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.



  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Karla…

    I summarized my stance on the derailing of the conversation to ‘this particular ad’ on the Humane Education blog, pointing to how ALL POVs once rational have been hijacked and diluted by ‘one ad’ focus out of context (and skewered by media messaging…a teaching moment in itself)

    Here’s what I wrote on their insightful blog under the comments section: http://humaneeducationblog.blogspot.com/

    “Excellent list of questions, Marsha.

    For critical thinking skills I’d also add, “Has the conversation been distorted, diluted, or pulled out of context on either side of a given debate via the media filter?”

    In this case, it readily applies.

    Our entire post was trivialized into being about ‘this one ad’ instead of the intended context which is a much larger dialog about ongoing objectification/crass innuendo saturating advertising resulting in APA studies showing psychologically damaging impact on youth. (both genders)

    Conversely, I feel Target’s ad was also pulled out of context as ‘one ad’ instead of part of a larger campaign (i.e. due diligence prompted me to phone them to query context, and they chose to respond poorly, e.g. “we don’t speak to non-traditional media” which became an even BIGGER story that got picked up by PEM, and the blogosphere as a whole)

    In short, I chose to let this thing run its course, and asked our readership NOT to incite a ‘blog war’ in a slugfest of adversity coming to my defense due to concern it would derail the much more profound conversation about pop culture objectification, and give our nonprofit a black eye.

    Alas, even Shaping Youth’s ‘take the high road’ strategy has altered the dialog to a lopsided one, making it APPEAR the masses feel it’s ‘much ado about nothing’ when that is FAR from the case.

    We’ve received hundreds of supportive e-mails from scholars & students alike praising us for ‘holding our ground’ despite the misinformed flamethrowers and focus on ‘one ad’ vs. the universal objectification context. (we’d cited the toddler tees that say “Hooter girl in training, playground pimp, etc.)

    The personal slams vs. productive discourse are worrisome to me as a threat to free speech /democracy as we know it, because potential leaders & social change agents may shun the ‘public figure’ arena, and ‘opt out’ altogether, unwilling to be pummeled by mass media incivility…And that would be a shame.

    As for me? Shaping Youth adheres to the Echoing Green philosophy…”Be Bold.”

    So hopefully…that’s clear w/everyone by now…

    I also am concerned that the akismet spam filter is gobbling up some of the discourse too…

    So please, if you don’t see your comment here, please ping me directly amy at (name of blog) dot org and I’ll make sure it gets proper posting.

    To give you an idea of sheer volume, though, autobots had clocked 723 spams into comments between the time I signed off last night in the wee hours until this morning! Can’t wade through them all to ‘make sure’…In fact, it’s getting even wilder, since in the time it’s taken to write this comment, I see my spam file has snagged 61 already. See what I mean?

  2. Hi Amy, I would love to join the discourse, and come down on your side, but you have so much here, it’s hard to read it all. Your purpose is a worthy one – I have been astonished and amazed for many, many years now, at Mothers who allow their 9 year old daughters to emulate the likes of Madonna or Britney Spears, but … it’s a free country. I think THEY are more at fault than the Target’s of the world. The MOMS make the call…if they didn’t buy the stuff, Target wouldn’t sell it. If Moms didn’t take their kids to the ‘family friendly’ Hooter’s, Target wouldn’t have shirts that say, Hooters girl in training, and Britney Spears wouldn’t be so popular. (mind you, when Madonna had her daughter, she changed her tune – regulating Lourdes’ TV viewing and her ‘language’; it remains to be seen what Lourdes will say about her mother’s mishaps before she was born).

    I may post on this on Lip-sticking, it seems worthy. But, I don’t want to add chatter that isn’t useful. I personally don’t see a problem with the ad you wrote about… but I do see a problem with Target’s giving you the cold shoulder. And, the overall objective (speaking up on America’s penchant for objectifying women and girls) is a sound one, regardless of my feelings about this particular ad.

