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. Funny, I stopped reading AdRants because I couldn’t take them anymore. Then they go and post something rational!

    Do let us know when you hear from Target. I’m going to write to them.

  2. I know, I stopped reading them too, but once in awhile I get a ping from a filter/friend who says ‘get a load of this’…and this happened to be one of ’em.

    I’ve gone to the mat on the sophomoric salivation of sexualized stuff from supposed ‘industry pros’ many times over, until like you, I decided ‘meh’…waste of my time, let em’ drool all over themselves while we channel more productive partnerships and positive media forays into cultural mindshifting…

    I’ll keep you posted when I hear from corporate…
    thanks, A.

  3. OK, I feel like a real backwoods hick when I read this. I haven’t seen any of this! (Not that I am surprised it is out there). With no TV and living in a small town without billboards (or a Target for that matter), I am in the dark here.

    I still spend my free time getting all huffy and upset over the Bratz dolls that I see in the toy department of Walmart and Kmart. Of course NO ONE is remote enough to escape Walmart these days.

    I’ll have to check in more often for a dose of reality. By the way I watched that You Tube version of the Axe ads. Did those ads really play on TV??? Now I REALLY feel like I just crawled out from under a rock!

    I guess the good thing is that if I can’t see it, my kids haven’t seen it. My seven year-old daughter had an eight year-old school friend over to play the other day (the eight year-old had always been homeschooled until this year when she joined my daughter’s small Montessori class). The two girls spent the whole afternoon playing “zookeeper and animals,” then hide and seek when they got bored with that. It seems that in these days of “prostitots” and ads like that, that might be a rare form of play for a 7 and 8 year-old.

    Thanks for the heads-up on real life. Sorry to be a comment hog…but I think I feel a blog post coming on!

  4. Whoa! Where the heck do you live? Infiltration is EVERYwhere…so I’m envious as all get out! Although I must say, even in sub(urban) environs, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by the outdoors (waterski lagoon/wildlife area on a funky little island) where kids can play on the cul-de-sac and roam freely from end to end of the island with everyone knowing everyone in circa 1950s style…So yeah, lots of ‘zookeeper and animals’ here too!

    Thank gawd…but public school’s another story altogether! (we just had two twin boys move onto the island that are homeschooled and ski every morning at 7am…such polite, incredibly social, warm, kidlets…as opposed to the middle schoolers trying to be ‘cool at all costs’ when they’re running in a pack…(I always say, talk to the kids one on one and they’re entirely different…) I was raised in my ‘formative years’ in Hawaii which was always about 15 years behind the times…so feel fortunate to have had that environ/outdoorsy wholesomeness too…

  5. Mom Unplugged — I don’t see much of this stuff first-hand, either (even though we live smack in the middle of Minneapolis). I rarely see ads on TV, neither do my girls, so “zookeeper” is popular here, too. Sometimes I wonder how much of critic I can be when we don’t see much of it firsthand. But a lot does get through. I was thinking about taking my camera and walking throug a week of images my girls see . . . hmm, I feel a post coming on, too!

    Amy, the public service ads? With the ipod? Fair.

  6. Hmmm, didn’t know you could buy that at Target, too. Is it in the feminine product aisle? Sigh. What was the art director thinking? They could have made a similar photo using a different pose and still have it interesting visually.

  7. yeah…my guess is either the art directors have too much time on their hands, or if it was a spoof…well…same.


    Just received the following e-mail from their media dept. (finally) after bouncing around with multiple phone calls:

    “Good Morning Amy,

    Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

    Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day.”


    Be therefore advised, gang…

    My, my…how terribly, terribly naive from a corporate marketing standpoint.

    Truth is, I could ‘bring ’em to their knees’ with a phone call to all of my “mainstream” press contacts…but this was a simple request from a blogger/parent/fledgling nonprofit concerned about needless objectification fergawdsakes.

    And frankly, their arrogance and naivete is REALLY making me consider this ‘dismissal of citizen journalism’…

    I know it’s ‘policy’ but Google Analytics shows they’ve been surfing my site and also surfing Lisa’s at Corporate Babysitter/Parents For Ethical Marketing…So they KNOW who we are, and what we represent, and how we’re working as advocates in the children’s arena…

    It’s not as if they’re turning a blind eye blankly to say ‘meh, just some blogger in their jammies’…

    I’m really, really, REALLY thinking strongly about igniting this one on fire to teach them not to mess with social media power and the impact of the internet to create social change…

    On the flip side, our entire organization is about positivity and doing GOOD things…so I have a bit of a disconnect with lighting the match.

    What say you, readers??? What would YOU do? How would you handle it?

    I’d argue that some of us in the blogosphere are FACT CHECKING FAR BEYOND MAINSTREAM JOURNALISTS with ethics tied to their coinage prompting them to run a smear story even without validation and ‘ask forgiveness’ later.

    I simply wanted a corporate response to “how do you account for this?”

    —They could pass it to an ad agency shill for all I care…but to form file a ‘you don’t count’ commentary is really, really short-sighted policy, poor business, and bad manners to boot.

    Target Team members…Since you’re probably reading this…AGAIN…Can you hear me now?

    Very, very foolish on the Customer Service front…

  9. Lisa just did a great follow up on this piece (link above) and since she’s in Minneapolis, hometown of Target corporate, she got a firsthand look at the little miss with her cuppa joe and newspaper this morning…so I guess that clears up the ‘is it a spoof or not’ conundrum.

    Bennett already told us it was 20 X 20 in NYC, but since I don’t know him personally, it was heresay, now I have Lisa’s firsthand experience, so there ya have it.

    I’m considering querying an advocacy org like CCFC/Dads & Daughters to ‘target’ this, and ask around about interpretation.

    What do YOU think folks? Wasting my time? Should we go for more offensive stuff? There’s plenty of it…To me the ‘big box retailer’ venue is what makes me ‘over the edge’ on this objectification…as it results in a new ‘lowest common denominator’ in terms of consumer accommodation in terms of turning a blind eye…

    In other words…we might expect it of Victoria’s Secret, but not of Target and Walmart..hmn. Weigh in here folks…should we tell our colleagues about it and ask ’em to “sic ’em????”

  10. Harvey the Chainsaw says

    This Target ad is of a fully-winter-clothed girl or young woman making a stylized snow angel over a stylized company logo. It actually couldn’t seem further from risque to me, but one will see what one is looking for, I guess.

