Union Made Creative recently launched an inspirational ad for Lego targeted at young girls and for many the reaction will be: “It’s about time.”
Despite its roots of mostly gender-neutral marketing (which makes sense, given that there’s no real reason to attach a gender to building blocks), Lego has come under fire from many, including feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, who devoted two segments of her “Feminist Frequency” series to the subject, for its overt marketing towards boys in recent decades. The “together” in the brand’s “Let’s Build Together” campaign, for example, was limited to fathers and sons. In 2012, the brand reacted by releasing its Lego Friends line, marketed towards girls, but the extension was viewed by many as an after-thought at best and by its more vocal critics, as Sarkeesian put it, a “a pastel-colored gender-stereotyped suburban wasteland.” That Lego Friends is “for girls” only reinforces the problematic notion that the rest of Lego’s products are intended for boys. The majority of sets in the line feature stereotypically feminine constructions like beauty salons and bakeries, and are dominated by soft pastel colored blocks.
A kind of tipping point came early this year when a letter from a 7-year-old girl went viral and put renewed pressure on Lego to better serve its female fans. The company showed that they might finally be getting the message this summer when they released the Lego Research Institute, developed by Swedish geochemist Ellen Kooijman through the fan-sourced Ideas platform, which features three female scientists. The limited-edition set sold out within days, delivering a clear message to the company that there’s a demand for such products.
All of which brings us to “Inspire Imagination and Keep Building” from Union Made Creative, which (finally) addresses many of the sexist tendencies in Lego’s advertising. “I don’t always want you to help me,” says a girl narrator at the beginning of the ad, “Do you know why? I want to figure it out on my own.” While the ad shows the girl playing with figures from Lego’s Friends set, it shows her using those pieces in creative ways, and she doesn’t play with them exclusively. She also makes a hospital bed and plays doctor, creates a helicopter and a maze for a hamster. In short, it explores the wonder and imagination at the core of the brand. “Because you taught me how to think and how to dream,” the narrator says at the conclusion of the spot, “I’m about to make something that I know will make you proud.”
The ad is very well crafted and would be emotionally powerful even without the background of the brand’s gender-biased marketing, but is all the more so because of it. At the very least it is a big step in the right direction for Lego, as they hopefully continue to move toward making all of their fans feel equally welcome, regardless of gender. Read more