Mattel is pulling out all the stops to protect its lucrative Barbie franchise. Hello Barbie, unveiled at the 2015 New York Toy Fair earlier this year, hits store shelves in November in time for the holidays. She speaks 8,000 lines of dialogue and can improvise based on ongoing conversation.
Now, just in time for the UN’s International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, Mattel is launching a girl-empowering campaign called “Imagine the Possibilities.”
The new campaign not only taps into the DNA of the Barbie brand, it also taps into the girl power zeitgeist that other brands are promoting too, such P&G’s Always “Like a Girl” Super Bowl ad and movement, Dove’s “Change One Thing” body confidence campaign and HelloFlo’s recent Shero campaign.
Unscripted and using hidden cameras, the girls play act professionals of their choosing in real-life settings including a college professor, soccer coach, veterinarian, entrepreneur and museum tour guide.
5 vivid imaginations are let loose on unsuspecting audiences. What happens when girls imagine they can be anything? https://t.co/7u4ASXSKeG
— Barbie (@Barbie) October 8, 2015
Of course, it’s geared at girls and their parents—particularly millennial moms. “We are absolutely listening to the cultural conversation and we wanted to start a conversation with moms,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, Mattel SVP and global brand general manager, to Ad Age.
“This generation of moms has been bombarded with images with Barbie, but don’t know why Barbie was created in the first place,” added BBDO San Francisco executive creative director Matt Miller, who worked on the campaign. “We had this creative ‘aha’ moment when we found a quote by Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator, saying that she created Barbie to show girls that they had choices.”
Or as BBDO commented on Facebook, “In ‘Imagine the Possibilities,’ a new film for Barbie created by BBDO San Francisco in conjunction with BBDO New York, hidden cameras capture real reactions to girls imagining everything they might one day become. The Mattel campaign is about open play, returning the brand to its roots and celebrating young girls’ journeys of self-discovery.”
The power of play to inspire and shape girls’ career choices was the subject of a recent study. As The Atlantic reports, researchers at Oregon State University had 37 girls ages 4 and 7 randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls:
- A typical Barbie doll wearing a fancy party dress
- A career Barbie in lab coat, stethoscope and low-heeled shoes
- A Mrs. Potato Head doll
The girls played with the dolls for five minutes before being presented with photos of 11 traditionally male (construction worker, firefighter, pilot, doctor and police officer) and female (teacher, librarian, daycare worker, flight attendant and nurse) professions.
When asked if a boy or girl could do each job when they grow up, all of them thought a boy would more likely be able to do more of both the male and female jobs. But the girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head thought girls could do more of both kinds of jobs than those who played with either kind of Barbie. And the lab coat Barbie, they found, did not yield better results than the standard Barbie.
So Mattel has a real need to make Barbie relevant in a world where girls are mobile- and digital-savvy from a young age, and yet still looking for role models, inspiration and to become independent thinkers.
After all, nobody wants girls to do something because Barbie told them to do it — as this video below demonstrates: