This image and an associated article, via The Huffington Post, is making its way around my corner of the internet again. It’s a 1981 advertisement for Lego blocks. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it in the last year or two.
First, let me say, it’s a great image. I had a pretty decent Lego collection as kid. This picture could be me aside from the fact that I never had hair long enough to braid. I love the expression of pride that is being portrayed. I have absolutely no problem with the image.
…Aside from the fact that it is not a “real” image. It’s an advertisement. This little girl probably didn’t build that house and the proud grin is probably not related to that creation. It’s staged. It’s an advertisement and an advertisement that didn’t work. If it would have worked and sold Lego blocks like hot cakes to girls, boys, and their parents, this style of marketing campaign for Lego blocks would still exist.
From an anecdotal perspective, in 1981 I was the only girl I knew that had Lego blocks. Honestly, I’m not sure that many of the boys had them either, but Legos are not exactly a great thing to bring for show-and-tell. They didn’t seem to be the must-have toy in 1981. This type of advertising for this type of generic set was not selling the blocks. That is what advertising is supposed to do. Its purpose isn’t to mimic or dictate social norms. It does those things sometimes, sometimes regrettably, but that’s a side effect. The purpose of advertising is to sell product. 2014 Mad Men look at this image and see a less-than-successful ad campaign.
Is the pink-ification of girl toys selling products? I don’t know. It seems to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be so prevalent. It could be that one “pink” success has led to more brands following the trend until that’s all there is. A segment of adults wishes this weren’t the case and feels that it’s pigeon-holing girls. If it’s a bad thing, is there a way to reverse this trend? I don’t know that either. I don’t understand the trend, but I was never a very girly girl. I had more Matchbox cars than Barbie dolls. I was equally fervent about Star Wars action figures as My Little Pony. I will say that I was pretty impressed with my two nieces’ plan to pool holiday money and allowances to purchase a Lego Friends set a few Christmases ago. It was good to see them considering the cost of things even if I didn’t agree with their choice in purchases. Not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge?