March 8th, 2017

Written by:
Daisy Rogers

In a Barbie world

Women’s rights have been so much at the forefront of the news, and there’s one brand that wouldn’t be the first company to spring to mind when thinking of empowering women.

Now, let me give you a clue. One very famous female fronts the whole brand, she’s not aged a year in her nearly 60 years of reign, and she has had over 150 careers. Still nothing? She has one hell of a famous boyfriend called Ken, and they even have their own feature song.

Who am I talking about? None other than Barbie of course.

An international phenomenon since 1959, Barbie has often been the top choice of toy for young girls. However, over the past couple of decades, Barbie and Mattel have seen dwindling sales, consistently coming under criticism for Barbie’s non-feminist representation of women.

When you think of Barbie 10 years ago, you probably think of a hot pink wasteland full of unrealistic body shapes, or a girl who is only concerned about fashion, hair and make-up. Oh and not to forget Ken – the orange beefcake – hardly the message that you want to be giving to young impressionable girls. With this in mind, and in a society that is coming ever more aware of hyper-gender stereotyping, Mattel and Barbie are finally taking steps in the right direction, and are trying to change this perception.

Created by BBDO, Mattel introduces their empowering ‘Imagine the possibilities’ campaign. Evalyn Mazzocco, the Global SYP and General Manager of Barbie stated, ‘this ongoing brand evolution is designed to encourage parents to reappraise the role Barbie can play in a child’s life‘, encouraging them to reevaluate the brand.

Unscripted and using hidden cameras, the advert shows young girls playing and pretending to be professionals in real-life settings. Taking on the roles of a college professor, soccer coach, veterinarian, businesswoman and museum guide.

It then ends with the poignant message: ‘When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.‘ This summarises what this campaign is really trying to do.

‘We want to remind the world what Barbie stands for. Founded by a female entrepreneur and mother in 1959, the Barbie brand has always represented the fact that women have choices. This ongoing initiative is designed to remind today’s parents that through the power of imagination, Barbie allows girls to explore their limitless potential.’

Evalyn Mazzocco, Global SYP and General Manager, Mattel

This campaign aims to reevaluate how we think about Barbie dolls. How it is not about what the doll looks like, but about how a child looks at the dolls. Society has spent so long talking about Barbie’s image, they have forgotten to talk about her careers – all 150 of them. Although many may still see Barbie as a figure that represents beauty and materialism, she also represents imagination and a world of possibilities.

Many may not be persuaded by this campaign, convinced it’s just a lacklustre attempt at hopping on the feminist bandwagon, I say it’s a step in the right direction. A great example of how a brand can harness all its negative press and turn it around into a great campaign, to change perceptions and create something that is truly empowering and inspiring.


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