Back in July, we brought you the story of GoldieBlox, a toy company on a mission to get girls to take an interest in engineering. The company recently released an inspired ad campaign, featuring a Rube Goldberg-esqe machine, showcasing the need for more equality in toy marketing. The ad’s soundtrack was a cover version of ‘Girls’ by the Beastie Boys, with the original (some would say misogynistic) lyrics replaced with a more positive message.
“It’s time to change, we deserve a range, all of our toys look the same… and we would like to use our brains,” sing the girls in the advert. And the Beastie Boys admire the spirit in which the video was made, saying in an open letter to GoldieBlox they were “very impressed by the creativity and the message behind the ad… we strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes, and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.”
However, the band had previously taken a stand and stated outright that their music would never be co-opted for advertising purposes. Their letter goes on: “As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”
Yes, you read that correctly. In what one would assume to be a pre-emptive strike, GoldieBlox commenced a lawsuit requesting that a court declare the company has a right to produce a parody. The toy manufacturer has since relented, pulling the official version of the ad from circulation and replacing it with an instrumentally soundtracked substitute.
On Wednesday 27th November, GoldieBlox CEO Debra Sterling responded to the Beasties with an open letter of her own, stating that the video was created “with the best of intentions”.
“We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising,” the letter explains. “Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours… We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.”
While the Beastie Boys may have won in the traditional sense, Mashable have attributed a solid moral victory to GoldieBlox; “if the message was female empowerment, then GoldieBlox has made its point.” And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the advertisement in question garnered 9 million views or so before being pulled.