Last April, toy giant Mattel decided to make November 1997 Pink
Month, as part of a major worldwide marketing campaign to further boost
turnover of top-selling doll, Barbie.
Mattel UK wanted to create a large scale event that would push Barbie as
a global megabrand rather than just a girls’ toy. Timed to coincide with
the run up to Christmas, it was hoped the event would strengthen
Barbie’s merchandising offshoots, including clothing and games.
Mattel challenged Beer Davies to come up with a suitable event. Together
with urban artist Ben Jones, the agency hit upon the idea of painting a
street ’Barbie’ pink. In October, Mattel launched a radio appeal, aimed
at local councils, to find an appropriate site.
Ash Street in Salford was chosen as a location, since the surrounding
traditional terraced housing would provide a striking contrast with the
shocking pink paint. Mattel donated toys, games and a total of pounds
9,000 to local children’s projects, in return for the temporary
In the three days before launch day of 17 November, Jones and his team
set about applying a pink coat to everything from the roofs and windows
to the road. Beer Davies hired a local security firm to protect the
site, but bad weather produced the biggest headache - with rain setting
in on the Saturday night and washing away much of the paint.
Rapid repairs became necessary. These included painting a vast quantity
of carpet pink, under cover of a local warehouse. Later the carpet had
to be rescued from rain damage.
Despite these set backs, the street was successfully transformed, the
launch went ahead and was attended by the media, residents, the mayor
and a real-life Barbie model.
In the UK, the event gained press interest from the Times, Daily Mail
and Hello magazine. Broadcast coverage included Sky News, BBC News
programmes, ITN News at 10 and BBC Radio 1 and Virgin Radio breakfast
On the launch day, the Guardian ran a photo of local youngsters on the
street wearing sun glasses and the Express featured a photo of the
street with an inset picture of Barbie herself.
At a local level, GMR and Piccadilly Radio in Manchester ran the
However, coverage was not restricted to the UK. The National Enquirer
and the CNN network in the US carried the story as did the Times of
Mattel estimates that in total, media coverage reached over 100 million
The publicity stunt formed an effective component of what has been an
extraordinarily successful brand awareness campaign. And the visual
impact of Pink Street alone meant that it achieved widespread
It made a fun and colourful news item for TV broadcasters and an
eye-catching picture story for the press while successfully tying back
any coverage firmly to the Barbie brand.
Client: Mattel UK
PR Team: In-house and Beer Davies
Campaign: Pink Street
Timescale: April to November 1997
Budget: pounds 90,000