  3. Everyone has way to much time on their hands since the end of WW 2, and its getting worse.. remember when our ancestors had to work all day just to feed the fam? There was not time for petty arguments like this and looking way to deep into a target add… you do realise that if ANYONE was laying in a lifesize target that the crotch would be in the middle of the target? you, me, some ugly girl, some fat guy.. does not matter, the crotch would be in the middle.. man, you people really need a hobby or something, there is SO SO SO much more worse images out there that kids see all the time, this is the least to worry about you prude people you.. shame on you for not noticing the REAL problems of the world, not just making your own up that offend your mind

  4. Reading backwards here…

    Dominic, the only reason I haven’t shut off comments altogether and shout “fergawdsakes MOVE ON, WE DID!” (we’re multiple posts ahead on MANY things that matter more…Kenya, eco-humanity-philanthropy, digital ESL…

    We moved on a week ago, but whenever this post gets a belated ping and I come back to it with high hopes of a NEW nugget of perspective on the REAL issue of objectification rather than this mild, mild, mild, by comparison ad (yes, we both agree)
    might come into light.

    Alas…it’s all pretty redundant at this point, just people wanting to vent and name call, so I may close down comments as it’s taking far too much human capital to reframe this ludicrous minutiae.

  5. Ok Amy, good response, I am glad you talk about other things besides this, but anyways, nice of you to respond.

  6. thanks, Dominic, I DO try to always respond. I CARE about ALL points of view…and if anyone would READ the blog instead of this one corp. brouhaha they’d see we’re centrist, not “prudes, yadayada, moniker du jour.”

    As the old saying goes, we’re ‘not left, not right but forward!’

  7. Ah the irony…I missed one, so just as I was going ‘forward’ I need to go backward…little two-step here back to Yvonne… #66, sorry gang…

    Yvonne: Yes, parental ‘buy-in’ is one of the core crunch points for us, esp. when we make huge progress in kids’ media literacy, raising awareness, deconstruction, letting kids decide for themselves what/who/which voices are manipulating for monetary gain) only to have parent ed night and see the replication at the ‘mini-me’ level (from food to fashion, body image, etc.)

    So your point of parent mirroring and purchase power is well-taken…

    On the flip side, “they stock it because it sells” argument doesn’t fly w/me as the corollary of capacity is WAY lop-sided. Billions of dollars are being tossed into the ’sex sells’ arena with ambient ads that undermine those of us that just happen to be walking by in the blast zone TRYING to raise a daughter in healthy environs. (and to be fair, Target wasn’t selling those shirts, I don’t think? hope not anyway–though Walmart was selling the ’slimy Santa/sexy pink panties’ innuendo to tweens, and they pulled them once there were complaints, which is of merit…tho they should’ve never made it there to begin with)

    I’ll never forget when my 9-yr. old (at the time) was walking by the Limited (when it was still around) and nudged me and said, ‘there’s one for your film, mom’ and nodded to a large life sized merchandising display with huge sale banners “$10 gets you into our pants!!!”

    ugh. Innuendo. Double entendre. Overt, crass sexualization under the guise of ‘hip’ marketing and edgy copywriting…

    Bleh. Free choice and agency, yes. Options, absolutely. In your face objectification via ambient advertising that you ‘can’t turn off’ in 24/7 surround sound? Wink-wink normalization of casual ‘hookups’ in ‘this is what it’s all about’ all-knowing-style? (e.g. the Ltd’s ‘get into your pants’ promo) no.

    Conjecture on one ad is subjective opinion; but the surround sound messages have shifted our ENTIRE worldview to a lens of objectification…EVERYthing gets distorted when viewed from that lens. It’s not about what Target ‘did’ with any ‘one ad’ it’s about what we as an industry, and as a society ‘did’ when we ramped up an ‘anything goes’ mentality to simply make a buck off of bods sans reverb or circumspection.

    Once upon a time, that ‘one ad’ would’ve never received a blink. It’s the pervasiveness of the UNIVERSAL objectification of human beings that got the lens mucked up to begin with. Windex anyone?

  8. amy,
    coming into this discussion late, i know. however, i as someone who’s made a career of brand marketing and advertising for nearly 30 years, and the father of two teenage girls, i think you’re spot on (no pun intended, honestly!)

    thanks for having the courage to tackle something so easily dismissed within the industry – especially coming from a retail brand icon that enjoys such high esteem. any one message or image may not be the issue. frankly, i’m shocked and disappointed that target lacked the common sense not to dodge the issue based on their pr resources. who are they kidding??!

    keep up the good work.

  9. Hey Mark, I don’t know which agency you’re with, but I thank you profusely for your timing; you have no idea how much your kind words mean right about now. I’m weary from all the distortions…AND…it just hit the NYTimes…


  10. Whiteyward says:

    Does anyone at Target ever see who they employ in our stores?
    The teenage kids behind the counters are all into the internet and bloggs. The core employee at the stores are the girls and boys this “shaping youth” is aimed at. What a poor position the management takes when they don’t even know the nature of there own employees.