  11. Hi Harvey, great user name, btw.

    Yeah, I know, many think it’s a ‘reach’ I’m sure…And believe me, I’m NOT looking for these things…they just keep popping up all over. To me, the blatant ones are so obvious, it’s this mashup of ‘mainstream normalization’ that is bugging me, quite frankly.

    Being IN THE BIZ, I happen to know quite a bit about branding strategy, legal hoops, client approval process, and ‘edgy/dicey’ attempts to gain attention. This was not an ‘oops.’

    In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ll even go cutting edge and say ‘purposeful, strategic, and a wink and a nod to legal’ so that they can slide under the PC radar and claim ‘over-reaction.’

    Sorry to sound cynical, but life in the biz will do that…and I’m sick of kids defining themselves as vessels for sex with innuendo plastered in 20 X 20 living color time and time again.

    Target’s one of my fave big box retailers, but sadly…this brings a whole new meaning to the phrase.


  12. Chris Cope says

    Amy why don’t you find a more productive hobby, the Target ad isnt the least bit offensive, and nobody in the wcco piece i just watched was at all offended. Maybe you start being a little less conservative in your view of the world, because since this offends you so much, i would hate to see what you think of 95 percent of other ads in all media. Oh and p.s. maybe you should do your hair and makeup next time you go on TV.

  13. Well…gosh, whoever you are, ‘Chris’ I was NOT ON tv, this organization sure isn’t a “hobby”, and though you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, last time I checked, I was entitled to my own as well.

    If you’d truly listened to the WCCO CBS affil/news report in Minnesota, you’d know that the person being interviewed was Lisa from Parents for Ethical Marketing, who lives in your city…

    I’m located in the S.F. Bay area…a far from ‘conservative’ place from which to view the world, and I’m clearly a centrist, if you read through this blog.

    I thank you profusely though, for the CLASSIC example of how women are constantly objectified in the media with superficial, appearance-based attacks dominating discourse rather than debating issue points, particularly among the misinformed.

    I’ve never met Lisa, but I dare say, her blog is quite incisive and her CONTENT is what I’d be focusing on in her media appearance…not her ‘makeup and hair’…

  14. Looks like they’re having a field day with snarky comments in snowbelt land…80+ comments already on this Mn. Speak site http://www.mnspeak.com/mnspeak/archive/post-4612.cfm#comments with flamethrowing like a civil riot, sheesh.

    I was going to write an updated post to add our Packaging Girlhood.com Advisory Board member’s comments…but there are so many other issues I’d prefer to cover…For now, I’ll plop them here, for context:

    Dr. Sharon Lamb & Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown (Packaging Girlhood.com) replied to my query,…since this isn’t as blatant as many others I’ve reported on…like that Ms. Booty Virgin Records bit asking kids to upload their backsides via digital camera to the internet site, or the plastic surgery radio promo for teens…’the breast year ever’…I kept wondering why it struck me as so discordant, is it because it was Target/a ‘family firm’?

    I think Sharon & Lyn conveyed it well…it’s the ‘normalcy’ issue of the ‘girl next door’ spread-eagle juxtaposition. Here’s the reply from Packaging Girlhood.com:

    “Hi Amy, The ad didn’t strike us as forcefully as some, but that could be the point here. The innocence and playfulness of making snow angels (with the hat and scarf, the girl smiling, perky–as much as one can be lying on one’s back–in that usual over-the-top Target way) is as primary as the sexual availability/suggestion of sexual violence of the spread eagle position on the target (and the camera angle). Could it be that it’s this combination that’s so disturbing, the blend of innocence and sexualization?

    We’re seeing more of this all the time, whether it’s the VS Angel Collection or the Bratz Dolls (with the little halo over the a) or sexy/innocent Halloween costumes for little girls. These are the kinds of images designed to be so subtly suggestive that people are called crazy or dirty minded for questioning them. But of course in reality they normalize these relationships–i.e., between sexy and innocent. The sad reality is that a girl lying on her back spread eagle is more provocative and attention getting (and thus sellable) then a girl snowboarding or standing on the center of the target in another sort of pose.

  15. Amy…you are right, the Target ad was not an oops. It was a woman making a snow angel, no oops about it. And for the person who commented on no snow…if you look at the one where they are sledding or skating there is no snow either, but the average human can conjure up the image of what they are protraying. I thought I could have a dirty mind, but if you can find something so offensive in this ad, then you have me beat!

  16. For those people who don’t get what’s wrong with this ad, try this: if you’re a woman, imagine it’s you in the photograph, legs spread out, right at the center of the target. If you’re a man, imagine it’s your sister or wife. If you’re a parent, imagine it’s your daughter. Take a moment and see how you feel. If you allow yourself to go beyond the ego struggle that prompts you to attack this blogger, who’s doing society a service (yes, she’s doing YOU a service, although you might not understand how), you might see that deep down (pun intended) you feel uncomfortable with this image.

    As for Target, of course they know their “core guests” are social media users, or they wouldn’t bother with a campaign on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/yp42s7) – and see the ethics problems with that: http://tinyurl.com/25ez59

  17. Thank you SO much for an eloquent post, Dr. V…I’m beginning to feel this focus is more like flamethrowers that don’t see the larger worldview…Whew…SO heartening to hear. Appreciate your taking the time…

    As for Marie, and all others that “don’t see it” we agree to disagree…

    This isn’t about ‘dirty minds’ it’s about an ongoing and persistent objectification, sexualization, pornification and misogyny run rampant in advertising and media that is impacting children’s worldview.

    Read the American Psychological Assoc. taskforce report, read the NIMH mental health and media findings, read the Kff.org study on media influence and kids, read the eating disorders, depression/body image/plastic surgery teen correlation and body dissatisfaction in females AND male adolescents…

    And finally, spend some firsthand time on the K-5 playgrounds watching kids cultural cues if you don’t think this early sexualization is having an impact.

    This is but one of MANY media issues that need addressed yet I find it fascinating people are focusing on this particular blog post of mine sans ANY attempt on my end to speak with the media. Why? Because the MEDIA is covering it as a ‘story’…

    This is exactly my point. 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. Cause. Effect. 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.

    I have no intention of being the posterchild scapegoat for targeting Target…if you read through this blog, you’ll see far more substantive issues (and far worse ad campaigns)

    So…can we either broaden the scope of this dialog to misogyny in media messaging to deconstruct the ‘bigger picture’ or move on to some of the GOOD things people are doing with media???

