Taking Aim at Target: Think That V is a CoinkyDink?

target.jpgThe Flickr photographer, Bennett says this billboard is in Times Square, NYC, about 20′ x 20′. I’m waiting for a corporate callback with an explanation from a ‘Target Team member.’ Meanwhile, the universal issue is sexualized ad slop, and how we need to just freakin’ STOP it.

The tasteless toddler tee “Hooters Girl in Training” (hat tip to Corporate Babysitter) is off the charts horrid, and “Playground Pimp” infant wear from idiot parents trying to be clever puts a bee in my bonnet too…But if BIG BOX retail is onboard the objectification train, you’re waving the proverbial red flag in front of a bull here…

It’s not everyday I unequivocally agree with Steve Hall at Adrants, but the industry commentary dissing his admonishment was enough to make my skin crawl. Steve, this time you hit the bullseye…

This Target ad is senselessly subversive on so many levels that it begs pointing out this article in the U.K. Telegraph headlined, Girls Being Brainwashed to Be Promiscuous featuring Carol Platt Liebau’s new book about how our sex-obsessed culture damages girls.

This ad may not be QUITE as blatant as some of the other spread-eagle ambient billboards we’ve featured or as viral as the onslaught of Axe videos making the rounds, but it’s subliminal to the point of guffaw. Regardless, Author Liebau, who is also managing editor of Harvard Law Review, points out:

hootshirt1.jpg“The new female imperative is that it is only through promiscuity and sexual aggression that girls can achieve admiration and recognition…there is scant recognition or respect for women’s achievements unless they revolve around sex…Girls are being led to believe they’re in control when it comes to sexual relationships but they’re actually living in a profoundly anti-feminist landscape where girls compete for attention on the basis of how much they are sexually willing to do for the boys.”

Yup. As I’ve said before, this doesn’t fall into the whole ‘third wave feminism’ argument, objectification is toxic profiteering and soul-smashing, no more, no less.

Liebau goes on to say that teenage girls are growing up in a culture in which being called “a slut” is preferable to being labeled “a prude.”

Sadly, I’ve witnessed this way down at the elementary school levels in our documentary film in development, Body Blitz: Media Shaping Youth.

C’mon, what’s it gonna take, people?

Does anyone CARE kids’ psyches are being trashed?

Drs. Sharon Lamb & Lyn Mikel Brown, our Shaping Youth advisory board members at Packaging Girlhood have written an entire tome citing examples like this, backed up by the 72-page APA study on the impact of early sexualization.

So where’s the mainstream meltdown?

Sure there are tiny orgs like Shaping Youth, About-Face, Dads and Daughters and such, but what about parents engaging their pocketbooks in this movement of cause and effect media messaging?

axe-models.JPGThis review on the Sexuality blog from About has solid links to an opposing view of Liebau’s book reviewed on AlterNet, and this Science Book review airs a polarity of views, duly noting that Liebau points to a plethora of evidence of the problem but less on a solution…To be clear, I haven’t read it yet, so this is aimed at hyper-sexualized kids products and ambient objectification messages universally.

Solutions are our full focus at Shaping Youth, and I can tell you we’re “working on it” but clearly not fast enough to keep up with the churn! How? Counter-marketing…peer to peer messaging…media literacy…economic backlash.

Our ‘THREEP’ stands for “Three Ps”–precedent, persuasiveness, and peer perpetuation, and we’re testing these tactics as fast as we can to shift and instill healthier worldviews for kids.

But when ambient ads like these are cranked out in volumes, even from FAMILY household chain stores, it’s hard to ‘target’ our counter-marketing tactics to have the level of reach that mass media dominance holds.

Wanna help?

Our consortium is filling with media and marketing pros, but we need to reach out to social media, viral, and virtual worlds to start infiltrating on a much bigger scale and are anxious to get our site overhaul and research outcomes complete.

Feel free to send any digital media mavens my way (amy at shaping youth dot org) —interns, volunteers, parents, press, ping me!

Update: Corporate Call/Branding Issues

No, still haven’t heard back from Target’s PR machine yet, but on a related note, I wanted to open up yet another dialog about when brands are used in less than ideal ways…like this one about teens ‘at risk’ from ipod overuse (the ol’ planes, trains and automobiles problem when kids are tethered to media and don’t hear the warning signs)

Is this PSA fair or foul? Will Apple have a hissy? It certainly, makes the point…I can see it on billboards and transit signs in a blink.

Is there a difference when media ‘serves’ the public in terms of brand erosion and trademark use? Where do we draw the chalk line? –a.


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