  11. RandomShopper says:


    I think if we have to be upset about commercials out there, there are many worse ones than Target. I think Target is right on one thing. As a customer of Target, I don’t believe that personal blogs like this have much of an impact on their business. Just look at all the people who are up in arms against a company like Walmart. Did it hurt their business? Sure, they went from about $250B in revenue for a year to $350B. So I agree with Target that this media doesn’t necessarily have any impact on their business. I am sure there are the odd few might write their own blogs or may read others blogs, but will that make big impact on their buying decisions? I doubt it.

  12. Am I missing something here? I agree in general merchandise can be a bit aggressive, but the Target ad? Targeting her crotch??? Come one people…take your battles to where they are needed.

  13. Yes, you are missing plenty here, and so is the New York Times…but no one seems to care about the facts or the context…

    It’s ironic that this whole brouhaha began because a lowly blogger WAS CALLING TO FACT CHECK…and yet the New York Times didn’t even use the facts when they were given to them!!

    Please read the rest of the above comments so you’ll see the proper framing and environment of the original post…

  14. I agree with Michael. This is nuts, the woman couldn’t be more covered up unless she was wearing a burqa! You should focus on the video games where the women characters wear serious cleavage baring tops, bounce around and coo!

  15. yep, Erika, we do. And again, I’ll point to the context of the post which is OVERALL sexualization and objectification, NOT this one ad…there are far, far, worse, as we have said many, many, many times before.

    Please read the entire post and the original context.

  16. I actually know the model in that photo – her name’s Athena, I’ll have to tell her that this is all going down…

  17. Hey Andrew, I’d love to hear from Athena…Please have her ping me if at all possible?

    It might at least answer some of the objectification questions (intentional or not) but it still won’t quell the blogosphere’s hijacking of the conversation into a ‘one ad’ focus…(nor get Target off the hook for their ‘non-traditional media’ policy response.) sigh.

    Talk about a ‘viral spiral’ of a story…sheesh…The misinformation just keeps on comin’!!! Bleh.

  18. Well done, for asking the question and posting the response. I expect better from Target.

  19. Amy: You absolutely have the right to blog your opinion, let Target know your thoughts and expect a full response. But Target also has the right not to respond to you and spend their ad dollars as they see fit.

    As long as people continue to shop at Target and they make money, does it really matter what a random blogger thinks of their adds. Do their shareholders care? I’m not saying they shouldn’t but do they?

    At the end of the day, everyone complaining on this blog has a choice to make. If you really are offended with Target for their offensive ad and their lack of response, just don’t shop there anymore. Or be unhappy about the company, keep blogging about it, but shop there secretly in protest. Since at the end of the day, you have to admit to yourself that Target stores are convenient and do offer good prices.

  20. Amy, great story telling! Your advocacy is appreciated and inspiring. Patti and I started a direct thread with Nintendo concerning the characters we were force to “choose” when the kids plugged in the latest game into the Wii. Its was really off base. The Wii brand has these really cute personas the kids love to personalize. When prompted to choose a character in dance dance revolution, they were only offered a set of scantilly clad tarts. They replied quickly and told us our suggestion was forwarded to someone in product management and the third party software provider that built the game.

    Time will tell. They say it all starts with one person and a platform. Congrats again on the drive and energy you have put into your blog, shapingyouth. We are inspired!

  21. #91, DP: You are absolutely right, the intent was NOT to vilify Target, but to open the door to a conversation about raising the bar of awareness in terms of what media messages are being put out there!!!

    Target appears to do MOST things quite well, including their advertising…this was a misstep.

    All the flaming/vitriol/boycott stuff seems over-reactive to me and unproductive…esp. when we’re trying to simply ELEVATE THE CONVERSATION toward corp. awareness (& accountability) for harmful media messages landing on us in ambient forms.

    As I said to the NYT:
    The Target billboard went up in an environment created by many other ads that are MUCH worse. On the one hand, Target is not responsible for “Future Hooters” or “Axe Bomchickawawa role models”—but Target’s marketing department has to know (or be made aware) that whatever they do, say, or display comes into this environment made toxic by the torrent of other messages. So their responsibility is, at least do no harm…the Hippocratic oath if they’re going to purport being a ‘family’ store.