    I’ll point you ALL to our “positive picks” section of this blog, so we can move on and not dwell on the obvious…

  18. Ah…Nice op-ed in the New York Times on misogyny for further edification of the embedded cultural cues.

    Hat tip and profuse thank you to PackagingGirlhood.com for this one:

    “January 15, 2008
    Op-Ed Columnist
    Politics and Misogyny

    “With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?

    If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it’s the dark persistence of misogyny in America. Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life. For many men, it’s the true national pastime, much bigger than baseball or football.

    Little attention is being paid to the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular.

    Its forms are limitless. Hard-core pornography is a multibillion-dollar business, having spread far beyond the stereotyped raincoat crowd to anyone with a laptop and a password. Crowds of crazed photographers risk life and limb to get shots of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears without their underwear. At New York Jets home games, men regularly gather at Gate D to urge female fans to expose themselves.

    In its grimmest aspects, misogyny manifests itself in hideous violence – from brutal beatings and rape to outright torture and murder. Fifteen months ago, a gunman invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.

    The cable news channels revel in stories about women (almost always young and attractive) who come to a gruesome end at the hands of violent men. The stories seldom, if ever, raise the issue of misogyny, which permeates not just the crimes themselves, but the coverage as well.

    The latest of these obsessively covered stories concerned a pregnant marine, Maria Frances Lauterbach, who had complained to authorities that she had been raped by a fellow marine. Her body was found last week buried in a backyard fire pit in North Carolina.

    It just so happens that the Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning this week in the misogyny capital of America: Nevada. It’s a perfect place to bring up the way women are viewed and treated in this society, but don’t hold your breath. Presidential wannabes are hardly in the habit of insulting the locals.

    Prostitution is legal in much of Nevada and heavily promoted even where it’s not. In Las Vegas, where prostitution is illegal but flourishes nevertheless, Mayor Oscar Goodman has said that creating a series of legal, “magnificent” brothels would be a great development tool for his city.

    The fundamental problem in all of this is that women and girls are dehumanized, opening the floodgates to every kind of mistreatment. “Once you dehumanize somebody, everything else is possible,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.

    A grotesque exercise in the dehumanization of women is carried out routinely at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride outside of Vegas. There the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to an electronic bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. At the sound of the bell, the prostitutes have five minutes to get to an assembly area where they line up, virtually naked, and submit to a humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who has happened to drop by.

    If you don’t think this is an issue worthy of a presidential campaign, consider the scandalous way that women are treated in the military and the fact that the winner of this election will become the commander in chief.

    The sexual mistreatment of women in the military is widespread. The Defense Department financed a study in 2003 of female veterans seeking health assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they had been the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their service.

    The Associated Press reported in 2006 that more than 80 military recruiters had been disciplined over the course of a year because of sexual misconduct with young women and girls who had considered joining the military.

    There continue to be widespread complaints from women about rape and other forms of sexual attacks in the military, and about a culture that tends to protect the attackers.

    To what extent are the candidates of either party concerned about these matters? Do they have any sense of how extensive and debilitating the mistreatment of women and girls really is?

    We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.

    If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.” –Bob Herbert/NYTimes OpEd

  19. Just read and saw Lisa Ray’s appearance on the Target controversy, here:

    Putting that ad in context as part of an entire corp. ad campaign resonates on a much different level, which is what I was after with the phone call to begin with, querying about same and asking them to explain themselves…

    Now would that have been so hard for Target to have a junior PR person pingback and enlighten a customer about?

    A link, an e-mail, or any response other than dissing the inquiry is a customer service issue, on top of the sexualization elements in question? (I still maintain, no “oops,” but hey, this is MILD on the Richter scale of daily doses of media manipulation)

    In Mn. it’s a brouhaha story, here, it’s only worth making it one if we’re going to discuss the much bigger context of universal objectification on an ongoing ‘messages sent to society’ basis, not for focusing on the minutiae of this ad itself.

    As far as the ongoing personal attacks (for some reason limited to MY blog rather than all of these others that covered it!?) it baffles me.

    Here are links to many other stories covering same, starting with Lisa’s blog at PEM:





  20. http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/2008/01/target-board-is.html?cid=97376364#comment-97376364

    Well my ‘sexualized ad slop’ line seems to be making the ‘mainstream media’ rounds…sigh. I just posted this on the AdFreak site which hopefully captures my overall frustration at the slam fest I’m enduring here (Mn. Speaks blog is in the 174+ comments arena, sheesh…talk about ‘get a life’…)

    “…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 idiocy and customer service blunders to learn from.

    I simply sourced it from AdRants, called attention to the normalization of objectification (sexualized ad slop) in ambient advertising (and yes, this is MILD by comparison to the stuff I usually cover along these lines) but I was surprised that a ‘family firm’ would choose to play the ‘cluelessly crass’ ad card to post a 20 X 20 Times Square crotch shot sans context.

    When I called to fact-check/query for campaign context/motivation, I was dissed as being ‘non-traditional media’ with an unsigned e-form response…THAT to me is the news story here. Objectification overall is a worthy discussion, but not this one ad. That’s minutiae.

    Plus it trivializes the larger issue of ambient advertising/objectification by pulling the issue out of context to make it seem like ‘parenting crazies’ are ‘over-reacting.’ Unfair, imho to dilute the dialog into a one-off ‘debate’…

    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 103 bloggers raising $11K for Variety, the global children’s charity) worthy eco-sites, kids interactives, nutrition, and counter-marketing/media literacy programs for kids, THIS is the blog post that gets pulled for ‘mainstream media’ attention?

    Truly, readers…why on earth would this ‘mild by comparison’ post get such attention?
    If they want ‘ranting’ on this issue, they could visit our “Damaging Drek” category for plenty of same…

    I’m trying to take the high road here, and have asked our readers to ‘behave’ and not escalate the focus on ‘tarzhay’ who is no doubt enjoying the free press/controversy, in order to bring the topic into proper context in a much larger form…
    Objectification and misogyny in ambient advertising OVERALL.

  21. Claude Michel says

    Without going into much detail… as I do agree there is a lot of CRAP out there that may send the wrong message to people in general, I have to say that if what you see in that billboard is obscene… well it really makes me think the problem lays elsewhere… like in peoples heads.
    I applaud the involvement and passion to protect young minds, but lets use common sense, be a little more open and really focus on the hundreds of issues that inundate our lives today…one being that parents needs to step up and be parents again and not expect TV, society, media and schools do all the educating, while all contribute in the learning, the most important values and education comes from the parents… at least in my case it did.

