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Barbie Tells Girls They Can “Be Anything” And Helps Some Prove It

The brand’s new campaign aims to win over parents with an empowerment message.

Barbie Tells Girls They Can “Be Anything” And Helps Some Prove It

At 56 years old, Barbie is facing stiff competition to win the hearts of today’s young girls. Not only is the current doll-of-choice Elsa, the heroine from Disney’s Frozen, giving her more than a run for her money, but parents have also been questioning gender-specific toys that don’t necessarily promote girl empowerment.

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It makes perfect sense then, that Mattel would produce a new spot for the flagship brand based entirely on the aspirations of young girls. “Imagine the Possibilities” shows five young girls playing out their desired careers in real-life settings, choosing to be a veterinarian, a museum guide, a businesswoman, a college professor and a soccer coach.

Each gets to act out their roles with the adults around them, who are apparently not pre-warned, playing along whilst being filmed with hidden cameras. Scenes include a crisp college lecture on brain power and a rather harsh workout for members of a soccer squad, who are instructed: “Knees up, like a unicorn. Higher, higher!”

The spot ends with one of the girls–the college professor–playing out the same scene at home with a collection of Barbies. On-screen text says: “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become. You can be anything.”

It’s the first work for the brand from agency BBDO San Francisco and New York, and is squarely aimed at winning over parents. It’s intended to imbue Barbie with a refreshed sense of purpose. In a statement, Matt Miller, BBDO SF executive creative director says Barbie was “originally created to show girls they have choices”.

The campaign comes at a difficult time for the brand; sales have been declining for four years despite the launch of a more diverse range of dolls, including a talking version in February. In its second quarter results, Mattel reported that Barbie sales had slipped 19% from the same period last year to $130.3 million. The new mission hopes to “convert parents into brand advocates” in the run up to the critical holiday season.

About the author

Louise Jack is a London-based journalist, writer and editor with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written for several titles including Marketing Week, Campaign and The Independent.

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