    While the billboard is not as bad as other ads, is that the standard Target should aim for? Given their family audience and Disney demographics, could they raise the bar instead of adding to the already overwhelming focus of ads aimed to reach girls by focusing on their sexuality?

    The power and impact of the media to trigger, persuade, and alter human beings’ worldviews is profound…And WITH that power comes an inherent responsibility for the messages being put out there. That’s all I’m saying.. We must live with what we create as a society. Targeting crotches with a bullseye is not the message we should be putting out there…it’s really that simple.

  22. Andy!!! #92…Migosh, good to hear from you! I applaud your direct thread to Nintendo, Wii…and that’s EXACTLY how I was hoping this would go…Make a phone call, refer me to the marketing team/ad agency/(or powers that be) to start a conversational thread on raising the bar.

    A parent channel, so to speak, to simply give voice to the massive middle who feel strongly that we can ‘do better’… and as I said to the NYT “or at least do no harm”

    It turned into a ‘story’ by accident, based on their ‘talk to the hand’ response which was got picked up in the blogosphere…and now…well…ugh…It has made ME (and our org) the ‘target’ …

    There are very good reasons why I AVOID THE PRESS LIKE THE PLAGUE, since lack of space and soundbites can reframe context into sounding like a ‘power-whiner’ instead of a parent asking for an explanation.

    Tell Patti once this all blows over, I’d love to get a read on Canada’s responsiveness to similar situations via your journalist pals…(this whole experience has reminded me why the word ‘former’ comes before the journalist moniker for me!)

    “Sensationalism + soundbites – context= mega-brouhaha”

  23. I find the ad very offensive to women. The suggestive posing of the women with her legs spread wide open should be obvious to the marketing campaign and shocked to see “Target” approving this ad. I will never shop in Target as it joins my list of boycotted stores like Wal-Mart.

    I plan to find their email address and post something like this:

    “…What were you thinking Target executives when you approved this ad, and placed it on a huge billboard? Now, you are going to get bombarded from every feminist and women’s group there is. I must say your name is right on the target, against women, I hope many (or all) feminists boycott your store and I plan to post this link and your email address on my feminist blog thus protesting this ad. Goodbye, Target, you should post an apology letter ASAP because you are going to lose many many angry customers. Have a nice day!
    George ;)…”

  24. Well, gosh, George, again…I LIKE Target, and I’d like to think they just misstepped here, and have learned from their mistakes, but only time will tell.

    Since I never ‘officially complained’ I never received the form letter response that has been circulating I’ve heard. Kind of strange, actually.

    That said, to have all this brouhaha drag BOTH Shaping Youth and Target through the hurricane of media muck and misinformation, one might think it would warrant at least a letter or a call…

    Guess maybe I shouldn’t be so optimistic of ‘lessons learned’ if their silence is any indication of ‘outreach’ to their core community.

  25. ugh…this misinformed minutiae about it being about this ‘one ad’ is so annoying…

    I may have to do a post and say once and for all:

    This is a ‘non-story’ for the positive social change work we’re doing here at Shaping Youth…we’ve covered blatant instances of ‘sexualized ad slop’ (media loves that line for some reason) so this one pales by comparison in terms of the ad itself without being put into larger context.

    I wish we’d either elevate the dialog to a much larger context of objectification/ambient advertising and the impact on pop culture, or bury this in the circular file of corporate/customer service blunders to learn from.

    As it is, ‘tarzshay’ could easily inspire copycat corps to mirror the tactics of free press controversy as an ad strategy.

    Out of thousands of our posted topics (using the power of media for positive change, Twitter fundraising to send orphans to college in 24 hours, Age of Conversation global social media raising $11K for children’s charity) worthy media literacy, ecology, nutrition, and global counter-marketing programs for kids, THIS is the blog post that’s pulled for ‘mainstream media’ attention?

    What a shame. What a loss. What a lousy target. sigh.

  26. I think the problem is the amateur nature and limited reach of your blog. Simply put, any person can start a blog, and 100s of 1000s already have.

  27. You’re entitled to your opinion, most certainly, but it’s interesting that the AMLA, pediatricians, children’s psychologists, educators/academics and child advocacy groups throughout the globe have written kudos for ‘taking the high road’ by ignoring flamers/trolls/and ignorant comments that hide behind anonymity and vitriol rather than debate the facts and issues in an objective, civilized manner.