  22. Ok, all, one more time with conviction! (and bullet points for clarity if that helps?)

    By focusing on this one ad for debate the entire dialog is trivialized.


    I didn’t mean to start a microlens/minutiae focus on a single ad via AdRants, that’s FAR from the primary point.

    I think Lisa Ray in Minnesota would heartily agree…

    To me, the newsworthy element from the industry standpoint is:

    1.) normalizing innuendo/objectification via family retailer (i.e. be as crass/clever as you can then feign cluelessness & over-reaction)

    2.) dissing bloggers as ‘non-traditional media’ when I called to fact-check their motivation & campaign context

    3.) parent/child advocate Lisa Ray, choosing to speak her concerns in the Minnesota corp. environs only to receive really harsh personal attacks and mega-media backwash (she’s a tough cookie, so she can handle it, but is this how civility has devolved?)

    4.) free press for ‘tarzshay’ and the potential for copycat ad strategists to see this as an opportunity to flirt on the edge of couth and tastelessness, w/fingers crossed for free press/controversy. Sheesh.

    As for me, I’m flummoxed…Out of thousands of global media/mktg. topics I write about daily on Shaping Youth, again…THIS is the post that got picked up in the digital hypefest for ‘mainstream media’ attention? Bleh.

    What a shame. What an opportunity loss. What a lousy media target…

  23. “As for me, I’m flummoxed…Out of thousands of global media/mktg. topics I write about daily on Shaping Youth, again…THIS is the post that got picked up in the digital hypefest for ‘mainstream media’ attention? Bleh.”

    GOOD. THIS is the post that is going to get lots, and LOTS more attention (It’s on the top of Buzzfeed tonight). I think it’s absolutely hilarious. You have a dirty, dirty mind! The general public is about to weigh in on your “concerns” and you will discover that the great, vast, majority will be not just unappreciative, but DISGUSTED with your “ATTEMPTS TO SAVE THE CHILDREN.” But, I am sure I just don’t understand. Afterall, I wasn’t home-schooled. Ya freaks. You watch out for your kids, the rest of us will watch out for ours. You don’t need to protect us from fully clothed women making snow angels on billboards. And to write with such a snide, arrogant attitude, all-knowing but with horrendous slang (“the BIZ”??). Sorry, but that cuts your credibility even further.

  24. Where, oh where do these name-calling people come from?

    1.) I wasn’t ‘home-schooled’, but if I were, I sure wouldn’t appreciate being called a ‘freak’

    2.) I don’t require tacit approval of my writing style to voice my opinion

    3.) I’m baffled at why anyone would relish in gleefully perpetuating misinformation and skewed focus to be ‘the top story on ‘Buzzfeed’

    Why is there such senseless retribution for free-thinking challenges to the pop culture zeitgeist of dumpster-diving for shock effect and titillation?

    That may sound arrogant to you, but to me, it’s a genuine, authentic, ethical inquiry…

  25. Ah…there’s hope for sanity out there!!!

    It’s been difficult to rein in our readers and say “sit Ubu, sit!” to keep from fanning the flames w/defensive rhetoric.

    So far, we’ve done remarkably well at diffusion, enabling me to take the hit as ‘founder’ (femme fatale?) No prob there, gang; I got you into this, I’ll get us out…

    Here are some new posts, w/my replies, that should simmer down those who would like me to unleash the Lord Vordemort elements and go to the dark side.

    I’ll try to maintain my genteel soul, ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thankfully, this last one on AdRants is SPOT ON and did my talkin’ for me! This ‘Leena’ is obviously in the industry, too, as ascertained by her ‘you ain’t foolin me, tarzshay’ approach…


    Here’s another new one:

    And perhaps the most worthy plethora of banter yet…

    BALANCED, reasoned, pithy, centrist, and fun:

    Sadly, the ‘roll the eyes’ award goes to…Surprise! The Consumerist. The comments made responding to the brief (and to be fair, not their usual/thorough post) are alarmingly ‘off target’…Not so much the post by the Consumerist itself, but the dialog to follow…which begs the question, did any respondents ever bother to jump to the links? Read the articles?

    I think not.

    Flaming appears to be much easier, viewing the ad as a ‘one off review’ rather than a ‘big picture trend’, which is where it appears to be living among the misinformed, despite attempts to broaden the scope of the conversation…Ah well, I still believe people ARE entitled to their opinions…even if they choose not to research what they’re basing them on. sigh.

  26. I am not gay and never have been says

    This all started with that disgusting gay artist Leonardo Da Vinci and his Vitruvian Man with the man’s penis posed so alluringly and seductively at the center. Oh, how I grew up wanting that penis in my mouth or rammed up my arse. But I’m not gay, so no way would I put up with that stuff.

    Good catch! That is a total vagina on that target. It’s not a whole person at all!

  27. Most eloquent comeback award on contextual relevance in the bigger picture of life goes to: “Heather”

    …who filed this on AdRants responding to this comment (which is also relevant): “”our young men and women are dying in an unjust war in Iraq and people have nothing better to do with their time than try to find something sexual in an innocent target add.”

    Heather says: “I think you’re really missing the big picture of why this kind of thing is so offensive. Yes, there are much bigger things to worry about going on all over the world, but do you really think that this has no connection to it whatsoever? Equal Rights for all citizens are a huge concern, in fact, the very core concern of why I myself do charitable works and do my part to facilitate the kind of world peace that is a big issue on everyone’s mind. And these civil rights include everyone being treated fairly and with respect. When you present a woman as an object, her sexuality as the bullseye on a target, you are doing your part to undermine in whatever small way what we should all be striving towards. My point being that in addressing this seemingly small and insignificant issue we are getting at the roots of the bigger ones that plague our society. You tear down a wall by removing one brick at a time. Also, I’m from South Carolina, and we definitely do not see snow often enough for me to have thought “snow angel” when I saw this. Posted by: Heather on January 17, 2008 7:33 AM”

  28. Only if we directed this much energy and concern toward our failing, corrupt, dictatorship of a government… This would be a much better world. While our government is making fake videos to try and get us to start World War III with Iran, Russia, and China we are worrying about a woman in winter clothing laying on a corporate symbol in the position of making a snowman. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  29. Sex is such an awful thing…. Now where did my killing gun go?

  30. I heard this story via Julia Roy, and by the time it reached her, she was concentrating more on the “dismissal of bloggers” aspect of the story than on the original ad. As I was researching this, it’s interesting to note that Robert Scoble met with some Target people a couple of years ago. This is part of what he said at the time:

    “Tonight I understood just why Target is such an interesting chain of stores (second largest in the United States). I had dinner with some of the PR and marketing folks tonight. They were interesting. Personable. Friendly. Fun to be around. Authoritative. Inquisitive. Trend setting. Creative. Attractive. Warm. All attributes that their stores have….

