What a difference 33 years makes.
Back in 1981, Rachel Giordano was a red-headed 4-year-old child model with pigtails and baggy jeans, starring in a LEGO ad -- in a time when toys did not yet scream pink or blue. Today she's a 37-year-old doctor (still with thick red hair and a proud grin), recreating her ad to send the message that creativity is not a boy thing or a girl thing.
Last month, when HuffPost Parents resurfaced the 1981 ad as an example of what toy advertising should be, it was popping up all over social media. Educational psychologist, parenting coach and HuffPost blogger Lori Day saw it shared numerous times on her Facebook page, which is how she found out that the little girl in the ad was now the all-grown-up friend of a friend. Day contacted Giordano and asked her opinion of the change in advertising to children over the past three decades, then wrote about their conversation for the website Women You Should Know.
"In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message," Giordano told her. " In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”
Specifically, Giordano was talking about set from the new LEGO Friends line that was made specifically for girls -- a very pink news van marketed with this description: "Break the big story of the world’s best cake with the Heartlake News Van!"
Inside the van is a spiffy makeup table so the newscaster can get all pretty before her big stand-up about said world's best cake! Because that's what journalism is all about!
Day sent the toy to Giordano, and they teamed up to create this side-by-side image, and indictment of modern advertising:
Before we get too nostalgic, though, we need to remember that even in 1981 the image of a girl in a LEGO ad was somewhat controversial. Back then, Judy Lotas ran the creative group at SSC&B that made the ad, and, in an interview with HuffPost, explained that she had to fight to include Giordano. Others argued that boys are the ones who like to build, she said, but Lotas, who had two young daughters at the time, knew that that was simply not true. She stood her ground and that's how Giordano became one of the children invited to the studio where they played with a LEGO set for an hour and were photographed showing off their creations.
"Boys and girls are different, but not to the exclusion of wanting to create and build," Lotas says. "That’s not a gender issue."