    Here’s a sample, just to enlighten a few…

    From: Dr. Renee Hobbs, of Temple University’s Media Lab, initial founder of the AMLA 1/30/08 6:46am:

    “Dear Amy: …It’s funny how you can never control how the media will spin. I was thinking about you when I saw the piece and wondering about how it developed. Your original post was absolutely amazing on this topic— and the issue is just the right kind of critique needed. Your transcript of the conversation with the NYT reporter added a lot of insight on the way the game is played.

    You will be able to offer us all a lot of valuable strategic advice as you reflect on what you learned from this experience… I need you to offer a media training workshop at the next NMEC conference (Detroit, 2009). You, my friend, are a treasure to the media literacy community— thank you for your extraordinary and important work! With my sincere appreciation, Renee”

    Renee Hobbs
    Temple University
    Philadelphia PA

  28. Posted on behalf of “Phuul” since his comments keep getting lost in the ethernet somewhere…

    btw, I concur with his notion that we need to give kids critical thinking skills rather than bubblewrap them…but once again, his ‘adult crab teeshirt’ example is more of a ‘free speech’ issue than an objectification one. Yes, it’s ‘ambient advertising w/crass innunendo’ but far different than objectification in Hooter girl in training/playground pimp mode…

    Can’t seem to get this through to folks, as it’s an ‘opinion-fest’ of people wanting to be ‘heard’…so rather than risk MORE inaccurate framing (e.g. the ‘big C of censorship’ which we are FAR FAR away from and opposed to) here are his words and some thoughtful expression of same (I particularly agree strongly with the last line on self-reliance and strength)…

    “I clicked through a series of links to find this post. Judging from the brouhaha surrounding it I figured I had better see the actual source. So let me tell you my reactions to this ad in the order they occurred.

    1. Oh that is what I did at Lakeside to keep all the other kids off the center so I would be the last one up! (P.S. I’m a guy but all the girls did the same exact thing. It’s called center of gravity.)

    2. Ah I get it, snow gear so the idea is to make a snow angel.

    3. Is she going to fall? (Finally got the perspective since the picture wasn’t clear on that.)

    4. Wow that reminds me of the people getting in velcro suites and throwing themselves at walls.

    What happened next was I read through the comments here. It took me a bit but then I figured out what the hell you people were complaining about. Then I got what the fuss was about, you are obsessed with sex. It just colors all of your interpretations about everything.

    Let me digress for a moment. I have this t-shirt some friends got me from Joe’s Crab Shack tears ago. I personally love it since it shows quite a bit about the people that read it. The front reads “Got Crabs?” in the font of the “Got Milk?” adds. The back, reads “We do! Joe’s Crab Shack.”

    I have received four different types of reactions from this t-shirt. The first is from children who either don’t know what crabs are in either the edible or sexual sense. They look and then just go on with whatever the hell they are doing. The second is from people who get both senses and always, I really do mean always, ask to see the back of the shirt if they have never seen it before. The third is from 10-20 year olds who just snicker (exactly like I experienced and did 23 years ago) at every mention that might just possible relate to sex. The fourth is the people who only see the sexual connotation and either glare or tell me what a horrible person I am.

    It’s really only the fourth group that I used too laugh my a** off at. Then I realized that they might have to, or have raised, the 10-20 year olds that snickered. I don’t even want to think about that poor kids who didn’t even give it a second look.

    The only thing that hyperawareness of sexual content of any kind, vague or no, teaches a child is to look for it everywhere and, more important, give it a special significance. Now what they do with it when they go to rebel, well I’ll leave that for an exercise for the readers.

    With that said I want to go back to why I had the reactions I did to this oh so horrible add. It is because my parents explained to me that advertisements where not reality. Oh and the showed it to me when I “really, really wanted the super cool toy!” I was probably 7 or 8 at the time. As I got older they also expanded on the earlier lesson a bit when it came to beer commercials and James Bond. When I got to junior high and took the human sexuality class where they explained in great detail all of the tricks advertisers use to make women, and men by the way, look far better in adds then they do in real life, pretty much cemented it for me.

    What it comes down to is we need to teach children to deal with things. Not just cover them in a protective shell. Once that shell is broken, and be sure it will, they will be lost. It’s one thing to teach them good values, whatever you think those are. It is quite another thing to have them exercise those values, and they do need to be exercised. Once they get out of that shell you want them to be as strong as they can be.