    “I told them about how smart blog readers are, especially when you have hundreds or thousands of readers. I told them how they keep me honest and how they ‘fact check my behind.'”

    Apparently the people at Target weren’t listening, or the message didn’t penetrate through all of Target’s marketing organization.

  31. To Sno Man #35, see Heather’s response to the above…agree we have much bigger fish to fry, but her point is well taken and eloquent.

    To Army guy #36, um…same…

    To AdPulp #37, absolutely agree that the UNDER-reported story is huge: corporate policy re: Web 2.0. media.

    To Ontario Emperor #38, yep. I haven’t dragged Robert into this, though he’s in my NextNow collaboratory, so I probably should…I could use his opinion

    Last time we had this conversation at Doug Engelbart’s house on New Year’s day TWO years ago 1-1-06 to be exact, (before we launched our blog) I asked him how to handle wackos & trolls trying to derail a large conversation into name-calling minutiae, and he pretty much said,

    “Take the high road and let them slug it out themselves, you don’t need to respond to every flamer, let your readers do it for you.”

    I’m trying to stay with his advice and actually DID choose to ‘muzzle’ our board and plea to our readers to ‘behave’ so that our bigger mission is not lost while we become the ‘target’ posterchild…

    Either elevate the dialog to the bigger picture of objectification (as you can see, my main point was not any ONE ad, but “et tu, tarzhay, et tu???” from a family store) or silence the brouhaha so we don’t give Target tons of free press inspiring every ad hack & shock jock to flirt on the edge of couth hoping to yank people’s chains to get coverage!!

    And yes, you’re ALSO right that the dissing bloggers story is HUGE…see AdPulp link above…and yes, clearly Target didn’t learn a dang thing from R. Scoble…I mean, c’mon…

    Just think if I had been TRYING to get coverage…instead of DODGING same?!?!

    We’ve had thousands and thousands of hits/traffic and overwhelm…sheesh…

    When will corporations LEARN the internet is here to stay?!?!?!?

  32. In the ‘v’ wars, Copyranter in N.Y. shined the light on Absolut’s new Citron ad, with some off-color muckracking that gives mainstream folks a hint about the advertising creative process, wonderfully well… http://copyranter.blogspot.com/2008/01/fruit-of-absoluts-loins.html

    He embeds links w/some poignant peeks at our industry colleagues (sense of humor etc.) which is right ‘on target’ with my ‘this was no oops, get real, peeps’ stance on Target’s attempts at edginess feigning corporate cluelessness.

    Big difference? I’d expect innuendo from Absolut, not from Target.

  33. Finding lots of links and comments in our akismet spam so apologies if I don’t have time to wade through all to pull them out…If you don’t see yours, try again, as the filter is sucking in all kinds of valid stuff because of keywords/etc.

    We’ll post any/all (‘cept obvious profanity policy) so try again or ping me directly on a diff. post if need be…or amy at (name of blog) dot org.

  34. Just read the post by Julia Roy, referred by reader #38, Ontario Emperor, and it’s insightful in the “corporate backlash” bit…
    especially since her headline is hardcore, “Target is dead to me.” wow.

    As a mom who shops at Target, *I* haven’t even taken such a strident stance…(yet.) gosh, I LOVE tarjay…But their judgment is poor and their ethics need some mental floss if they’re going to go after the ‘family friendly’ core…

    There’s irony here, since I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt from the get-go…

    Now that Web 2.0 is uncorking all kinds of interesting subversiveness beyond what I already knew…I’m not so sure! (we all had heard of the undercover kids mktg., street teams called “Rounders” for viral WOMM, right?) If not here’s a debrief:


    As a mom who actually gave out Target gift cards to all my tween’s bday party pals on her 12th bday bash in lieu of ‘treat bags’ (that’s how big of a ‘core customer’ I am!)

    I’ve gotta weigh all this out, since I’m more ‘ANALYST’ than ‘ACTIVIST’ but there’s much here to ponder…

    I’m learning SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much from our readers…and from the blogosphere as a whole!

    Target would be well advised to ‘listen and learn’ from all this brouhaha as well!

  35. Wow, wow, wow…I am learning by the nanosecond…Check out this SEO (search engine optimization) guru writing about this brouhaha who’s WAY up there in link land.


    Being that I’m a neophyte in the NPtech world (and rely on folks like Beth Kanter, Britt Bravo, Michele Martin, and Nate Ritter to enlighten me about same!)it seems like all this unwelcome media shine could prove to be useful from a learning standpoint for me, when I actually want to TRY to make stuff go ‘viral’ down the line…

    If any of you techie types can help me out here with this question…Where does this whole Technorati/ranking bit come into play? It makes no sense to me that our ‘authority/ranking’ has nosedived 100 points out of nowhere, while coverage and links have surged out the wazoo…

    I read their ‘how it works’ section and it’s clear as mud…and running contrary to this viral fiasco which is a perfect snapshot/lesson for me to try to gauge ‘how it works and why’…

    Techies? What say you?

    Sounds like this should go in the ‘interview queue’ to see what it all means and why…(on the flip side, one of our young techie friends said ‘Technorati stats are so ‘yesterday’ ignore it, and focus on getting a topnotch analytics guru on your team…you’re blazin’)

    Um…gosh…well…ok…but we’re a nonprofit fledgling, folks…
    Any volunteers to keep up w/this stuff? Referrals? Mentors? Interns? Enlighten me…

  36. Pertinent media/mktg./customer service analysis & stats from MaxWeb

    (Twitter feed here, and hey, lookie there! It’s Connie Reece, one of my fave AOC co-author bloggers, at ‘every dot connects’…boy is Connie right about that…wish Target would’ve figured that out!!! http://twitter.com/maxweb

    MaxWeb’s comment is on Julia Roy’s blog, (see link a few comments back) here: “…It’s unfortunate that Target isn’t willing to see it’s customers as the smart, tech savvy individuals that they seem to promote in their marketing efforts. When saying, “Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.”

    They say more than “we don’t think our core guests are tech savvy” they are saying about themselves that they aren’t tech savvy nor are they “early adopters” and that they don’t believe that those people will shop at Target.

