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Tuesday
Mar052013

Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only

by Michele Yulo

Have you seen the new Lego Friends ad that has been making its way around social media?

It seems really nice, right? A smiling girl with her creation. The text that says, "She's an explorer, a builder, a designer, a creator, and an inventor." In this ad, Lego puts a new twist on the now famous ad (below) from 1981 that went viral last year when Lego Friends was first introduced in which a little redheaded girl in braids, dressed in all blue against a brown background, holds her Legos proudly without any pink or purple in sight. What many pointed out about what made this particular ad so great was the obvious non-gendered way Lego marketed to kids back then. It seems that once-upon-a-time there was no need to appeal to girls' sense of color or to even address the audience by gender. The copy appeals to all children and addresses them as such without ever using the words girl or boy. This is also evident in the name of the sets: Universal Building Sets. Clearly, these sets are for everyone--boys and girls alike.

Conversely, the latest ad for Lego Friends targets "she" only. Yes, the girl pictured is in blue (yay!) and is proudly holding her Lego invention (that is loaded with pink and purple, of course), but the ad is all about girls as is Lego Friends. In a conversation on Facebook that asked for thoughts about it, I said: 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.

In addition, an article in Britain's The Telegraph questions (as have others) whether "pinkifying" toys, specifically Legos which are supposed to encourage girls in areas of building and science, is helping or hurting. When we separate girls and boys in this way, we are telling both sexes that girls can't be interested in things like science unless they are color-coded or include things like puppies and cupcakes. The article quotes a Lego "spokesperson" who says, “'We’ve always had Lego bricks that are pink and we’ve got a wide variety of different sets," adding, "'We don’t say ‘this is for girls’. It’s up to the child or the parent to make the choice.'” That is a completely false statement. First of all, take a look at the 1981 ad and you'll see that Lego has not always had pink bricks. I'd also ask them to review their own advertising for Lego Friends which does not include a single boy (and no male minifigs), as well as the initial announcement that was made when Lego Friends was first introduced in which they admit omitting girls from their product marketing and advertising until last year while specifically saying that the new sets are aimed at "girls five and up" and not "kids five and up." [What an easy fix!]

What continues to boggle my mind is why Lego never once, over the past ten to fifteen years, thought to simply open up their existing product lines to girls--or never once thought girls might actually love the Harry Potter sets, or might be into constructing a helicopter or a police station. Yes, the new ad is nice, but it does indeed address girls only and, even though it attempts to look like the 1981 ad, unfortunately it completely misses the beauty and simplicity of their past message that all Legos are for all kids. What happened?

Last year, I did my own homemade version of the ad to show that it is not that kids have changed forcing companies to adopt "separate but equal" and "pink marketing" strategies--in fact, it is the other way around. I didn't change the tagline except to say that "What it is is still beautiful." Because it is.

I will say that the newest ad is a step in the right direction and I recognize that Lego seems to be trying to broaden their gender horizons, however, the message is the same: girls and boys can't possibly play with the same toys. We must continue to deconstruct media that continues to perpetuate gender stereotypes--even when it seems to be sweet and harmless. With that in mind, here is what I'd like to say to Lego: I know you are capable of making advertising that appeals to ALL children because you've done it before. I have the proof and so do you. It's not that difficult, so just do it.

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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Response: utah seo firm
    A remake is a motion picture based on a film produced earlier. The term remake can refer to everything on the spectrum of reused material: both an allusion or a line-by-line change retake of a movie. However, the term generally pertains to a new version of an old film.
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Lego began manufacturing interlocking toy bricks in 1949. Since then a global Lego subculture has developed, supporting movies, games, competitions, and six themed amusement parks. As of 2013, around 560 billion Lego parts had been produced
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    Princess Free Zone - PFZ BLOG - Lego Remakes a 1981 Ad, But This Time For Girls Only
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    at this time girls for only. so i think its a good job. here is the nice collection.
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Reader Comments (8)

Bravo!!

I just read that the 1981 Lego girl is named Rachel... She's 37 now and she went into medicine.