    Isn’t that really what shaping youth is about? Teaching them to be as strong and self reliant as they can be?
    Posted by: Phuul Author Profile Page | February 1, 2008 2:16 AM”

  29. From the Name Development.com site…

    More of the same,this time marketers TRYING to PURPOSELY ‘pull an Imus’ for shock value to get press:

    In this case, SuperBowl Sunday ad rejections for Go Daddy…and Danica Patrick’s ‘body parts’/slang integration into brand naming innuendo: http://www.namedevelopment.com/blog/archives/2008/02/go_daddy_builds.html

  30. Hat tip to Nancy Friedman on this similar brouhaha in the U.K., where name generation specialists note that whitewashing is everpresent:

    Woolworth’s Lolita Brand of bedroom furniture for 6 year old girls called a “cynical mistake”


    Um…does anyone ELSE see the pattern here? This ONGOING undercurrent is SO much more than a ‘one ad/Target’ issue, folks…Please, take off the blinders.

    From the Name Development blog: “The news that Woolworth’s in the UK had to pull a bed with Lolita brand naming for pre-school girls has been met with hoots of laughter across the blogosphere after the company claimed to not be aware of the literary allusion to the sexually predatory pre-pubescent girl in Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel, which was not only made into (at least) two movies but also referred to in the song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by the Police.—Sorry, but it is difficult to believe that this was an inadvertent mistake, or that the brand naming was introduced without somebody raising an eyebrow…”

  31. Finally, it looks like we’ll need to close comments on this one as it’s devolved to the land of trolls, spammers, & autobots who can’t express beyond four letter words of indignation.

    The erudite have moved on to the much larger conversation; it’s all been said in the 100+ comments prior…so if you haven’t ‘gotten it’ by now…you’re not gonna.

  32. hey amy check ur page about the negative influence of happy bunny, peope have made comments and i would like to see ur response

  33. Hi…we saw them, just chose not to ‘engage’ as we’ve spent way too much time with trolls lately; and we’re all about the power of the positive…our board said ‘don’t take the bait’ as it trivializes the much bigger conversation on ambient ads behavioral cues in general.

    Here’s a FUN version of ambient advertising…asking for kids to find the good, the bad and the ugly… http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=448

    To answer you though, I’d say Target is MILD by comparison, as are the tees w/’tude…but it still contributes to the overall cacophony of ‘negative noise’ as urban wallpaper…

    Our teen and tween advisory board simply said, ‘they’re trolling, and bored; ignore ’em’ so we’re taking the high road, as usual.

    btw, If I had a nickel for every kid who says advertising ‘doesn’t impact them in the least’ then proceeds to exhibit the exact same smarmy behavior to prove the point that they HAVE been impacted by cultural cues (trash talk/gutter mouth/flaming vs. productive discourse) then I’d be very, very, wealthy… :-)

    It’s kinda like the kids that tell me I “must need to drink some booze and get laid” …ironic how they manage to ‘make my point’ in one short sentence strand…without me even lifting a pen…

    p.s. Comments are supposed to be ‘closed’ on this one as we moved on over a month ago, so I’ve gotta talk to my tech guy for troubleshooting…hope that answered your question though…?

  34. thanks for that..i agree

  35. Oh…and Target…PLEASE don’t try to tell anyone this was an ‘accident’…your holographic lil’ doll for your upcoming runway show says it all…You’re trying Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hard here…


  36. btw, since this dang story won’t die, (every day there are pings and links resurrecting the bloody thing) I’ll add this BRILLIANT response on another blog, http://www.unboundedition.com/content/view/4451/54/
    since I keep getting asked the same question…

    ’what would you have done if you were Target?’ etc.

    “Bloggers are consumers…written by E.R., January 28, 2008 05:31 PM Target gets a lot right, but it’s true, they tripped over this one. On this issue, they might have considered saying:

    “In retrospect, perhaps the the logo may have been better positioned as a halo, since we intended the woman in the photo to be making a snow angel. We are proud, however, that bloggers and other new media critics view Target as an influential design force in America today. It is “design for all,” and that includes public interpretation of design. We would like to collaborate in the future with people who may have innovative design ideas for Target campaigns… we urge those who are interested to e-mail [email protected]

    LOVE IT!!!! And here’s my response to his,

    “This could have been both ‘defused’ and ‘diffused.’ In fact, that was such a brilliant retort, you should take over their PR, hands-down. wow. Impressive.

