“Humans Have Only One Ending, Ideas Live Forever.” That is a quote from the main trailer for the Barbie movie which opened on 7/21 to record box office opening weekend with a massive $155 million in ticket sales in North America. By 8/6, 17 days after opening, the LA Times reported the movie surpassed a billion in box office sales globally.
While yes, everyone is talking about the movie. This is about Mattel selling the IP (intellectual property) to literally over 100 marketers.
Let’s start with a nod to marketer of the year candidate, Ynon Kreiz. Mr. Kreiz is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mattel. He joined the company as CEO in April 2018 and was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors in May 2018. In 2017, before Kreitz, Mattel’s stock lost 44.2% of its value and sales for Barbie were low and trending down.
Mr. Kreiz has led a multi-year transformation strategy that established Mattel as a high performing company where they consider their IP is as important as their toys. Under Mr. Kreiz leadership, Mattel grew its Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) almost eight-fold to nearly $1 billion and achieved Gross Billings growth for four consecutive years in constant currency.
For many, so far so good . . . culturally it is Barbie-mania out there. Many of the fashion and lifestyle brands/retailers with movie inspired collections sold-out quickly (like Zara, Crocs, GAP, and Impala Roller Skates).
However, is adding pink and a Barbie™ logo all a partner marketer needs to do? Does association with the Barbie movie spike interest in a partner’s advertising message with the same uptick as Mattel’s or Warner Bros.’ sales cited above?
As a leading ad effectiveness and consumer insights company, with strong measurement of product placement and integration, Advertising Benchmark Index, (ABX) brings a unique perspective on how Barbie licensees tackled the task of integrating their brands with this iconic property. ABX evaluates the effectiveness of ads across all media types, using the identical methodology which allows for true comparisons across media, between competitors, and over time/Brand history.
This analysis, from Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX), begins to answer that question from a creative perspective. ABX cannot report overall success of a licensee’s sales increase, or if social media likes skyrocketed or if other business goals are met, but ABX can see if the Barbie movie zeitgeist is energizing the messaging for the partners. As one example, ABX did a deep dive on the :30 Chevy television commercial that uses an actual scene from the movie. Chevy was both an IP partner for its advertising and a product integration partner in the Barbie movie.
Chevrolet’s ad associated with the Barbie movie features the Chevy Blazer EV driven by the mom character in the movie played by Hispanic actress America Ferrera. The movie and the ad also have Barbie’s famous pink Chevy Corvette featured. To get full perspective we compared the :30 Chevy Barbie ad to Mattel’s :90 Barbie Brand ad and the Chevy EV SUV launch ad from 9/2022. That ad features the Equinox EV SUV while the Barbie ad features the Blazer EV SUV.
Baseline :90 Barbie TV
Setting a high bar is Mattel’s own video in support of the whole Barbie line of toys. Year-to-date in 2023, this ad has the highest overall ABX score of any ad run in the US in the English language. This execution was first aired in 2016 and has been revived to coincide with the Barbie movie release. The overall ad score is 140. The next highest English language ad is at a 131 ABX index. The reputation score is also off the charts at 278, 42% higher than the next highest reputation score of 196. Most impressive is that this is an overall Brand ad ending simply with “learn more at barbie.com” as its only call to action (CTA). Yet the Action score is also high at 136.
Since the ad features people, another key measure that ABX looks at is the ABX Gender Equality Index™ (GEI™) (link). This metric is the global gold standard for gender portrayal. This ad’s 123 GEI™ Index for Females is also the highest of any US television ad year-to-date. And despite the social controversy of whether Barbie is a figure of female empowerment or a stereotyping sex symbol, women, and girls both found this message to be a presentation of particularly good female role models.
Mattel Barbie Brand Ad :90 run on TV and online video to view video
Chevy’s Barbie ad ─ Chevy Blazer EV SUV :30 TV
For advertisers, the whole investment in licensing another Brand or product placement/integration is grounded in the hope that a favorable transfer of the licensor’s equity will rub off on to the licensee’s Brand. With the Barbie brand scores above, it is clear that there is substantial equity in the Barbie brand.
As described, a :30 television commercial for Chevrolet’s Blazer EV SUV ran incorporating actual scenes from the movie. The spot actually begins with the copy, “one legendary icon deserves another.” Chevy was both an IP partner and a product integration partner.
However, of the Chevrolet U.S. television commercials measured by ABX over the twelve months from July 2022 through July 2023, Chevy’s Barbie ad ranked last on overall ABX Index. Its 95 ABX Index was behind the Auto category average of 102 and behind the September 2022 launch of the Chevy Equinox EV with a 126 ABX Index.
Chevy Barbie Blazer EV SUV :30 TV to view video
Chevy Equinox EV launch :30 TV to view video
Interestingly, when we look at metrics one would anticipate benefiting from the Barbie association, lift did not occur. Specifically, comparing the Chevy Barbie TV ad to the Equinox EV launch ad, the Barbie TV ad did significantly worse on Reputation and did not enhance the GEI™ score. This is despite the fact the Barbie ad features a diverse trio of actresses from the movie (Margot Robbie, America Ferrera, and Ariana Greenblatt) throughout the ad, while the Equinox TV ad only shows an average woman charging the vehicle for :02 seconds of the :30 commercial.
