Matthew Miller
Nov 1, 2016

'Experiment' attempts to demonstrate the power of Barbie

Online work for Mattel by BBDO Hong Kong will run across Asia.

Client: Mattel Asia

Agency: BBDO Hong Kong

Market: Asia-Pacific

Name of campaign: "The Power of Play with Barbie"

Campaign scope: Video for platforms including Facebook, WeChat, YouTube and Weibo, plus social-media content such as "snackable video", animated gifs and additional images meant to drive ecommerce.

Official quotes:

Frankie Luk, creative director, BBDO Hong Kong:

We designed and recorded a social experiment to show parents that when a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines all the possibilities of what she can become.

Andrea Vitali, director, APAC marketing, Mattel:

Barbie is the only brand that allows girls to imagine anything they can be. With this campaign, we wanted to build an emotional connection with Asian parents by introducing them to the wonderful benefits of imaginative play and storytelling with Barbie to promote confidence and curiosity. Building on the global success of the Cannes Lion awarded global spot ‘Imagine the Possibilities’, we worked with BBDO Hong Kong to develop an engaging video that we hope will connect with moms while communicating the values of our brand.

Campaign Asia Pacific's comments:

The girls are adorable, and the scenarios they relate in the end are inventive—I for one would love to visit pink mars aboard a hamburger spaceship. Furthermore, there's no doubt playing with Barbie can evoke creativity—although, as any parent can attest, so can a cardboard box, or a discarded gum wrapper.

The video ably delivers the brand's not so subtle subtext—that old-fashioned play is better for young minds than all of today's electronically controlled gizmos. And that message appears to be working for the brand

On another note, maybe I'm just a jaded ad watcher, but the 'social experiment' format is getting extremely tedious. The template is no longer surprising or convincing, especially when the conclusion is so obvious from the outset. And of course it's not in any real sense an experiment or scientific. It feels increasingly manipulative, and a backlash has got to be coming soon. Time to move on?

Finally, although it's great that Mattel has left some of its most egregious sexist episodes behind it (Google "Math class is tough!"), we'd still like to see the brand seriously address the doll's unrealistic body image—an issue that puts off many parents who might otherwise be willing buyers.



Head of Planning: Owen Smith
Business Director: Michael Bantigue
Creative Director: Frankie Luk
Copywriter: Samuel Cheeseman
Art Director: Nikki Palomaria
Digital Planner: Naomi Lam
Associate Account Director: Jacqueline Yu
Account Manager: Kaylis Cheng
Producers: Jenny Lee, Winnie Kwan
Director: Diana Yee
Production Company: Deluxe Productions

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