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 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.