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How Kinetic & PHD drove Barbie & Ken to movie success


By The Drum, Editorial

December 5, 2023 | 7 min read

Briefed by Warner Bros to launch The Barbie Movie in the UK, Kinetic and PHD did what comes naturally and turned the UK's Out Of Home sites bright pink. The campaign whipped up a storm driving millions in to cinemas to watch Barnie and Ken. It also impressed the judges of The Drum Awards for Out Of Home who gave it the Classic Posters & Banners trophy. Here is the award-winning case study.

There is no better campaign to demonstrate the power of classic OOH than for the Barbie movie. It’s difficult to think of the bright (pink) beacon that’s been applauded across the advertising, entertainment and fashion industries, to name a few, of anything other than sensational. But while Barbie as a brand is nostalgic for women of all ages, it has been through a transformational period in recent years to reinvent itself, cemented by this summer’s film release.

We needed an OOH campaign that not only grabbed attention but smashed the public perception of the modern-day Barbie. All while building anticipation for the film of the year. In 2023, Barbie is so much more than a doll. She represents limitless possibilities for young girls. And the Barbie Movie is so much more than just a film. It’s a genre-busting, pop culture extravaganza. The marketing of Barbie was so enviable, it had other brands piggybacking on the release, creating a real 'Barbiecore' moment. Conversation and commentary about the campaign reached all corners of the world, highlighting the impact classic OOH can have on wider society. In its own right, the buzz that emanated from the film’s marketing became iconic.

Barbie’s overall objective was to be one of the most successful female movies, ever. It wanted to prove that movies driven by a female audience can really, really deliver. Through capitalising on nostalgia and strategic partnerships, Barbie has outperformed all expectations, breaking box office records for the most commercially successful film by a female director, and has become the 6th biggest film of all time in the UK with a box office of £94M+.

OOH’s role was to bring Barbieland to life right across the country and create a national cultural moment. We needed to reach our core female audience while also delivering mass appeal. That meant leveraging distinctive assets in a multitude of formats and environments to maximise standout: think big, bold and pink!

Strategy: Imagination, life is your creation. We knew that hardcore fans would instantly recognise the iconic pink of Barbie, so we capitalised on that high brand association in our teasers. Four weeks ahead of the film’s release we teased the film with 24 pink backlit 96 sheets. Designed to create buzz and talkability ahead of the wider campaign, the classic billboards boldly didn’t include any reference to the film title but were literally just bright (Barbie!) pink, with the only words being ‘July 21’ printed in the bottom corner. While instantly recognisable to fans of Barbie, they drove intrigue and social discussion among those who weren’t so familiar and hinted that there was more to come.

Two weeks before the film’s release our main campaign really ramped up by combining multiple formats and environments to create an unmissable pink moment that achieved over 78% cover. Our full, classic OOH campaign was in full swing, including nationwide 96 sheets, D48s and bus T-sides delivering reach and frequency, while 50 taxis, and two buses wrapped in glittered pink vinyl (a media first) boosted the Barbiecore effect as they made their way around London.

Come on Barbie, let’s go party Our OOH was literally part of the fabric turning the UK pink playing an integral role in ‘the BEST DAY EVER’, a strategic day-long British celebration around the Premiere. Our sparkly pink wrapped taxis were involved in several PR stunts in the run up to the film’s release, and even acted as escorts for stars as they headed to the pink carpet of the London premiere as well as to turn 11 iconic London landmarks pink.

The broad appeal of the film, combined with ambitious box office goals, landed us with a wide-reaching blend of target audiences, which meant classic OOH was the perfect medium to maximise reach and to drive brand fame and stature.

Results The campaign surrounding the release of the Barbie film generated an interest in cinema that hasn’t been seen in years and was written about by various industry trade publications including Variety with the headline ‘Barbie fever hits London with Pink buses, taxis, landmarks and even a Doctor Who Tardis’. It also captured, and was celebrated by, the wider marketing and advertising industries. The film launched with nearly 100 brand partnerships and collaborations, but the piggybacking (e.g. Barbiecan station, Hellmann’s Shrimp on the Barbie OOH creative) and fan adoption (poster selfie generator, interactive Barbie photo boxes) could only be described as Barbie-mania.

In numbers;

Barbie is currently the 6th highest grossing film at the UK box office EVER (£94M), the largest grossing film for a female director EVER, the biggest film of the year worldwide and the biggest movie in WB’s 100-year history.

The film opened at #1 at the UK box office and sustained the #1 spot for 40 days straight.

The UK and Ireland are the number 1 international territory by over 100% with a very strong conversion of 15% against the US.

The campaign generated near ubiquitous awareness, including 100% total awareness for the Female under 25 audience group – a figure that had never been reached before (NRG Tracking).

In reality, Barbie may be a toy, but her message is timeless: you (and your OOH campaign) can be whoever you want to be. The power of classic OOH brought Barbieland to life, thanks to the strategic use of the iconic pink and the stature brought by the application of the instantly recognisable branding. Not only did OOH paint the town pink, but it also helped create a whole new world for the marketing and advertising industries.

Laura Bradley, Senior Marketing Manager at Warner Bros. said “Kinetic and PHD’s OOH campaign for the Barbie movie was certainly a highlight of the entire marketing campaign for the theatrical release. We saw a wealth of positive sentiment across social conversation and press coverage, particularly around the pink tease 96 sheets and the wrapped sparkly taxis and buses as people sought them out to take their own photos of (and with) them to share across their own social profiles. The collective OOH campaign went above and beyond our expectations and had a big part to play in the film being the most highly anticipated film of the year, as well as the biggest at the box office”.

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