While LEGO has continued to hold a steady course on the polarizing seas of genderized toy marketing, its latest TV ad appears to have momentarily – 60 seconds to be exact – steered the brick maker toward Eureka, an island of enlightenment just off the coast of Girls Have Brains, in the province of And Know How To Use Them Too!
“I don’t always want you to help me. Do you know why? I want to figure it out on my own.”
Punctuated by a carefully scripted voiceover delivered by a confident sounding young girl to her mother, the brand’s new, emotion-driven TV ad shows girls using their own imaginations to create interesting worlds and scenarios with LEGO bricks, while embracing design snags as opportunities to retool and build something even better… all by their capable selves. Empowered girls are the primary focus, not the product.
With that, the ad offers a refreshing portrayal of girls as independent thinkers, creative dreamers, and inventive builders, as opposed to pink-thirsty princess zombies that are all mindlessly drawn to the faintest hint of sparkle. What a welcome creative departure from other LEGO TV ads that have specifically targeted girls.
Take this LEGO Friends commercial from 2012. It centered on Heartlake City, a fictitious place that LEGO designed for girls where it apparently rains glitter. In this ad, you don’t see actual girls doing anything, except making heart shapes with their hands. It features passive play: Dear girls – Please build (term used loosely) what we tell you to build, then follow the parameters of the vacuous storyline we’ve already crafted around our toy set. Sincerely, LEGO
What you do see in this spot are LEGO Friends characters – Stephanie, Olivia, and Emma – cruising in a pink convertible, chillin’, getting styled at the beauty shop, baking cupcakes, and feeding giant, genetically modified carrots to a horse (random), all en route to the “coolest spot” in town. Where’s the thinking, dreaming and building in that?
Though the new 2014 TV ad is a step in a much better direction, we still prefer the LEGO of 30-some odd years ago, when they didn’t separate the girls from the boys… rather, they marketed their iconic bricks to ALL CHILDREN.
PS – The little girl in the 1981 LEGO ad is all grown up and she’s got something to say about this too.
Left: Print ad from 1978 – “The feeling of accomplishment children get from building with LEGO Brand Building Sets is something no child should miss.”
Right: Print ad from 1981 – “It’s a look you’ll see whenever children build something all by themselves.”