In another Barbie first, the brand is speaking directly to dads in its latest campaign that encourages men to play with their daughters.
The creative includes a 90-second video with six dads and their daughters playing Barbie and trying out various careers, like doctor, teacher and astronaut. It was developed with BBDO San Francisco and is an extension of Barbie’s You Can Be Anything campaign, which, as the name implies, invites girls to imagine they can be anything when they grow up.
Nontraditional messaging has paid off for the brand recently. In October, Mattel said revenue for Q3 2016 was up overall – and that was reportedly thanks in part to Barbie sales, which increased nearly 16% following the release of three new body types and seven skin tones.
This, of course, was after the brand fell into a bit of a slump and had to reinvent itself to regain relevance, as Mattel President and Chief Operating Officer Richard Dickson said at Adobe Summit last year.
This reinvention also included a video, Imagine the Possibilities, which went on to generate nearly 25 million views on YouTube alone. According to a Mattel rep, the spot was also named one of YouTube’s Ads of the Year in 2015 and won a silver Cannes Lion.
The latest dad-focused creative also includes multiple 30-second cut-downs, along with the tagline, "Time Spent in Her Imaginary World Is an Investment in Her Real World," which Mattel said, “[highlights] that a dad's involvement in his daughter's imaginary play contributes to her social, intellectual and emotional development in real life.”
According to the Mattel rep, Barbie began to shift its communications strategy about two years ago.
“The bulk of the spend had been toward advertising commercials to children and dialing up the features of products and what we started to shift toward was advertising that focused on parents and what these brands and products enable, versus what they are,” the rep said. “That’s been our strategy – to communicate…[Barbie] enables imagination and storytelling and how that is beneficial to the child as they grow and develop.”
Further, the Mattel rep said Barbie as a brand highlights role models for girls, like Misty Copeland, the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, and writer/director Ava DuVernay, who produced the 2015 film Selma, but dads are also great role models and bring a different perspective to play.
“Dads have a different way of playing Barbie that we felt was beneficial to highlight,” she added.
What’s more, Mattel said the campaign launched during the NFL Playoffs “with significant television, theatrical, digital and print advertising designed to reach dads and reinforce the benefits of imaginative play and storytelling with Barbie.”
In addition, the brand said the campaign “will pulse throughout the year” with social, digital and marketing initiatives in partnership with platforms Social Native and Tongal, as well as news organization Time Inc., in an effort to engage #DadsWhoPlayBarbie.
According to a press release, Dr. Linda Nielsen, professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forest University, explains: “decades of research shows that girls who have loving, communicative, supportive relationships with their dads from early childhood on are less likely to suffer from a lack of self-confidence and self-reliance as she grows up.”
In an email, Nielsen said fathers are more uncomfortable playing typically feminine games or playing with toys designed for girls.
“This restricts father-daughter relationships in ways that can later limit their relationship as she ages,” she said. “This is why Mattel's creative ads are an important avenue for enhancing father-daughter relationships by encouraging dads to engage in imaginative play with their daughters with dolls.”
The Mattel rep said the purpose of Barbie is to allow girls to imagine what they can become, so the brand often goes after research that supports this notion.
“This campaign is truly showing girls they have limitless potential,” she said. “It all maps back to notion that Barbie is a brand about inspiring girls and the creative really shows dads’ alignment with that message.”