Mattel asks dads to play Barbie with their daughters in new campaign

Toy manufacturer Mattel is taking a break from advertising to children to focus on their fathers, urging them to play Barbie with their daughters through an integrated omnichannel campaign. 

Mattel?s Dads Who Play Barbie campaign will be supported with an identical hashtag in addition to a 90-second mobile-optimized spot featuring real dads explaining why playing with their daughters will be beneficial to their development. The campaign was crafted by renowned advertising agency BBDO, and content will appear in offerings throughout the year, made possible by partnerships with brands such as Time Inc. and firms such as Tongal and Social Native.

"Mattel has already started to deploy the hashtag across social, creating buzz within the community and anticipation for the videos that are yet to be released," said David Shadpour, CEO of Social Native. "By focusing on the story and emotion instead of product, Mattel has broke through stereotypes and culture predispositions to connect with consumers on a human level that evokes an emotion and inspires action. 

"Mattel realizes it's not about the product, it's about the experience."

Dads Who Play Barbie
The campaign?s centerpiece is a 90-second video hosted on YouTube, which will be sectioned into 30-second cuts for use in other digital platforms, social and traditional media presentation. 

The spot highlights a number of real dads who opt to spend a few minutes playing Barbie with their daughters instead of watching football or engaging in traditional activities from their own childhoods, such as riding dirt bikes and other ?boy things.? 

The video portrays playing Barbie as an easy way for dads to spend quality time with their daughters, and as a selfless expression of love, especially for fathers generally uncomfortable playing with dolls.

The campaign?s launch on traditional media looked to target these fathers, and its heavy placements during NFL Playoff games have become statements in and of themselves. A press release claims that the Dads Who Play Barbie campaign will also have ?theatrical? and ?print? offerings designed to reach dads and reinforce the benefits of imaginative play and storytelling with Barbie.


The same press release also cites decades of research done by Dr. Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University?s Adolescent Psychology department, which 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 they grow up.

Toy sector
Brands that sell products geared towards children have to strike a delicate balance between advertising successfully to children, while still broadcasting a brand message that is consumable and easily communicable to and by children for the purposes of convincing their parents. One brand that has adroitly walked the tightrope for years is The Walt Disney Company, which last year bet on next-generation mobile ticketing, virtual reality, live streaming and user-generated content as it continues to work with cutting-edge technology and media companies to take their offerings to the next level (see story). 

And Hasbro entered the digital market in unique fashion earlier this month with the debut of its new ?story-driven lifestyle brand? Hanazuki through a digital series which will premiere on YouTube and the YouTube Kids application (see story).


"Focusing on parent-directed marketing has been a fundamental business shift for Barbie," said a Mattel spokesperson. "For this spot, we looked for co-viewership and appointment moments, such as the NFL playoffs and theatrical placements, where families could enjoy our content together.

"Barbie has two key consumers ? the girls that play with the product and the parents who approve and purchase the product," they said. "For this campaign, we chose to emphasize the important relationship between dads and daughters and to highlight that a dad?s involvement in his daughter?s imaginary world contributes to her social, intellectual and emotional development in real life ? something that is core to the brand?s purpose."