    Diffusion of innovations theory was formalized by Everett Rogers in a 1962 book called Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers stated that adopters of any new innovation or idea could be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on a bell curve. Each adopter’s willingness and ability to adopt an innovation would depend on their awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption. Some of the characteristics of each category of adopter include:

    Innovators – venturesome, educated, multiple info sources, greater propensity to take risk

    Early Adopters – social leaders, popular, educated

    Early Majority – deliberate, many informal social contacts

    Late Majority – skeptical, traditional, lower socio-economic status

    Laggards – neighbors and friends are main info sources, fear of debt

    Target seems to put their customers into the “Late Majority” category, or at the very least, that’s who they are pandering to, so at best they are only trying to take customers from the bottom 50% of available sales. It’s unfortunate that they don’t see that almost 50% of the market don’t fall into their marketing plan. They have chosen, with their narrow view of their “Target Customer” to eliminate a huge demographic that they could be extracting previously untapped revenue from.

    Posted by: MaxWeb | January 17, 2008 at 03:34 PM

    Also, adding this link from Julia in a roundabout way, in a post from PRsquared which discusses the ‘bad week for big brands’ policy of how Target coulda shoulda handled themselves, along w/various other Web 2.0 brand blunders worthy of a peek:

  37. First off lets start with what I see as obvious.

    1. Target made a terrible move in stating that blogging was ‘beneath’ them in roundabout terms.

    2. The objectification/sexual emphasis in marketing ploys needs to be adjusted on many angles.

    3. People have a right to be indignant in regards to this objectification and the resultant fallout through societal sectors.

    4. People have the right to their own opinion and interpretation.

    That said neither myself nor my wife could really see an issue with the picture ad itself. Now when presented with peoples interpretation of the ad and the leaps taken it could be seen IF it were to actually be looked at that way.

    However we didn’t look at it that way. We thought it was meant to represent either a snow angel, or a fall into a bank of snow ala our childhood fun days.

    The core matter of sexualized ad slop is another matter itself.

    Is it overdone? Yes.
    Are there elements that need to be removed totally? Yes.
    Does sexuality need to be removed completely? No. The key here is at what level we are talking about and the influences it has on mindsets of younger people.

    But again this is something that could be greatly muted if the subject were taught and explained well in the home and those values strong and reinforced at that level as well.

    Pandering things with an adult element to youngsters is wrong in my opinion. Pandering them with an adult element to adults is fine. Of course the definition of adult is going to vary from locale to locale.

    To keep myself from being to long winded I’ll try to condense my argument.

    While I think that in general much of what I’ve read here, in my limited exposure, are valid points. I have to wonder just how far reaching a change that people would lobby for, and just how puritanical the result would be.

    Myself, I’ve always thought that the whole sexual element would lose it’s luster in a promotional setting if it weren’t so good at getting a reaction. People go so far to distance or demonize sexuality and sex itself, that they just keep making it more desirable.

    If people didn’t ‘fear’ it so much or react as much to it, in general, I think it would lose much of the power it has in marketing ploys.

    But changing that particular mindset would be even harder than ‘forcing’ companies to change their marketing campaigns.

    Just my opinions. =D

  38. Hi Paul, thanks for the respectful balance.

    I’m with you 200% on 1-4, and also agree that ‘some will see it some won’t’…Being in the industry, and dealing w/this stuff 24/7, I view it one way, you view it another and that’s fair. Also agree that if we could ‘defuse’ the sexbomb, it wouldn’t be such a highly overused, unoriginal gimmick for titillation.

    Alas, as you imply, that ‘ain’t gonna happen’ in this culture…(I remember working for an imported French wine at an agency one time, where there was an artsy Rembrandt style shot with a partial nude breast showing and it had to be airbrushed out for the American market even though it was part of their logo!)

    Seems we have an odd constrained culture vacillating between prudish/puritan and pure pornification…

    After all, there’s a HUGE difference between sensuality/sexuality and objectification. The latter is where the U.S. has gone to the gutter…the former is where we SHOULD be, as healthy adult human beings.

    Personally, I think most of us in the centrist camp are less about ‘forced regulation’ and more about holding industry accountable & responsible for the messaging put out there.

    All the labeling and name-calling (prude, feminist, crazymamas, whatever) detracts from productive discourse, which you nailed in saying,

    “The core matter of sexualized ad slop is another matter itself…Is it overdone? Yes. Are there elements that need to be removed totally? Yes. Does sexuality need to be removed completely? No. The key here is at what level we are talking about and the influences it has on mindsets of younger people.”

    EXACTLY. And that last line is the clencher for me.

    It’s naive to think we can keep pumping objectification into the media culture 24/7 w/surround sound pornification and NOT have it take a toll on the kids SOMEwhere at SOME juncture…

    Whether it’s K-5, preteen puberty, teen years/dating cues, respect for partners, marital expectation dysfunction, lack of intimacy and desensitization, self-worth or beyond…It’s GONNA hit ’em…it’s just a matter of when.

    We see this in the behaviors of kids at every single school we visit…urban/suburban, affluent/poor…doesn’t matter, it’s there. That’s the part we need to focus on…And that’s where we ALL need to take responsibility for what’s being ‘targeted’ to kids, not just in marketing, but in media messaging overall.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  39. Okay…um. About that ‘objectification’ bigger picture issue on the impact of the mental health of adolescents??!!!


    Here is a CLASSIC EXAMPLE of societal impact of girls as ‘vessels for sex’…and a horrific one at that.

    Blogger Andre Blackman (http://mindofandre.wordpress.com) gives us this CNN news story coming out of Ft. Worth Texas

    Re: teen gang members ‘pimping’ five 12-16 year old girls for $50 a pop after getting them high, forming a prostitution ring for children as young as 12…


    “FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) —

    …”The gang apparently targeted runaways and other girls with unstable homes, and if the girls refused to have sex for money the members beat and sexually assaulted them and threatened their families, Dean said.

    “The age of the victims and suspects is the surprising part of it,” Dean said. “To have such young individuals in a somewhat organized business, a forced prostitution ring, is somewhat alarming and such a horrendous crime against the 12- to 16-year-old girls.” etc.

    Um…”somewhat alarming?” These UNDERSTATEMENTS are what are ‘somewhat alarming’ to me…If we’ve desensitized to the point that sex trafficking and sex slaves of little 12-16 year old girls being sold as objects in Texas rates a ‘somewhat’—I wonder what rates a ‘definitely’…maiming? torture? murder?


  40. I hate the fact that this post will come after the story Amy just posted. Absolutely horrific. This post is purely about the Target ad, and late to the party, no doubt.

