Monday, January 20, 2014

LEGO Ad from 1981...Illustrating The Change in Advertising Toward Girls Over Past 30 Years...

The text in lower left corner of photo above says the following: 

"Have you ever seen anything like it? Not just what she's made, but how proud it's made her.  It's a look you'll see whenever children build something all by themselves.  No matter what they've created.  Younger children build for fun. LEGO Universal Building Sets for children ages 3 to 7 have colorful bricks, wheels, and friendly LEGO people for lots and lots of fun.  Older children build for realism.  LEGO Universal Building Sets for children 7-12 have more detailed pieces, like gears, rotors, and treaded tires for more realistic building.  One set even has a motor.  LEGO Universal Building Sets will help your children discover something very, very special: themselves."

This LEGO ad from 1981 has been going viral over the last couple weeks.  I absolutely LOVE the message.  The Huffington Post article (link below) discusses the stark contrast between ads directed toward girls in the 70s/80s versus today, and it is disappointing to say the least.  Current advertisers have created (or responded to) a culture little girls are surrounded by today: cheesy-excessively-pink-rhinestone-embellished-mini-Brittany-Spears-lookalike-overboard-makeup-glitter-tattoo-crop-top-short-skirt-ridiculous-teeny-bopper-esque-essentially-her-dad's-worst-nightmare...And marketers have gone bananas riding on this bandwagon.  

Have you been to the girls' clothing section at Target lately?  I do not consider these items ideal for a little girl...rather frankly, they seem a bit trampy and cheesy-teeny-bopper...Is this really what we want our 6 and 7 year old girls to wear?  I don't think so.

Another perfect illustration of this contrast of advertising and product development, (obtained from the Huffington Post article), is their comparison of the Candy Land game....

At the risk of sounding overly old fashioned, (and perhaps overly-analytical) this metamorphosis is just sad, in my opinion.  What exactly are these products and images suggesting to little girls? They should desire to look and behave like excessively tattooed strippers with glitter and feathers on top?  I just do not get it.  At all.  Yet, there must be some population of mothers out there that are buying into this culture?  Otherwise, wouldn't advertisers swing in a different direction?  Based on the viral nature of the above 1981 LEGO ad, I believe there ALSO exists a population of moms who would embrace a trend that moves in the opposite direction, one that swings back to messages of the 70's and 80's.

As a side note, before I had children, I was admittedly on the anti-princess side of the debate (as I am sure you can gather from this overall blog post).  I could not figure out why parents everywhere were supporting and even celebrating their little girls' obsession with princess culture.  All I could really see was the downside...But, now that I have a 4-year old little girl, I have been broken-in on the princess front.  I have come to an understanding that the princess phase can be sweet, innocent, a celebration NOT of the entitled, whiny, over-indulged, image-obsessed world of 'princess' life, but a more basic and innocent celebration of the feminine, sweet, quest-for-good, honorable, make-believe, and wholesome side of little girls.

Nevertheless, I also think companies and advertisers should recognize that little girls (and their parents) are craving products and messages that appeal to something (in addition to, if not beyond) princess-dom.  I can only hope that today's mothers share in my belief that our little girls will have life aspirations that exceed the quest to be pretty and perfect looking.  They actually do have brains inside their pretty little heads.  They have the brains and ability to become engineers, scientists, veterinarians, astronauts, professors, Olympians, WHATEVER they choose.

Don't get me wrong...I am NOT about to go burn my bra.  But, I am sure you can tell I was born in the 70's...Yet, in some ways, I believe the feminist movement failed to embrace the concept that women can nurture their brains, talents, and abilities while ALSO honoring their feminine side.  There was almost an abandonment of (if not rebellion against) femininity in order to pursue the-male-oriented domain of seeking a life/career/identity outside the home.   Fashion trends, hair styles, etc. reflected this phenomenon.  However, women today are seemingly embracing more of a balance: celebrating the uniqueness and beauty of our feminine side while also putting to work our brains and bodies...we can be strong + smart + pretty all at the same time, right?  Cue Katy Perry's,  Roar, please ; )

I am thrilled to learn that there DO exist companies who are embracing this reality.  One, for example, is Goldieblox...Their website describes their mission as follows:

"At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building. We’re here to help level the playing field in every sense of the phrase. By tapping into girls' strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spatial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.
In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math...and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they've been considered "boys' toys". By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, we aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.
We believe there are a million girls out there who are engineers. They just might not know it yet. We think GoldieBlox can show them the way."

The following link takes you to a HP article that spotlights 5 additional toys (along the same lines as GoldieBlox)...wanted to share.

Another company I was excited to see embracing something other than Brittany-Spears-dom, was the recent Pottery Barn International Doll collection. This collection "pays homage to countries and cultures from around the world.  Each doll comes dressed in an authentic outfit" from her respective country.  How refreshing that there is a different focus, one that actually celebrates and embraces our racial and cultural differences and unique attributes, as opposed to furthering the quest for the stereotypical perfect looking little girl?  One that will perhaps spark in interest in learning about other cultures and countries around the world?  LOVE this collection!  
I can only hope other companies will feature products and marketing messages that embrace what mothers (and little girls) everywhere are craving.  Their individuality, authenticity, and wholeness.

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