Women you should know .net found the little girl in the lego ad, Rachel Giordano, who is all grown up, and she has a few things to say about gendered (pink) toys.
“In 1981,” explains Giordano, “LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”
Indeed, we've seen gendered toys intended to encourage young girls to aspire to careers in STEM or media, but like the TV news van from Lego described in the piece, the advertising reveals the real message:
“Break the big story of the world’s best cake with the Heartlake News Van! Find the cake and film it with the camera and then climb into the editing suite and get it ready for broadcast. Get Emma ready at the makeup table so she looks her best for the camera. Sit her at the news desk as Andrew films her talking about the cake story and then present the weather to the viewers.”
There's no editing suite in the news van, there's a makeup table. Smile and look pretty for the cameras, girls.
Bonus trivia, the creative director at SSC&B who oversaw the making of the popular Lego ad in 1981 was Judy Lotas, mother of two young lego-playing daughters herself at the time.
What's wrong with pink then? WYSK asked Rachel Giordano ;
“Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. I know that how I played as a girl shaped who I am today. It contributed to me becoming a physician and inspired me to want to help others achieve health and wellness. I co-own two medical centers in Seattle. Doctor kits used to be for all children, but now they are on the boys’ aisle. I simply believe that they should be marketed to all children again, and the same with LEGOs and other toys.”
Michele Yulo Princess Free Zone tears the new Friends lego ad apart and shows the 1981 ad side by side with a current photo of her daughter using neutral (sorry, "boys") lego. Cutting straight to the point with her self-made ad, the line reads: Children haven't changed. We have. She astutely points out the many ways that the new lego ad failed to be what the old lego ad was;
The thing for me is that I can see Lego trying to hearken back to the 1981 ad that shows a little girl in blue jeans and blue tee proudly holding her Legos (by the way--this girl appears to be much older here). But the 1981 ad doesn't identify which gender the Legos are actually for; instead, it allows for all children to be included in imaginary play. [Whereas the new] ad continues to perpetuate the marketing scheme that there are toys for girls and toys for boys. I know that there are boys who like Lego Friends as well--this ad excludes them. Yes, it appears to be lovely and sweet. It appears to tell girls they are unique, they can do anything. But this ad is sneaky. And if you place this ad side by side with the 1981 ad--it still lacks the 'what it is is beautiful' sentiment that tells ALL children they are capable of anything. Just putting a girl in blue doesn't make that happen.
The question is, when did marketing to women and girls becomes such a pinkified thing? Marketing to women, and girls, has become its own speciality agency business. Just like translation agencies have specialized in getting your advertising message across in various languages, there's multicultural agencies who sell the ability to speak to specific market. Like the hispanic and latin american ones who can reach those markets in the voice and languages they use. Naturally there's agencies who know how to tap into what motivates the female consumer, and can speak to them in "female" voice too. Who is it that is selling the idea that "pink" = female consumers? Back in 2012 NPR had a discussion on the gendered LEGO;
"Well, I think part of the problem with Lego's marketing is that it's very market research based. I mean, they've looked at what is going to sell to girls, so when you market pink princesses and beauty to girls from the time they're infants, by the time they're in Lego's target market for this line, which is about five and up, they're going to associate pink, pretty, you know, this very specific gender role with what they think they're supposed to be playing with. It's all they've been marketed their entire lives, so of course, that's what Lego's marketing research is going to find."
To paraphrase Bill, we are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we actually are molding it.