There's no need for this absurd gender segregation approach from Lego. It wasn't needed in 1981, and it's the last thing we could need now. It's damaging. Our daughters are full participants in this world.

Less of the tired old excused for exclusion, please. Embracing inclusion, equality and diversity makes for a far better plan, with a much brighter future.

February 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfightclubdoll

I am torn on this question and the whole Goldiblox thing. Only 13% of this country's engineers are female. Less than 7% of construction managers and less than 3% of actual construction workers are women. Something is seriously wrong and having girls play with building sets is definitely a way to make them interested in the various construction roles.
I think Lego should advertise to kids period. But this new wave is interesting because it raises a question about other toys. Will pink trucks and excavators suddenly appear on the scene. Or will girls who play with the pink blocks just naturally gravitate to the other toys.
I see a future in which the toy companies start advertising to both. But as long as there is a market for pink toys, people will buy them for girls.
If I had a child to buy toys for, I would not succumb to the "girls only" style and I am hoping this is a productive but limited phase.
Overall more girls building is good. But the means to the end is troublesome.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Res

I love this so much! I think this is also my problem with Goldie Blox. I've linked to it on my own blog's FB page. I hope that's ok even though I call myself "Sustainable Princess". My take on the Disneyization (though they are not even remotely the only culprits) of all things princess is, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I absolutely agree that not all girls are the same, and I really like your blog. Again, thank you for your post.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

This is completely missing the point. I wish I had Lego friends as a little girl. Seriously, Legos actually in my favorite colors, representing my favorite activities. Lego people who aren't just yellow- but numerous races (awesome) wearing Lego clothes I find adorable. So I love building these with my daughter and while we still enjoy our Marvel version of Legos she more time enjoying Legos that are specifically marketed to her. Harry Potter often can often be seen lounging on the poolside of Emma's balcony.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMHunter

People keep saying that the 1981 Lego ad was so gender neutral, but I just don't buy that. Kids around the age of the girl in the photo are highly interested in gender identity as a part of their natural development. So you take that the image is of a girl and combine it with the line that calls her creation "beautiful", and already you have an ad with a feminine lean, however subtle people mind find it. It looks to me like an ad trying to get parents to buy Legos for their daughters by assuring them that this type of toy - which is more popular among boys - won't take away from their basic femininity. Did Lego produce other ads during the 1981 campaign that depicted a little boy holding up a creation with the line "What it is is beautiful." Somehow I doubt that very much.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMartha Knox

MHunter with all due respect, 1981 Lego was marketed to you and your daughter too. Unless you *only* like pink and pastels that is. Lego should NOT be marketed to girls or boys separately. It should provide the tools to fire your kids imagination off in cool ways.

Another huge problem with Lego Friends is that the actual building of something is already done for you. Lego moving towards pre-built plastic set pieces was a bad idea. This happened I think with theme sets started becoming really popular, maybe the ones based on movies? The whole concept of Lego is you get blocks and can build whatever your imagination takes you. Even the little lego people are customizable.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNo MHunter

A builder, a designer, a creator, an inventor - all these comes just to one young girl?! Are girls better than boys in building Legos? This young girl is amazing!
Benny Johans

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBenny

I have really mixed feelings about these legos. I would like to think that the color doesn't matter but I bought my daughter a set a "regular legos" and they got very little to no use. Then my assistant bought her a set of pink ones and she went at them like made. She started off by building according to instructions but once she had mastered that she took what she had learned from that engineering and applied it to building her own things. Once she was building on her own she started raiding the box of "regular legos" when she needed pieces of a certain shape that she didn't have in her preferred colors. I wasn't a pink, princess girl growing up. I don't know if my daughter prefers the girl colors because of the pervasiveness of the marketing but I also worry that I draw my line at not buying "girly" building tools in a culture that is so "girly" focused will just make those seem more boy only. My daughter has already decide princess is sort of a lame job and plays with almost as many boys as girls at 5 years. Knowing some mean lego skills has helped that.

July 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJClausen

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