The above Chevy Barbie TV ad was tested after the movie’s opening and scores are against the general population overall. However, if we look at the scores by different demographics, the ad did do better among specific populations.
- Gen Pop ABX Index is 95
- Hispanics ABX index is 103
- HH with Children Under 18 ABX Index is 116
- Within Age by Gender, Men 35-54 ABX Index is 122
Note: Men 35-54 is the segment with highest ABX scores for all Chevy ads, Barbie did not impact that trend.
To understand what is driving these scores, ABX looked at verbatims. The verbatims show us foremost how careful an advertiser needs to be with co-branding. Several respondents reported on their Barbie™ and Barbie movie feelings not with their comments about the Chevy vehicle: “Liked the movie. Ad reminded me how good the movie was”; “Liked Barbie movie, ha,ha” or “Hate Barbie. Wrong association.” and “Barbie is a horrible person.” Generally, the over 55+ year-old responses were the most negative. An overall take-away from the verbatims is that the ad does not stand on its own as a strong Chevy Blazer EV message enhanced by Barbie. Many were confused by the brands’ mash-up. From the verbatims the ad appears less successful among those who have not seen the movie.
Importantly, among the audience most responsive to Chevy ads overall – M35-54, their love of Chevy outweighed the Barbie connection with comments like, “Love the vehicle and it’s design,” and “like the brand of car in the ad”.
Earlier we noted the higher ABX Index of 103 among Hispanics and we were interested in whether America Ferrera playing a leading character may have been responsible for that boost. However, the Hispanic actress had no mentions in the verbatims and the Hispanic/Spanish group was the most polarized vs. other demographic breaks. The majority of Hispanic/Spanish ratings were either excellent or poor. Comments spread from “I have been looking at this vehicle since the movie came out” and “Super fun and clear the ad was for Chevy Blazer” to “The ad was muddled. An EV SUV is interesting but Barbie is all that stuck in my mind” and “talk about piggybacking, yuck.”
Does this mean the Barbie license did not work for Chevrolet? NO!
What this analysis does is reinforce the value of creative pre- and post- testing. While a simplistic take-away might be that Barbie just doesn’t translate to a family SUV. A deeper analysis indicates that the Chevy Barbie ad did not say enough about the car itself.
More likely, it means that Chevrolet could have made more effective use of the license in its advertising. It is always a difficult creative challenge to combine brands. How is the whole better than the sum of the parts? We do not know what creative restrictions Mattel and Warner Bros. placed on Chevrolet. However, some creative recommendations from the analysis could be:
- The ad shows a scene from the movie, but those who have not seen the movie may not know why Margo Robbie is diving into the back seat. It is not a scene that plays well out of context.
- In the movie, the Chevy Blazer EV outruns the bad guys. Speed and pick-up is a consumer concern for EV’s overall. “WOW Mode – 0-60 in under 4 seconds” was displayed as a product benefit. But, many people could have missed this product benefit because it only had approximately :03 seconds of airtime. Perhaps the airtime could have been extended. That scene could have also been extended to include additional product benefits, versus a superfluous earlier scene of Ken.
- The ad shows movie scenes but makes no direct endorsement. In fact, the blue Blazer EV SUV is the car of the Hispanic mom character played by America Ferrera, not Barbie. Perhaps an endorsement by the actress saying I drove this car on set and liked it so much I bought one for myself would have had more creative impact.
At the start of the Barbie movie, the narrator says, “Barbie has a great day every day, but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him.” It appears from a creative effectiveness standpoint that sentiment is true for Warner Bros. and Mattel versus their licensees. For Warner Bros. and Mattel, since the movie opened, every day has been a great day. However, for partners adding Barbie to their advertising, the licensee has to be very careful with their advertising to avoid having more of a “Ken” experience.
Selection of the 100’s of Barbie IP partners in 2023
Food and Beverage
- Burger King
- PROPER Snacks
- Pops Corn
- Pinkberry (Kahala Brands)
- Cold Stone Creamery (Kahala Brands)
- Hellmann’s (Unilever)
- Wunder Garten
- Zara (Inditex)
- ALDO (Aldo Group)
- Forever 21 (Authentic Brands Group)
- Superga (BasicNet)
- Barefoot Dreams
- Cotton On (Cotton On Group)
- Show Me Your Mumu
- Kipling (VF Corporation)
- Hybrid Apparel
- Hot Topic
- Alex and Ani
- Birkenstock (not paid)
- SMASH + TESS
- General Motors
- Chevrolet Corvette
- Chevrolet Blazer
- Chevy Tahoe
- Chevy Suburban
- GMC Hummer
Beauty and Wellness
- OPI (Coty)
- NYX (L’Oréal)
- Truly Beauty
- Tangle Teezer
- MOON Oral Care
- Ulta Beauty
- Progressive Insurance
- Regal Cinemas
- Xbox (Microsoft)
- Architectural Digest (Condé Nast)
- Impala Skates
- HGTV (Warner Bros. Discovery)
- Not On The High Street
- Canada Pooch
- Montegrappa (Tibaldi & Company)
- Spirit Halloween