G popped them on, discovered he was in greater need than I was and promptly spent another £250 on his own pair.

He has in fact just arrived back from New York announcing he is going to sit on his glasses and claim on insurance in order to buy a pair of much trendier glasses that he has seen on much trendier people, and why did I make him go to our small-town D&A with a selection suited only to the narrow-minded suburban bores that live here? He's always like that when he comes home from exciting metropolitan places. He'll get over it soon, and realise how perfectly well he fits in.