    I have two kids, a boy and a girl, and I work in advertising. At one time I even did work for Target corp. I am keenly aware of sexualized content in the media. And it’s perfectly acceptable in certain time slots and for certain products. From my experience as an advertising creative, however, I can tell you this was neither an “oops” nor the result of a calculated, highly-strategic, plan.

    When I worked in retail fashion marketing we never sat around planning subversive subtexts for our images. We did, however, have debates (just like this forum) about imagery. Some people saw more in an image than others. Debate went back and forth and, ultimately, one side won. And the outcome was never the same.

    Keep in mind, these ads are part of a larger campaign that was likely reviewed as a whole. In that instance, certain “subtleties” that come to the fore when an ad stands alone, are minimized when an ad is viewed in a larger context.

    Now, I wouldn’t put it past some art director to create this composition in order to get a laugh (tasteless as it may be). I’ve seen people try to pull one over on the higher ups. Sometimes a joke gets lost on others and an image gets through.

    So, my question (or four) is, if this is a calculated effort, what is its objective? What is it trying to sell? What is it promising you in terms of your shopping experience? What would Target gain by objectifying the largest portion of its customer base?

    I would argue the goal was to present an image of the brand as youthful, attractive, vibrant, bold and fun. This ad did that. The fact that they chose this image shows a lack of empathy, not a blatant disregard for our daughters’ self esteem.

  41. Hey Glen…Yeah, the post prior was horrific, sorry you had to follow it, especially since you make such salient, rational points that I actually tend to agree with overall…

    I particularly agree about ad agency creatives NOT sitting around conjuring up subliminal stuff, and clients’ potentially blind eye in a sloppy approval process, with benefit of the doubt that ‘this got through’…

    In fact, the ‘missing piece’ in this banter is that the whole point of me trying to call Target in the first place was because I’ve been in advertising for 25+ years (multiple agencies and freelancing as a hired gun, senior copywriter/creative director) and KNEW (hoped with all my heart) that there MUST be:

    a.) an explanation within a larger campaign context or
    b.) a bad judgment call that needs brought to their attention in a huge way that this can be misconstrued as sexist slop if I understand the business, am a ‘core customer’ and yet am still irked (perhaps moreso)
    c.) some art director(s) laughing over a latte that they “pulled a fast one”
    d.) either a clueless client that needs a wake-up call OR
    e.) an edgier, “push the envelope” client that wanted to strive for wink and nod innuendo to slip past corporate and appeal to the coolness ‘target market’…

    Judging from Target’s recent “Rounders” fiasco of striving for the latter, I had grave concerns. “Rounders” are kids recruited to viral market peer to peer and chat up ‘coolness’ of tarjay, (a la Proctor & Gamble’s ‘tremors.com’ street team/word of mouth marketing tactics)

    I thought it was worth a phone call to inquire about motivation, ask for campaign context, AND implore that if it WAS a case of going after coolness cache, they should knock it off, don’t do it, and just freakin’ STOP it!

    After all, Shaping Youth began as an INDUSTRY consortium of parents and people who DO care about ethics & responsibility in advertising that’s reaching kids!

    In short, I gave them the benefit of the doubt big time…and when they dissed me (as a mom, ‘core customer’ and ‘non-traditional media person’) I was incensed…as you can see in the comments above, I THOUGHT about calling in back up to prove a point, and also DID send a ‘hat tip’ to a blogger who has a blog called “Customers Rock” to tell her this thing was a classic case of poor customer care and was already starting to go ‘viral’…there’s a story there in no-nos for marketing people…

    But in rethinking, I decided to go in the OTHER direction and actually ‘quiet’ our fans in a plea to ‘behave’ and let the thing run its course for fear it would detract from our BIGGER picture issues, as it has.

    There’s irony that ONE post has been pulled out of context, and devolved into a ‘one ad’ objectification judgment rather than being viewed as ‘part of a larger campaign.’

    Thanks for your wise and heartfelt comments as a parent in the industry.

    We need more folks like you speaking out like this, so that ALL brand/marketing isn’t vilified universally…come lend us a hand? We’d love to have you…

  42. Amy,

    Ignore the people who are trying to silence you with the assertion that the ad is not offensive. They have the right to that opinion, but they’re telling you that YOU must accept it or you become, somehow, suspect. That’s BS. You have the right to an opinion, too.

    While this ad is not on a par with, say, Victoria’s Secret ads, and perhaps in a world that didn’t contain VS ads it wouldn’t seem sexualized at all, the fact is Target knows what other ads look like. They know what we see everyday. There’s a reason that image isn’t of a boy. A reason why it’s not from another angle. A reason why her whole body isn’t inside the bullseye. I think Glen nailed it: they may not have been going for “X marks the Crotch”, but neither did they mind capitalizing off a visual reference they knew would lead in that direction.

    What’s almost more interesting to me at this point is Target’s claim that you’re not their target audience, because “it’s what the audience wants/we follow the dollar” is the excuse given for every ad/movie/film that uses women’s bodies to sell products (in the case of movies, the movie is the product) in a way they don’t use men’s. The ad shows a young woman in young woman’s clothing which suggests they’re targeting the very demographic that’s most likely to read blogs. The fact they feel the need to misrepresent their intentions with the ad actually makes it far more suspect in my mind than if they had simply said, “Well, we didn’t intend it that way, but we’ll take your thoughts into consideration for the next time.”

  43. BetaCandy: Your last line would’ve at least been a start for them…

    p.s. Just read the link from the comment above yours from ‘complex blog’ and he mentions he got through w/regular press credentials…But you’re right about the use of the word ‘suspect’ as he mentioned they would not address the creative process, OR give out the model’s number. (which I thought was a fabulous/clever inquiry)

    I responded to that comment on his blog saying,

    “If I were a PR person, I’d hold a media crisis pow-wow pronto and instruct any/all for full transparency on the creative process…INCLUDING that model’s number! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Although it’s too late now, as I’m sure she’s been ‘debriefed’ not to talk to the press…Great idea tho…she no doubt could tell the photo shoot story very well. I wouldn’t be surprised if corporate decides to pay her hush money or pay her big bucks to come out w/THEIR preferred version of the story so she doesn’t ‘leak’ a story that causes more brand damage.

    As one who has spent 25+ years in advertising, no tactics surprise me anymore, as gutter ethics and shock talk antics have reached a new low in attempt to gain buzz. Our industry has gotten to the point where ‘anything goes’ and it’s easier to ask ‘forgiveness than permission’…Come to think of it, they’ve done neither.”

