Maybe you saw this 1981 gender-neutral LEGO ad (left) the first time around. Or maybe you saw it more recently, going viral on the Internet to underscore how advertising for kids could be: the little girl in the picture isn’t wearing any pink, and the ad copy is about the pride a child takes in building something on their own.
The ad’s young model, Rachel Giordano, recently posed for an updated version of the ad that shows just how much toys have changed in the past few decades. Rachel, who is now a 37-year-old naturopathic doctor, posed holding a toy from the LEGO “Friends” line, which is marketed to girls. The “Heartlake City News Van” in her hands is advertised like this:
“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.”
If you’re following: girls playing with LEGOs in 1981 was using your imagination to build whatever you please. Girls playing for LEGOS in 2014 pretending to put on makeup and reporting a fluff story.
Rachel told the blog Women You Should Know that when she was a kid, a LEGO toy like that was unheard of. At the ad photo shoot all those years ago, she was given an hour in the studio to make the very LEGO creation that’s pictured in the ad.
“In 1981, 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.”
These days, it seems that just about every toy is weirdly about gender. Marketing this way is failing both girls and boys. Rachel describes pretty well why this trend is such a problem:
“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.”
[Original ad by Judy Lotas]