At the start of Audi Spain’s “The Doll That Chose to Drive,” a row of Barbie-esque dolls in the pink section of a toy aisle apply makeup, perform ballet and push a baby stroller.
Another doll, frustrated with her dream carriage’s inability to actually go anywhere, kicks a wheel off it and finds herself drawn into the mobility paradise of the blue aisle … where she finds an Audi to take on a test drive.
The ad has a bit of a Nutcracker quality, playing on the fantasy of toys coming to life after hours, and bears the promise of a happy ending when a little boy picks up both doll and car, and asks his mother if he can take them home.
“But darling, they don’t go together, do they?” she says, and lifts the doll out of her seat, placing her back in the land of pink. We wonder what the doll must be thinking, but her face is impassive, dutifully frozen for this human killer of dreams.
Created by Proximity BCN with production by Post23, the animated short is an appeal to stop gender-based differentiation in toys—one effort among many over the last few years.
In 2012, Sweden’s Toys R Us magazine started blurring the codes for gendered play. Last year, French supermarket Super U advocated for a “gender-free Christmas,” following Target’s decision to de-gender its own toy aisles.
Brands like GoldieBlox approach the problem a different way—creating a typical “boy” toy for girls, while breaking the rules for how girls’ toys are advertised.
“There is a growing trend for brands to communicate what they are all about and how they intend to improve people’s lives,” says Eva Santos, general creative director at Proximity.
“The Doll That Chose to Drive” is “the brand’s way of helping to promote a more egalitarian social model … starting with boys and girls, tomorrow’s drivers,” adds Audi Spain rep Ignacio Gonzalez.
To inform its campaign, Audi looked to José Luís Linaza Iglesias, a professor of evolutionary psychology and education. On an accompanying website (in Spanish), Iglesias explains how play influences learning, future career choices and interests. Dolls, cooking toys and ponies aren’t bad in themselves, but send a clear message about what traits we value in girls, while cars, action figures and construction sets for boys channel totally different interests.
Either way, gendering child’s play limits the freedom to develop certain skills, binding the creativity that produces more dynamic adults. And according to Proximity, advertising also contributes to the divide, using familiar codes—like color and context—to reinforce it.
The ad was made for the Christmas season and broadcast on TV, in theaters, on YouTube and across social, where it generated over 1 million views in three days. Limited-edition versions of the car and the doll were also given away at no cost. A hashtag, #CambiemosElJuego (“Let’s change the game”), invited people to weigh in on the topic.
Agency: Proximity Barcelona
Product: Campaña de Branding – Navidad
Title: “The Doll That Chose to Drive”
Client: Audi España
Media: TV, Online, Cinema
General Creative Director: Eva Santos
Creative Director: Carles Alcon
Copies: Neus Gimenez, Laura Cuni, Edu Escudero
Art Directors: Rodrigo Chaparreiro, Iván Aguado, David Casado
Client Services Director: Amanda Muñiz
Account Director: Patricia Miret
Account Supervisors: Laia García, Carla Franco
Strategic Planner: Patricia Urgoiti
Digital Producer: Lluís García
Producer, Director: Mercè Fernández
Audiovisual Producer: Diana Asenjo
Animation Studio: Post23
Director: Jordi Garcia
Art Director: Bor Arroyo