    When I called Target to query CONTEXT it was for that very reason (I’m a former journalist fergoshsakes!)to give them the benefit of the doubt…(it’s my tweens’ favorite store right down the street; we even gave out $5 Target ‘gift cards’ in lieu of bday goodie bags!)

    I shop at Target, I like Target, they’ve been in the forefront of affordable design & branding movements…but as I said on AdRants, for that ad to pass that many layers sans scrutiny it warranted a call to discern whether there was:

    a.) an explanation within a larger campaign context or
    b.) a bad judgment call that needs brought to their attention
    c.) some art director(s) laughing over a latte that they “pulled a fast one?
    d.) a clueless client that needs a wake-up call OR
    e.) an edgier, ·push the envelope? client that wanted to strive for wink & nod innuendo to slip past corporate and appeal to coolness ·target market’…

    When the attempt to fact check/determine the context was rebuffed in an e-form write off as “non-traditional media,? THAT lit the match in the blogosphere·&And it’s been a mess of “protect and deflect” ever since. Bleh.

    We’ve been dragged through the muck trying to reframe both Shaping Youth and the post itself into proper context, while dodging flamethrowers from those that haven’t read the whole story or misconstrued the context to being about ‘one ad’ when it was clearly about the surround sound environs of the retail atmosphere/normalization of objectification even in a family store…(in other words, the post was saying, “Et Tu, Target? Et tu?”)

    Anyway, E.R. you’ve GOT it. Spot on. Simple solution, even if it would’ve been a boilerplate fabrication in the interim of a larger wake-up call it would’ve quelled this firestorm of media madness that both Target and Shaping Youth have endured.

    Raise the bar…elevate the dialogue…and put a human rep on the phone to show some compassion, log the concern, and genuinely understand the broader context. In short…’make it real.’

  37. I work in the advertising industry, and all that I have to say about this ad is that it is innocent. It sounds to me like you need to get your head out of the gutter. I look at a young woman FULLY CLOTHED, NO CLEAVAGE, in winter gear smiling and having a good time, laying on that target in the same way as you would lay in the snow to make a snow angel. I am a young woman, and I agree that there are many advertisements out there that objectify women, and it’s disturbing and disgusting. But instead of attacking Target-whose ads have never been offensive in any way, perhaps you should attack American Apparel or Abercrombie and Fitch who blatantly objectify young women. Again lady, get your head out of the gutter-anyone that looks at that advertisement and immediatly notices that a young woman’s crotch is in the center of the target has some issues that certianly aren’t related to Target.

  38. Ad Exec…if you READ ANY of this article or the comments above rather than react to the visual sound bite of what you THINK the article is about…you would see this has all been answered many times over.

    I completely agree that A&F, Dolce & Gabbana, American Apparel and the other objectifying instances you mention present a much more heinous case of same, and a much clearer POV if that were my intent of the piece.

    You must READ the piece, rather than react to a visual and a headline. That’s what media literacy is all about… Knee jerk reactions lead to misguided focus on minutiae rather than the backdrop of urban wallpaper, sexualized normalcy we’re speaking of…

  39. does anyone knows if there is any other information about this subject in other languages?

  40. Yaz, it depends on which subject you’re speaking of…the original context (objectification/normalization) or the ‘dissing the blogosphere’ story.

    I saw some other languages discussing the latter, (in fact, see links above) but as one who is STILL mopping up from the ‘time sink’ of reframing the post into proper context so we weren’t dissed as ‘leftist PC censors’ or ‘right wing sockpuppets’ (believe me the flamers were out in force)

    I can only say that if you open more of a global multilingual dialogue, I’d hope you do so responsibly. (both subjects are worthy of same!)

    What I hope NOT to see is the VISUAL SOUND BITE. (vs. reading the original piece w/APA research on the normalization of objectification, or if you’re covering the ‘dissing new media’ angle, it needs deeper context on the nuances of customer service/response vehicles as well)

    fyi, I’ll be deconstructing the whole experience in terms of what I learned about handling a media deluge when the conversation veers ‘off target’ in the 2008 blogosphere book for the upcoming sequel to The Age of Conversation book”—

    Accuracy is key.

  41. Dean Babcock says:

    Dear Amy, hope this gets to you. Hopefully you can help expose a problem at Target. I was recently fired for stopping a 16 year old girl from stealing a bottle of alcohol. You can get alot of info on this by googleing.

    dean babcock and target.

