By Matt Gillis
Amidst the advertising clutter, it is no surprise that many companies use controversial promotional tactics as a way to break through the buzz. Most of the time, companies get just 15 minutes of fame from media attention surrounding their latest antics. However, despite beliefs from some critics that negative publicity does not promote long-term success for a brand, several companies have learned to capitalize on their controversial image and outlast many of their competitors.
Two brands, Barbie and Sports Illustrated, have managed to do just that. On February 18, Barbie will be making her Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue debut as part of an advertising scheme titled “Unapologetic.” These two popular brands, which are no stranger to the media scrutiny surrounding their debatably objectifying depictions of women, are teaming up as a promotional tactic to express their “unapologetic” nature about who they are.
The partnership is in promotion of SI’s 50th anniversary of the swimsuit issue and will feature Barbie, photographed by SI veteran Walter Ioos Jr., in a four-page spread in SI as well as on the magazine’s cover, video clips, a magazine cover wrap, declaration of Barbie as “The Doll That Started It All,” and a limited-edition SI Barbie sold exclusively at Target.com.
Mattel, the company that sells Barbie, is claiming that the campaign is aimed at redefining the doll’s image in promotion of a healthy body image and a connection to contemporary consumers. In partnering with SI, Mattel hopes to make a comparison between Barbie and the magazine’s alum, which includes Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, and Heidi Klum, who all used their beginnings in swimsuits to launch successful careers as entrepreneurs.
Despite the company’s efforts, Mattel may have missed the mark. There is a clear disconnect between the target markets of both Barbie and SI, seeing as SI is not for little girls and Barbie is not for adults. In fact, Mattel might have done just the opposite of their objective to eradicate the objectifying nature of the doll by further defining the toy as a sex object that promotes unrealistic standards of beauty.
While the two iconic brands may not be the most likely of collaborators, the SI and Barbie partnership has generated a considerable amount of media attention. Despite Mattel’s effort to improve Barbie’s brand reputation, they may want to embrace their doll’s controversial image. Barbie has survived the market for over 50 years with nothing short of controversy, and that success requires no apology.
– Elliott, S. (2014, February 11). Barbie’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Causes a Stir Online. The New York Times: Media. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/business/media/barbies-sports-illustrated-swimsuit-issue-causes-a-stir-online.html?_r=0
– Weir, S. B. (2014, February 12). Barbie Poses for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. We Give Up.. Yahoo Shine. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://shine.yahoo.com/fashion/barbie-poses-sports-illustrated-swimsuit-issue-wrong-192900710.html