If somebody said to me, “Hey, Julija, how would you like to be in charge of all of the advertising directed at children?” I would be ecstatic. There is a lot of good advertising out there, but there’s also a lot of bad stuff, too. The biggest problem that I see, and that honestly makes no sense to me, is an extreme gendering of toy advertising directed at children. When I was a kid there was gendering, of course, but there was also a lot of middle ground. There were toys that were for both boys and girls and I liked that. I have thought a lot about this phenomenon and the only thing I can think of as the cause is this: as the internet pushes more and more targeted marketing the toy/cereal/childhood industries are trying to do so as well. But, here’s the deal, kids are much more impressionable than adults. They don’t know what they like or dislike. So, targeted marketing for children has this strange side effect of actually creating the targeting it targets.
“Why is that such a big deal?” You’re probably asking. Well, think about the ads that have come out recently that your kid is probably watching, specifically toy ads. Do you really want you little girl to think that all she can play with are dolls and fairy princesses? Do you want your little boy to think that trucks and tools are the only things he should like? There have been quite a few backlashes to the female side of this, see goldieblox and this interview with Rachel Giordano. However, I have seen a startling lack of backlash in the boys department. Yes, products for girls tend to be sexist in an overt way, but products for boys are too. They may have much more variety in the types of toys, but they still send a message that is not entirely positive. I’m not saying that the focus should move towards backlash for young boys; I’m saying that the backlash should be for children in general.
So, I have been given control of all the advertising and what do I do? First, I don’t allow stores to separate toys by gender. Put all the Disney toys together, I say! Second, I would start a new trend in commercials where no matter if the toy is a ‘boy toy’ or a ‘girl toy’, it shows both boys and girls playing with it and enjoying it. Girls can enjoy laser shooting, color changing, bad guy fighting toys as much as boys; and boys can like sparkly, outfit changing, soft and cuddly toys as much as girls. Lastly, I would encourage toy companies to educate parents and their children about advertising. “Raise your kids as cynics,” says this New York Times article. Parents are starting to respond to transparency in companies, and if we can change the way parents think about their kids/gender maybe we can raise an awesome new generation!