PowerPoint Slides: the New Puppy-Dog Eyes
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Sometimes, when children want something badly enough, miracles start to happen.
Promises of spotless rooms and perfect report cards are made. Letters to Santa are neatly typed and spellchecked. Sullen teenagers take the headphones from their ears to shower their parents with compliments.
But kids today don't stop there. They are employing their high-tech savvy to wow their parents into fulfilling their Christmas wish lists.
Take 11-year-old Katie Johnsen of the District, who wants a virtual snowboarding game and a chocolate fondue fountain. She turned her list into a PowerPoint presentation with red and green backgrounds, a picture of Santa and links to the Web sites where the items can be bought.
"They are big operators," said Ellen Yui of Takoma Park, who has two sons. "They know how to work the system. They know how to work us big time."
This is the generation that has never known a world without the Internet. They rush home from school to talk to their friends online and flirt over text messages. They have mastered the latest communication technologies and added them to their holiday arsenal.
"Kids have figured out what to do to . . . get what they need and want. That's nothing new," said William Strauss, co-author of the forthcoming book "Millennials and Pop Culture." "What's different is kids' capabilities, the tools they have and what will work with their parents."
Yui's kids, 11-year-old Yoshi and 13-year-old Zen, changed the screensaver on her computer one Christmas to read "I love you" over and over again -- and end with a request for a video game.
This year, Zen wants a cell phone -- specifically, the sleek Sony Ericsson V600i. But it isn't sold in the United States yet, so anything that works will make him happy. He has dragged his father to a phone store "just to browse" and can recite all the features of his favorite phone by heart. It's the only item on his list -- testimony to his dedication -- and he has honed a powerful argument.
"Mom, I hate it when I come home [late] and you're disappointed because I hate making you mad," Zen said, reprising the line he gives to his parents. "And then I say, 'Can I have a cell phone?' "
Retailers work overtime during the holiday season to land one of the coveted spots on kids' wish lists. Stores depend on holiday sales for roughly 20 percent of their annual revenue. And the advertising industry has nicknamed the last eight weeks of each year the "hard eight" because of the intense competition.
Retailers have learned to tailor their marketing to kids' digital lives. The Web site for the popular teen clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch urges buyers: "Drop some major hints. Create a list, fill it with all your abercrombie wishes and we'll email it to everyone you tell us to." All parents have to do is point, click and buy.