Système U, the fourth-largest food retail group in France, is tackling bigger issues than hoverboard stockage in its holiday catalog this year. With a new campaign from TBWA, it's asking: What worldview are we passing on to our kids?
The supermarket group gives us "#GenderFreeChristmas," which explores the biases kids learn about play. The ad kicks off with girls and boys authoritatively explaining which toys are appropriate for their respective genders: Tea party sets are for girls, while sports and toy guns are for boys, for example.
But the ad demonstrates these opinions are less what kids naturally believe, and more a reflection of what they've been taught. We jump to a huge set that resembles the playhouse you wanted as a kid but your parents were too busy to build you. The kids are let loose … and once free of prying questions, their behaviors reflect more fluid affinities.
Girls play with trucks and drum sets; one boy bemusedly holds a doll by its leg and contemplates a cloth diaper. While a few girls make ice cream in a miniature kitchen, another boy, dressed like a superhero, pushes a vacuum cleaner around like a toy car.
As they play, a photographer moves quietly among them, snapping photos, providing the perfect entry point to introduce Système U's Christmas magazine concept: "There are no toys for girls or boys. Just toys." The magazine is illustrated with shots the photographer took while the children cavorted unstaged.
The work echoes Target's recent move to stop classifying toys in its store by gender. According to Système U, "few French brands dare display their social commitment, and even fewer dare to do so through film." The idea was to sidestep the classic holiday hard sell and use its brand platform to take a stand instead. "Being a major retailer in France today means being a social stakeholder, in touch with the French people," the company adds.
It's also part of Système U's ongoing effort to promote "added social value" in its communications, which it previously supported by being the first French retailer to remove parabens from cosmetics in its bespoke Produits U brand range, and by replacing aspartame with stevia in carbonated beverages (which, granted, also bears some risks—but hey, points for effort).
The ad concludes with the following message: "Giving kids the image of a better world. That's what Christmas is all about." Certainly it's nicer than a hoverboard, even if it's not something you can show off on the playground come January. But we like the idea of giving kids the gift of deciding for themselves what they want to play with, and ultimately choosing what kinds of adults they want to be. That decision is impacted by all kinds of things, from toys to jokes, as we most recently learned in a decidedly traumatic ad from Care Norway.