Toys ads: from the past to current trends

Header Spielzeugwerbung im Wandel der Zeit

This article describes a few of the main characteristics of toy ads featured in our recent history and specifies some of the latest trends that are influencing advertising in the toy industry today.

Barbie ad, 1987
Barbie ad, 1987

Changes in aesthetics & gender targeting

One of the most obvious characteristics that has changed in toy ads throughout time is aesthetics. During the first half of the last century, ads were based on illustrations, reflecting the main artistic styles of the moment, going from black and white realistic illustrations at the beginning of the century to colourful and unique graphics in the 50s and 60s.

However, the analysis of ads from this period showed surprisingly many gender-neutral ads. Though there were ads targeting one gender or another, the review showed that it was during the 80s, 90s and 2000s when the gender differentiation in ads was more intensified. 

Nowadays, with a rapidly growing social awareness against stereotyping, many toy companies are avoiding this kind of discrimination in their publicity. Some companies have even taken a step further by using their ads to make a statement against gender differences. With these actions, they are reaching the new generation of parents whose values are very much egalitarian.

Ads such as the Barbie Moschino featuring a fashionista little boy, which had a great impact on social media, or the recent International Women’s Day Lego campaign, recreating an iconic ad from the 80s are good examples.

Barbie Moschino ad, 2015
Lego ad
Open Gallery
Lego ad 1981 (left) & Lego ad International Women’s Day 2021 (right)

From product characteristics to values and storytelling

Another main characteristic of toy ads that has changed drastically throughout the years is the use of information about the product. Ads have evolved from having a significant amount of text explaining the parts and functions of a product to actually not talk about the product at all. 

Schuco and Jugettos ad
Schuco ad, 1952 & Juguettos ad, 2021

In fact, nowadays there are plenty of ads that do not even show the products of the company but feature images that convey a feeling, or a specific value. For instance, lately there are wonderful examples of ads being used as a tool to improve things in society. One such example is the toy distributor Juguettos, who published an ad with the message “Un juguete bien dado y se te quita la tontería” (A toy given at the right time will get rid of foolishness), the original Spanish sentence involves telling the kid that you are going to spank them unless they behave. With a play on words, Juguettos made parents think about the old ways of educating children. The ad did not show a product, but transmitted the company’s brand values in a quick and clever way. This allowed them to connect with their consumers on a much deeper level.

Social toy ads, a tool to connect with the current consumer

The analysis of toy ads can help us understand the evolution of our industry, and also the changing needs and expectations of consumers. Current consumers are valuing brands that care, companies that contribute to creating a better world, one that is more equal and inclusive. This is an aspect that all toy companies should consider when creating their ads, focusing a bit less on the product and much more on the feelings that it creates and the values behind the brand.

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