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17th January 1999
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Kids and ads

Moms struggle to get their little ones to drink their milk, or brush their teeth before going to bed.. imagine what people in the advertising business have to go through every time they have to use a kid in an ad.....Wathsala Mendis finds out more

Remember the last time you struggled to get your little one to drink his milk, eat his sandwich, or brush his teeth before going to bed? "Tell me about it!" I could almost hear Moms out there groaning. You might try all the tactics under the sun: coax, cajole, or even threaten him/her. Chances are (s)he might make a face at you at best and go on with whatever (s)he was doing while you eat your hair out in frustration. So much for your effort!

Just imagine what people in the advertising business have to go through every time they have to use a kid or a bunch of kids in a commercial, especially when they're below 10 years. Come to think of it, you see the ad only for about 20 to 30 seconds, but do you realize just how much work goes into that, how extremely tiresome it could be at times?

To work with children you have to understand their needs and moods. If you tax them too much, they will soon lose interest. On the other hand, they could be more cooperative than adults if only you're patient with them. Sometimes you can shoot an ad at one go, sometimes it could take days, depending on the child and his/her mood. It's not the easiest job in the world, especially when you have their parents getting on your nerves by making a big fuss over the whole thing. They would tell their kid, "Duwa, smile like this. Putha, don't do that." In other words, they try to do the director's job.

What's the idea behind using kids in commercials? "Children are motivators. They could make a difference in the purchasing decision of their parents. Without children there's no way you can portray family life," says Pradeep Amirthanayagam, CEO of Holmes Pollard and Stott (Pvt) Ltd. Besides, they're a major source of attraction. They would do the funniest, the craziest thing in the world when least expected which could be the perfect selling-point.

But of course, with kids you have to be prepared for the inevitable. They might want to go to the toilet or to bed when you're just about to shoot the most important scene. Nothing could be more irritating! But then again, there's hardly anything you can do about it. If they want to sleep, you have to let them sleep. If they want to play, you have to let them play. As simple as that! There's no other way about it.

Worse still, children could be downright candid and honest when it's the last thing in the world you want. Amar Gunatilleke, Head of Client Services at Minds Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., recalled an incident where his nephew, a seven-year-old, had to appear in an ad for a certain milk product. "The guy tasted just a little bit of it and blurted, 'Yuck, I'm not going to drink this.' Right in the middle of the shooting. Nothing could make him drink that. Ultimately, the agency had to use another child."

Remember the cute little boy in the Maliban Milk ad, playing cricket with his sis? And the adorable bunnies frolicking for the camera? Well, the original idea had been to use a dog. But our little friend had been a bit taken aback by the prospect of playing with a doggy. Fortunately, the camera crew spotted him having a wonderful time with the rabbits at the bungalow in Nuwara Eliya where the advertisement was being filmed. And it was only a matter of minutes before the script was changed to suit his interest.

Children are totally unpredictable, easily get tired and hate doing the same thing again and again. Once they're distracted, you might as well call it a day. Because to budge under pressure, they certainly would not. The best thing to do is to capture them in their natural moods which again is a herculean task. A few years back Phoenix Advertising (Pvt) Ltd. did a commercial for Anchor "Butti" pack using a couple of tiny tots. The idea was to highlight the smaller size of the packet. The studio was dressed up in white. The camera angle was very low. Milk packets were strewn all over the place and the kids were allowed to play with them. No sooner the filming started than the girl and boy got into a fight. Once they patched up and the crew got down to business, the little boy came forward and started moving the lens of the camera. Patience sure is a virtue when it comes to working with children. And as long as you let them do whatever they want, they'll be just fine. Or better still, if you can limit the dialogues to a minimum and let the expressions do the job.

"The funny side of it is what we grown-ups would sometimes do to get a kid to act in a certain way," observes Kevin Francke of Grant McCann Erickson whose niece appeared in a TV commercial for iodized salt. "She was two-and-a-half-years old at the time. I had to practically go on my knees and do all the antics to get her to do things." Children are temperamental. If you want to get anywhere with them, you have to shower them with loads of love and kindness. Sweet-talk would come in handy but not always. "It brings out the child in all of us to get a kid to react," says Kevin.

What if the kids involved are from the not so privileged class? Sandya Salgado of LDB Lintas (Pvt) Ltd. had rather a sad experience to share. "Once I was working on this campaign against child abuse, involving street children. We had to take a shot of this little girl who had to look like someone who had been seduced. She was a refugee picked up from a kovil in Bambalapitiya. Her parents were waiting outside the room where we did the shooting. I was the only female there except her. The poor thing looked so terrified the photograph turned out just perfect. The moment we took her out, she started crying. It was absolutely traumatic for me. I felt that we did abuse a child for an anti-child abuse campaign although it was hundred percent successful."

Working with children is not a cushy job. They switch on and off at the drop of a hat. A sweet little angel at one moment could become the worst nightmare the next. It certainly isn't a ready-get set- go business. Because no matter what, kids will be kids. 

Symposium of Ramazan festival fashions

Symposium, Sri Lanka's leading fashion innovators of North Indian and Pakistani women's wear held a fabulous display of their garments at their Salon at Frankfurt Place, last Sunday. A large and   appreciative audience of Muslim women enjoyed the display of the latest trends in Shalwar Kammez, Shararars,  Gaghras, Cholis, Khurtas and Joth Puris. There was also a modern version of the traditional Abhayas and Hijahs.
Mehraj Dahlan the Managing Director of Symposium who makes very regular  visits to India and Pakistan says although sleeveless and shortsleeved outfit are in vogue in India today, this has not caught up with the Sri Lankan Muslim women as yet.
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