Sunday, December 4, 2016

RE: Where are the video game ads that cater to girls?


A few days ago, I received a message on the “boys toy aisle myth” video, asking for help with locating additional citations for a paper related to the topics discussed in the last video.

“I'm writing a thesis paper on this subject and I cannot find even one piece of marketing for the NES that is aimed at girls. I have seen ads that feature the "whole family," but never a TV spot or print ad aimed at getting girls to convince their parents to buy them an NES, and I've gone digging. If you know of one, please send it my way.

I remember my Toys R' Us in Escondido CA having a video game tagging system where you could flip up and little slips of paper you would bring to the cashier to get your games. It was right on the other side of the GI Joe Aisle. Eventually they did open a video game section, but there were indeed video games for sale in the boys section of Toys R' Us. 
Your citations are interesting but they fail to address the fact that in practice, in TV ads, and print magazines, the NES was aggressively marketed to boys. If you have any links to any ads for girls, please PM me, it would be really valuable.”

As much as I could just PM you a list of citations, I figured I'd do one better, and give you a proper response with a list of citations in the low-bar. The reasoning behind this is two-fold of course; One – this pushes me into doing a bit more research on the subject, while providing a response that conveys information with proper context. Something I don't believe can be done well in just a private message. The second reason is – it motivates my lazy bones into actually doing another video in the short downtime I seem to have, right now.

I'll try my best to make this expedient and thorough , while being as clean and concise as possible.


While this may come off as a battle of “anecdotal evidence”, Growing up in Virginia, the Toys R' Us store I frequented had their flip cards located at the very front of the store on a large wall across from the Hit Stix display, which for those of you who didn't grow up in that wondrous decade of neon colored decadence, Hit Stix were these drums that were connected to an amplifier. You would make the drumming motion to get them to make drum noises. There was also a Hit Keyboard and a Hit Guitar, which is actually what I wound up getting as a birthday present.
Even in the 80's we didn't need Wii Music!
Getting back on track, I believe this all comes down to the location of certain departments varying from store to store. One good example is how certain grocery and department stores may have differing Interior layouts despite having a uniformed outside look. It's the same as if the Walmart closest to you may have it's grocery aisles switched around and it's frozen department in the front of the store instead of in the back of the store like the one across town.

Then again, it's also been noted that the store interior is often switched around from store to store as a means of leading the customer around to entice them into making impulse purchases as they are looking for the thing they actually intended to buy, so there's also that. Almost seven years of working retail and you tend to get wise to their tricks

Before we start to cover the NES ads, I wanted to break away for a second and talk about an interesting little ad I found. A computer game company named Sirius Software had developed a game entitled “Bandits”, a Space Invaders style shooter for the Apple II in 1982. One of their adverts appeared to be a comic strip about a young girl who is tasked with stopping a group of space bandits from stealing supplies. The girl's response is what's interesting about this as she responds with “Yes sir! Girls like to play video games Too!”. While Sirius appears to only be around long enough to gain moderate success in being the15th largest software company in 1983 (so sayeth Wikipedia) only to be wiped out in 1984 due disputes with 20th Century Fox about receiving royalties for their games, they were still savvy enough to know that getting your product into as many hands as possible was the best way to sell their wares.

Everybody likes video games, oh yeah!

Now on the topic of NES adverts, There's actually a good reason why it's difficult to find NES advertisements that can be viewed as marketed towards girls. Now, that's not saying they don't exist, because after taking an evening of searching YouTube, and a few extensive Google searches, I did find a few notable examples such as commercials for Super Mario Bros. 3, Mendel Palace, Duck Tales, Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, and Yoshi's Cookie, a game that lends a bit more credence towards previous findings on how girls and women tend to favor puzzle and analytical themed games, but still enjoy playing other types of games, as well.

