words used in TV toy ads featuring boys. Most prominent: battle, control, power, adventure, blast, build, action, launch, rescue

PRESS RELEASE: The sexist messages of TV toy advertising

If you think toys and toy ads are trivial, just ask a kid how much they matter.

Research carried out by Let Toys Be Toys volunteers shows that toy ads reinforce limiting gender stereotypes, and sell children a narrow view of boys’ and girls’ play.

Download the full research report: Who gets to play? What do TV toy ads tell children about girls’ and boys’ play? Dec 15

Research highlights:

  • A majority of ads show boys and girls playing separately, and in very stereotypical ways.
  • Ads featuring boys are predominantly for vehicles, action figure dolls, construction sets and toy weapons. Boys are shown as active, even aggressive, and the language used emphasises control, power and conflict. (See word cloud) No ads for baby or fashion dolls included boys.
  • Ads featuring girls are predominantly for dolls, glamour and grooming and have an overwhelming emphasis on appearance, performance, nurturing and relationships. Girls are largely shown as relatively passive and rarely active other than dancing. The language used in the ads focuses on fantasy, beauty and relationships. (See word cloud) Of 25 ads for toy vehicles, only one included a girl.
  • Ads featuring boys and girls together are dominated by a few categories (action/board games, art/craft materials, interactive toys and soft toys). Action games all had boys and girls playing, but boys outnumbered girls 3:2 in the ads, and all these ads had male voiceovers showing that, as all too often, something that’s perceived as gender-neutral is actually mostly male.

Says Let Toys Be Toys campaigner, Jess Day,

“At Let Toys Be Toys we believe that there is no such thing as a ‘girls’ toy’ or a ‘boys’ toy’, but TV ads give children narrow and limiting ideas about how boys and girls behave, and how they’re expected to play.

“Play is vital to children’s learning and development. A child should feel free to pick up and play with any toy they like, providing that it’s safe and age-appropriate. But we know that children’s decisions are affected by labels and messages about whether a toy is suitable for a boy or a girl – we know this as parents, and it’s backed up by research. Marketing toys by gender limits children’s choices, limits their chances to learn and develop and feeds bullying.

“Gender-stereotyped marketing to children has massively increased since the 1970s. We would make the link with the recent research finding by the Young Women’s Trust that young women have more stereotyped views about the work that’s suitable for men and women than older women do.

“Kids deserve better. We’re calling on toy companies to act more responsibly, and use their creativity and innovation to market toys without promoting harmful and limiting stereotypes.”

words used in TV toy ads featuring girls: most prominent words magic, fun, beautiful, princess, glitter, style, hair, sparkle

END ###


1. Survey findings & methodology

Our volunteer researchers watched a total of over 30 hours of children’s programming in the UK in September and October 2015 to see what toy ads are telling children about boys’ and girls’ play. To minimise subjectivity, ads were categorised according to whether they included only boys (29%), only girls (26%), both girls and boys (32%), or no children at all (13%). We then looked at the broad category of toy, what boys and girls are shown doing, the voiceover, and the key words in the script.

For further details of survey methodology and results, please download the full research report: Who gets to play? What do TV toy ads tell children about girls’ and boys’ play? Dec 15

2. Let Toys Be Toys is a grassroots campaign group established in November 2012. The campaign believes both boys and girls benefit from a range of play experiences, and should not be restricted by marketing which tells them which toys and activities are for boys or girls. Let Toys Be Toys is run and organised wholly by volunteers.

See www. for more information.

3. For interview requests or queries, please contact us:

Email: lettoysbetoys@gmail.com

Further contacts

Website: www.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lettoysbetoys

Twitter: @lettoysbetoys

Change.org petition: http://goo.gl/N423C

4. Over 13,000 people have signed the Let Toys Be Toys petition on change.org, asking retailers in the UK and Ireland to remove gender labels and organise toys by genre not gender, and the campaign has over 37,000 likes/followers on social media. 14 stores(including M&S, Toys R Us and Tesco) have removed ‘Boys’and ‘Girls’ signage from stores, 9 publishers have committed to remove ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ labels from books.

5. The Let Toys Be Toys campaign is encouraging shoppers to break out of the stereotyped pink and blue boxes of toy marketing and #shopoutsidethebox by:

Supporting retailers which don’t promote stereotypes – visitour Toymark directory.

•Seeking out alternatives – check out our stereotype-free Christmas gift guides.

•Talking to friends and family about why stereotypes matter.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.