Product / ServiceTOYS
CategoryA02. Best Non-Fiction Program, Series or Film where a client has successfully created a reality, documentary or light entertainment show around a product(s) or brand(s)

The Campaign

TV is the dominant channel in China for reaching a mass audience, with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) acting as the regulatory body overseeing content. A recent survey suggested that TV remains the most popular means of communicating with children between 5 and 10 years old. Current regulations state that no foreign, animated work may be broadcast between 5 and 9 pm. In addition, domestic versus foreign animated work must conform to a 70:30 ratio. In short, it is extremely difficult to broadcast foreign, animated works in China. To expand the Barbie brand and create deeper affinity with girls and their moms, Mattel needed to use a variety of channels including Barbie dolls and other Barbie-branded products (e.g. umbrellas, back packs, etc.) and animated content, such as the Barbie movies and the Barbie Fab Life video series. Because television was not available due to strict regulations outlined above, Barbie needed to think of creative ways to engage on a deeper level with girls across China. The team hoped that a fashion design competition would not only prove Barbie’s relevance to China’s younger generation, it would also highlight her core attributes, which include creativity, fashion and style.


Challenge: Mattel, a world leader in toys, launched Barbie in 1959. Despite Barbie’s strong global appeal, she had failed to resonate in China, where there was a general perception that she was too western and intended only for privileged families. Objectives: Mattel needed to prove Barbie’s relevance to Chinese girls, elevate her to the role model status she enjoyed elsewhere, and help youngsters and their mums relate to her passion for fashion, flair for style and successful pursuit of dreams. The aim was to bathe Barbie in publicity to raise her brand awareness and redefine and ignite her appeal to Chinese families, while generating a “feel good” buzz around this famed fashion icon. This would be achieved by finding her first-ever Chinese fashion designer. Strategy: Barbie designed an integrated marketing communications plan, which included traditional and social media. The company partnered with the prestigious BIFT to create The “Barbie BIFT Fashion Design Competition,” which became the centrepiece of its campaign to reach target audiences. The nine-month campaign featured national and regional TV exposure, student engagement, and Barbie’s very own page on China’s popular Weibo microblogging web site. The page generated tweets throughout the campaign and broadcast live coverage of the kick-off press conference. Mattel sent its chief designer to deliver a lecture at the BIFT and give press interviews. Execution: Student-led teams worked to design a trendy daytime outfit and evening gown. Barbie announced ten contest finalists at a kick-off conference, to which Mattel invited underprivileged girls supported by the country’s first officially registered NGO and largest non-profit organization focused on child welfare. Each young guest received a brand new Barbie doll. Judges included leaders from China’s fashion industry, BIFT director, and Barbie’s chief designer. Medal winners were featured on a top national fashion and beauty programme.

The audience for this campaign included school-aged girls and their mothers, also students at the country’s leading fashion school, the Beijing Institute of Fashion and Technology (BIFT). To engage its audience and ignite a new passion for Barbie, we partnered with BIFT to create a student-led fashion competition to select Barbie’s first Chinese designer. It used national and regional TV exposure, a popular microblogging web site, tweets and a live broadcast to transform girls and their mums from passive viewers into active participants in the competition. In addition, Barbie invited students to participate in lectures and mentoring by Barbie designers.

The winner of the BIFT Competition received a trip to Mattel’s headquarters in the United States, where she was treated to an exclusive preview of the Chinese-inspired wardrobe for the China BIFT Barbie doll, scheduled for release to the public in 2014. While in the US, she was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and visited the city’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to talk about her experience as Barbie’s first Chinese fashion designer. Overall, more than 300 BIFT students signed up for the competition, which generated media coverage estimated at $6.5 million in advertising value, dwarfing the client’s investment of $450,000. TV coverage of the competition’s grand finale was aired five times by the national Travel TV channel and picked up by 56 regional and local TV stations, attracting a viewership of nearly 10 million. In twelve cities across China, over 35,000 girls aged between six and 11 years participated in local “Style Your Barbie” competitions, the winners of which competed with the 10 BIFT teams for the bronze, silver and gold prizes. Following the competition and resulting coverage, awareness of Barbie increased 39% while sales exceeded company’s target by 21%.


Name Company Position
Bridget Hong Fleishmanhillard Sr. Account Executive
Vivien Ling Fleishmanhillard Sr. Account Manager
Grace Lam Fleishmanhillard Svp
Joanne Wong Fleishmanhillard Evp/Sr. Partner