However, after watching a large number of 1980s and 90's commercials for NES games, something started to become more clear; A lot of these commercials only featured various selections of game play while an announcer provided the synopsis of the game's plot.(see video for montage)

While there certainly were more commercials with higher budgets for bringing in actors to play these games, a lot of the earlier games seemed to bring in customers through actually showing you how cool the game looked and what the game was about. Kind of like a “substance over style” method. I remember commercials like these peppering Saturday afternoon programming like Pro Wrestling, TV dramas, and afternoon movies, and even without having young males aged 10-14 adoring those ads, some of the featured games were still pretty enticing. 

Totally missed out on the Nintendo candy bars and ice cream sandwiches..

This also lead me down another interesting aside, and this will likely be the last one before we end this; There's an interesting parallel between how people today often believe that video games in the 80's were marketed solely to boys, and how Barbie dolls have been marketed towards girls for decades without question.

Now, hear me out, for a second – Mattel's Barbie toy line has both the prestige and honor of being marketed for decades in between Saturday morning programming blocks, and shows aimed at it's primary demographic. It's hardly ever been questioned whether Barbie products should be marketed more towards boys, due to whatever reason be it verbal discouragement or it being somewhat of a societal taboo. With that being said, I'm sure there have been cases where you have known or may have even been a young boy playing with Barbie dolls out of vague interest, curiosity or whatever. It's alright, due to boredom during visits with relatives, as a child, I've had to find ways of keeping myself entertained. Using one's imagination to have adventures with Barbie and Skipper didn't exactly fall in the category of “deal breaker”.

Interestingly enough, in 2015, Italian fashion company, Moschino, had developed a partnership with Mattel for a limited run of Barbie dolls that sported the company's fall line of clothing and jewelry. The limited edition dolls were released simultaneously with their product line and the Dolls themselves sold out on November 9th of that year. To add onto this, Moschino released a faux Barbie commercial with two little girls and a young boy dressed up to look like a miniature version of Moschino creative director, Jeremy Scott who spouted phrases like “Moschino Barbie is so Fierce!”. While this was praised by many at the time to be a step forward for being inclusive, and a ending gender stereotypes.

The whole “gendered toy” argument nonsense always comes off as bizarre to me. Mattel's Masters of the Universe toy line in the 80's had female action figures like Teela, Sorceress, and Evil-Lyn which means at some point there were boys playing with female figures. The same goes for Hasbro's G.I.JOE line, and the Baroness DeCobray, Scarlett and Lady Jaye figures. Not to mention LJN's Thundercats toyline Chetara and Wilykit figures Playmates TMNT Erma and April O'Neil figures and a whole host of other superhero females in toy lines, but I digress.

The Moschino ad was clearly just a fun little promotional idea Scott came up with. The commercial itself was created by Mattel, but according to BBC news, it was produced with Scott's creative direction and hosted on Moschino's YouTube channel, not Mattel's Barbie channel. In fact, according to the article, the commercial never made it to television at all.

The following statement is from the press release

"This video parodies iconic Barbie commercials from the 1980's starring a young [Moschino creative director] Jeremy Scott look alike. The video celebrates how boys and girls alike play with Barbie - it's all about self-expression, fashion, imagination and storytelling,"

Scott added to this statement, as well
"When I dreamt up the concept for the Moschino Barbie fauxmercial, I felt it was natural to have a little boy representing for all the little boys like myself who played with Barbies growing up," he wrote. "Barbie was more than a toy, she was a muse for me."
Above:  How people had fun pre -Wii Sports . 

I know that probably came off as rambling, but while there were ads that appear to be marketed to a particular demographic, It doesn't always mean that it won't appeal to other demographics as well. However, When marketing something you have to make sure that you're hitting a target audience that will provide maximum profits for that particular product, so going with the safe bet is usually the best option. In the case of Barbie, the obvious safe bet is to market to girls, and if some boys want that particular product then that's an added bonus. The same logic exists with video games where some depending on genre will be marketed more to boys, and if girls find those games appealing then that's good too! Meanwhile, other genres of games that are proven to be popular between boys and girls will be marketed as such. Of course, despite what certain “culture critics” and “journalists” tell you, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, what-so-ever. 

I hope this helps with your paper.

- I'll see you next bossfight.

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