Mattel brings dads into the Barbie narrative

The Dads Who Play Barbie campaign garnered more than 230 feature placements in notable outlets.

Mattel brings dads into the Barbie narrative

Company: Mattel
Campaign: Dads Who Play Barbie
Agency mix: Weber Shandwick, BBDO, Starcom MediaVest Group
Duration: January – March 2017

Mattel is getting a new group of people to play with Barbie: dads.

In an effort to shift the way people interpret the brand, Barbie completed an integrated campaign in the first quarter focused on highlighting the important relationship between daughters and their fathers.

Mattel's PR team, with help from PR partner Weber Shandwick, began planning for the Dads Who Play Barbie campaign more than 18 months ago.

The goal of the campaign was to highlight the relationship between a girl and her father in a way that was relevant and would resonate with consumers.

The strategic plan included paid media investments on broadcast and online platforms, facilitated by Starcom, as well as a social influencer program. Mattel also looked to release the campaign content in a way that would be disruptive and help change the way people think about the brand.

In addition, the campaign team looked to partner with an educator or researcher who could give the campaign a grounded narrative.

"Through each communication touch point, our goal is to remind parents of the purpose and power of Barbie; that through open-ended play, storytelling, and imagination, girls can imagine everything they can become," explained Marissa Beck, senior global communications manager at Mattel.

The branded hashtag #DadsWhoPlayBarbie was created to go along with the campaign.

The campaign began with the Dads Who Play Barbie ad content created by BBDO, which features six daughters and their real, non-actor fathers at play. Each spot ends with the tagline: "Time spent in her imaginary world is an investment in her real world." The creative content first aired during the NFL’s AFC Championship Game on January 22 with a spot titled Doctor.

To help drive meaningful coverage, Barbie partnered with Dr. Linda Nielsen, family expert and professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forest University, who is known for her research on father-daughter relationships. Nielsen research and comments on father-daughter relations are cited in press materials the brand released to go along with the campaign.

In coordination with the launch of the ad spots, the PR team secured media exclusives with Fast Company and Parents to set the narrative of the campaign.

"We targeted a variety of media, including lifestyle, parenting, and entertainment media," explained Beck.

Well-known dads with large social followings posted images of themselves and their daughters playing Barbie on social with the caption #DadsWhoPlayBarbie. Social influencer dads included: Tray Rush, who has more than 500,000 followers on YouTube; Beau Coffron, a popular parenting writer; and Jeff Johnson, a musician and YouTube personality.

In mid-February, Barbie partnered with People on its first-ever World’s Greatest Dad special feature. As part of this partnership, Barbie honored two celebrity dads - Jerry O’Connell and Mario Lopez - who appeared in the issue with a Mattel doll made in their likeness.

"We are continuing to get consumers to reappraise the Barbie brand by putting our purpose front and center with viral content and placing Barbie in places you would not expect," said Beck. "This campaign launched during the NFL playoffs, an unexpected place to see a Barbie commercial, driving additional conversation and buzz."

The Dads Who Play Barbie campaign garnered more than 230 feature placements across notable outlets including: Parents, CNET, Yahoo, Mashable, USA Today, InStyle, and the Huffington Post. 

Campaign efforts have generated more than 650 million media impressions, measured across both social and traditional outlets. The People partnership and celebrity dad dolls generated 164 million media impressions alone.

The four different ad spots used in the campaign have nearly 4 million views on Barbie's branded YouTube channel.

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