    If you can use any other info please feel free to call me at 262-245-0931


    Dean Babcock

  42. Yowza. Just Googled the above gent, and this is another ‘unfreakin’ believable’ story…in fact…I think I’ll forward it to the NYTimes directly…I mean, c’mon, folks, a security guard that’s not supposed to stop a shoplifter?

    Now there’s a policy profile that makes a heckuvalotta sense, eh?

    Sheesh…Sometimes corporations baffle and amaze me.

    Here’s the story I just pulled from the Journal Sentinel, but Dean Babcock (above) is right…a Google hit away there’s a level of subterfuge and idiocy that would make surely make ANY parent wince.

    This IS worthy of a whole story re: the angle of teen alcohol issues (Marin Institute.org is a good place to start, I’ll be seeing Michele on Wednesday and mention this, Dean!) not to mention our ludicrously ‘litigious’ society calling the shots over COMMON SENSE…and corporate fear of same. bleh. Sorry state of affairs, indeed.

    Here’s one of the many links: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=736202

    He was right, only to be wronged
    Posted: April 6, 2008

    ” Dean Babcock spent almost 30 years as a cop in Delavan, so he’s seen the aftermath of drunken-driving accidents. Knows, too, how much trouble underage kids can get into and how much pain they can cause after getting their hands on a bottle of rum or tequila.

    Plus, he’s a dad.

    He was also a so-called protection specialist (a fancy name for a security guard, he says) at the Target store in Lake Geneva until getting fired for doing what any concerned adult would do.

    Stopping, he says, a 16-year-old girl from taking a bottle of booze.

    “They fired me for stopping a 16-year-old girl from stealing alcohol,” he said Sunday.

    He doesn’t care all that much about the job. At 54 years old, he has a decent pension and was making only $8.50 an hour.

    He just can’t believe what happened.

    In early March, he says, he noticed a bottle of Captain Morgan rum was missing and, after checking a surveillance video, suspected a young girl of taking it.

    On March 7, he says, she showed up again and took a $45 bottle of Patrón tequila.

    “She’s a 100-pound girl,” Dean said. “She does three or four shots of that and that will do her in.”

    So he did the only thing he could do. He intervened. Showed her a picture he had of her taking the Captain Morgan, got her to take the tequila out of her bag and then called her dad.

    He could have simply called the police. But by the time they got there, she could have been long gone. Plus, he says, he was trying to handle it “low-key” because he knew that, technically, he’d violated a Target policy.

    Only certain Target personnel, he says, are supposed to stop shoplifters. Never mind that, he says, none of them were there that day.

    Dean, it seems, was not supposed to inconvenience the young thief. He wasn’t supposed to do the right thing. Lower-ranking Target employees are apparently not entrusted with doing the right thing. Not that he wasn’t allowed to ask a question.

    “Can I help you find something?” he said he was supposed to ask.

    “We cannot,” he said, “accuse a guest of stealing.”

    Even a 16-year-old guest with a big bottle of tequila.

    Even if the father of the girl, he says, appreciated what he did. And even if everyone who fears sharing the road with a high-schooler drunk on tequila would like to mail Dean Babcock a giant thank-you note right now.

    He didn’t get a thank-you note. Instead, he got called into an office by a Target manager who heard what happened.

    “You were not supposed to make the stop,” he said he was told.

    “I am not going to let a 16-year-old girl walk out of here with alcohol,” he said he responded.

    Most stores would give a man a raise about then. Four days later, he got a pink slip.

    “I was fired,” he said, “for violating the policy” regarding when guests can be stopped.

    Kristin Grieser, an assistant store manager for Target in Lake Geneva, confirmed that Dean was terminated and said she could not really provide details about what happened.

    “We take shoplifting very seriously,” she said, “but we are also very cautious in making apprehensions.”

    You can guess what that means.

    That little girl, Dean said, “could have taken a shopping cart full and nobody would have stopped her.”

    Would have just wished her a nice day, I guess. And, of course, asked her if she needed help finding anything else.”

    Talk about blog fodder…sheesh. I’d call Target to get their comment, but hey, policy says they don’t talk to “non-traditional media.” 😉 heehe. At least this is a ‘forward to a friend’ moment…I’m going to send it to Lisa at Parents for Ethical Marketing…after all, her entire blog is dedicated to being a “Corporate Babysitter.” 😉 Absolutely amazing.

  43. Lisa’s used this in a new sociological context…Love this new site…check it out:


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  46. does anyone knows if there is any other information about this subject in other languages
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