- Barbie is rolling out its biggest global ad campaign since 2015.
- The ad aims to show how playing with dolls can develop traits like empathy and generosity in kids.
- Barbie’s sales soared 87% year-over-year in the first quarter.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Barbie dolls are flying off the shelves, and parent Mattel is launching its biggest advertising campaign in more than five years to keep the momentum going.
“A Doll Can Help Change The World” is a global campaign set to kick off on May 3 with a minute-long commercial that shows kids enacting a number of scenarios with their dolls — like reading to them or tucking them into bed. The ad is based on the findings of an October 2020 Cardiff University study commissioned by Barbie that shows playing with dolls can help children develop positive social traits like empathy and generosity.
Mattel said that the new campaign is Barbie’s biggest ad campaign since 2015’s “Imagine the Possibilities” that was widely credited with changing the doll’s perception and reversing a decades-long sales slump.
The company declined to share specifics, but said it’s doubling Barbie’s year over year ad spend in 2021. Mattel spent $53 million on advertising (excluding social channels) for toy brands including Barbie in 2020, according to Kantar.
It’s aimed at parents and caregivers and taken a page out of the playbooks of new, STEM-related toys that have sought to highlight the developmental benefits of playing with their toys, said Lisa McKnight, SVP and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel.
“We know that parents don’t readily associate doll play with the same tangible, developmental benefits that they might associate with rival STEM toys,” she said. “We wanted to highlight the research while reinforcing how Barbie inspires kids to be anything they want to be.”
The campaign by ad agency BBH Los Angeles continues to portray Barbie as an inclusive brand, with the ad featuring boys as well as a girl in a wheelchair, said Ned McNeilage, the agency’s chief creative officer.
The ad will air on on broadcast TV, streaming and social channels, and will be translated into 12 other languages across the world. The campaign will also include an editorial partnership with The Washington Post, custom
playlist, and sponsorships of events like the Billboard Music Awards and the finale of the show “This is Us.”
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