    Even in the ‘mopping up’ post-crisis fanfare of this overblown fiasco, not one person has ever said, ‘oops, sorry.’ Nada.

    To me, that says, either “cluelessly NOT paying attention” or a shoulder shrug of “who cares”…Guess it’s easier to belittle and deflect rather genuinely take action or offer a one-line response as you mentioned in your closing comment.

    I hope THEY take that ‘into consideration for the next time’ as I certainly never meant for this to get such coverage and I’m weary of the personal attacks and derailment of the dialog into such trivial ‘is she or isn’t she’ offensiveness debates.


  44. #55…That Lois Lane cover is SOMEthin’…’72, huh? yep, I’m having vague flashbacks of comic books like that in my older brother’s stash.

    It’s begging for a YouTube mashup of then/now, perspective yes?

    For those that didn’t get the link a few posts up, here it is again:

    Yep. That’s a ’twas ever thus’ gotcha…Cartoon wise, we’ve got Betty Boop on the body image bit, and a gazillion triangular-wasted she-cells in the animation archives of ‘ideals’ from 50s ads to pinup girls…HOWEVER, sexism/misogyny then vs. now is STILL heavily weighted in terms of ‘the times’…

    For example, this CBS video clip of Sesame St. ‘back then’ would NEVER fly now. Why??? http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3726058n Let’s see…it shows a girl holding the hand of a stranger she just met, going into this house, having ice cream, etc. It shows kids jumping up and down on metal mattress springs in a junk yard & through a construction sheet metal tunnel of a work site into the darkness, riding bikes w/out helmets, see what I’m saying? Times change…

    And though a comic book in poor taste can point to misogyny up the wazoo, but it’s rare/random compared to the reach and saturation of our current 24/7 surround sound of persistent media volume…which desensitizes.

    Why is this bad? Because desensitization & objectification breed violence, because it doesn’t seem ‘real’…It’s an escalating cycle of coarseness that no one reacts to…e.g. Look at that news report I posted on #48/CNN…

    Pimping 12-16 year old girls is “somewhat” alarming? (probably just poor word choice, but SOMEWHAT?) If we fail to flinch at pimping 12 year olds, and the imagery keeps getting more coarse, requiring an even heftier dose of ‘shock and awe’ to warrant a raised eyebrow…well…you see where I’m goin’ here…
    If we can’t feel it. Sense it. Live it. We can’t respect it.

    Same goes for nature, parkland, and ecosystems, frankly… The minute we ‘can’t relate’ to it, then we don’t miss it or attach to it. “We will only protect what we understand.” And in the organic world of living things, the minute we dehumanize, all bets are off…

    Whether it’s chopping up an ad to reveal only ‘body parts’ vs. a full human being, or pronounced objectification of genitals detached and distorted we’ve added an element of surrealism to add distance and buffer the soul, so it no longer seems ‘real.’

    Look at hostage advice and rape victim coaching…they always say to “keep trying to humanize yourself. The minute you’re an object. You’re a piece of meat. Dispensable. ”

    According to the APA/objectification docs, our children are beginning to feel ‘expendable’ before they’ve even had a chance to grow into their own skin…

  45. A reader just sent this “DailyKos diary” to me on the “politics of misogyny and patriarchial power” asking me to click through the videos and remind readers that THIS is part of the reason why I need to stand firm and deflect the ‘trolls’ trying to hijack the conversation into belittling minutiae. Some important points here following these video clips of media handling and ‘the femme factor’….I was agaw at Chris Matthews little stunt with the woman reporter…wish I could say that hasn’t happened to me. But it has. (and no, dear flamers, it didn’t alter my life course, it’s just ‘sad’ that this can pass for journalism)


    Reader says: “Intimidation and aggression” is ‘commonly used’ to ‘play hardball’ as you can see by these various videos of Chris Matthews going at it with various outspoken women of substance threatened by female ‘power.’ Fascinating. Knew there was a reason I’m keeping the comments section open on this blog instead of politely shutting it down to say ‘enough’…

    I keep getting good clips and links to open new conversations in media!

  46. Excellent critical thinking skills posted here on the Humane Education blog for teachers/Students to consider:


    …”Situations like these provide excellent opportunities to engage (in this case, older) students in discussions about issues like the influence of marketing and media, free speech, the objectification of women, sexualization, and why people who disagree with someone else think it’s okay to say really mean things…”

    They cite some questions for exploration (besides the obvious objectification) including…

    “Why do some people who disagree with some else’s opinion think it’s acceptable to respond with violent or unkind language and/or to personally attack someone, instead of addressing the issue?”

    “Does “freedom of speech” protect marketers, allowing them to “say” or portray anything that want, or should marketers be held accountable whenever they step over the line?”

    “Where is the line? Who decides?”

    etc. I’m glad someone is looking at this from a media literacy standpoint besides yours truly. I’m heartened…and hopeful.

  47. Confused?! says

    WHY HAS MINE NOT BEEN POSTED? I wrote about a week ago and it still has not shown up on this site. I have the right to be heard, just like you do.

    Thank you.

  48. Drat…our akismet spam filter is sucking in stuff that shouldn’t be there, can you please resend it and I’ll post it pronto???

    I’ll go check it again now, to see if it’s in a recent round, but if it’s a week ago, it’s long gone, as we were deluged and the filter was set to a higher language/keyword ‘watch’ clearing out about a 1000 a day…

    (I started out trying to sift through/make sure they all posted that got ‘caught’ but couldn’t keep up with wading through them all!)

    PLEASE RESEND and I’ll post it NOW. Apologies!!

  49. I can’t believe targets response.

    on the otherhand, I don’t get the objection to this particular ad…

    the other stuff, yeah. This, no.


  50. 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?

  51. 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.

  52. 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

  53. 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.

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

  55. 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!’

  56. 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?

  57. 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.

  58. 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…


  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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…

  63. 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!

  64. 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.

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

  66. 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.

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

  68. 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.

  69. 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!

  70. #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.

  71. 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”

  72. 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 ;)…”

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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

  77. 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”

  78. 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

  79. 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…”

  80. 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.

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

  82. 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… https://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… ๐Ÿ™‚

    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…?

  83. thanks for that..i agree

  84. 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…


  85. 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 designforall@target.com

    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.’

  86. 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.

  87. 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…

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

  89. 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.

  90. 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

  91. 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.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Absolutely amazing.

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


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