CAMPAIGNS: Retail PR - Kids meet the real thing at Toys 'R' Us

Client: Toys 'R' Us (Paramus, NJ)

PR Team: Ford Management Group (Boston)

Campaign: Barbie Meet and Greet

Time Frame: April 7, 2001

Budget: More than dollars 100,000

Since her debut in 1959, Barbie has represented more than 80

occupations, including astronaut, paleontologist and army medic. Now the

dynamic doll can add PR star to her resume.

With the help of multi-service modeling agency Ford Management Group,

Barbie came to life as the featured attraction of a nationwide campaign

for Toys 'R' Us.


Looking to leverage Barbie's popularity and increase traffic to its

stores, Toys 'R' Us turned to Ford to find more than 700 real-life

Barbie look-alikes to appear at stores across the country.

According to Candy Ford, founder and director of Ford Management Group,

Barbie's longevity and name recognition were the perfect combination for

targeting parents as well as children. "Barbie is cross-generational,"

she says.

She also believes Barbie was the perfect promotional centerpiece because

she encourages kids to use their imagination. "Barbie is something you

can share, someone you can relate to," says Ford. "There's a lot of

make-believe with Barbie, which is so important for kids. There's so

little pretend in toys today."

Following a rigorous search, Ford selected the Barbie look-alikes based

on specific physical requirements: women in their early '20s, between

5'6" and 5'9" tall and with a dress size six or eight. Of course, blond

hair was also important - except for models that would appear in stores

requesting an African American Barbie.

"Barbie is clean-cut, wholesome, dedicated and hard working," says Ford,

a former model. She adds that the models were expected to "display the

attitude of the perfect young lady."


The final group of 705 Barbies ranged in ethnic backgrounds and included

teachers, lawyers, actresses and college students.

The models appeared in stores at noon and stayed for two or three


During the time they were on-site, the models were asked to maintain the

"Barbie personality," striving to "physically portray a little girl's

fantasy of what Barbie looks like."

Along with meeting Barbie, children could have their pictures taken with

the models. The Polaroids were signed by Barbie, placed in a

Barbie-branded frame and given to kids free of charge.

In addition, customers received a free Barbie Polaroid camera with a

purchase of dollars 50 or more of Barbie-related merchandise.


According to Susan McLaughlin, director of corporate communications at

Toys 'R' Us, the Barbie Meet and Greet campaign achieved its primary

goal of getting kids and their parents into the stores.

"Our stores saw a substantial increase in traffic up to 30 minutes

before and 60 minutes after the event," she says.

The promotion also earned local media coverage, including newspapers

such as The Boston Globe and The Patriot Ledger, as well as KARK-TV,

NBC's affiliate in Little Rock, Ark.


McLaughlin expects Toys 'R' Us to hold a similar event in the near

future, although she says no timetable has been set.

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