duhfajnwf aeshfaewkuyakdhbfhj (dafuqgetoffmeho) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,
duhfajnwf aeshfaewkuyakdhbfhj

Barbie’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Causes a Stir Online

TWO familiar brands that have for decades been the targets of complaints about their depictions of women have joined forces for a promotional campaign that tells critics they are proudly “unapologetic” about who they are.

The brands are Barbie, sold by Mattel, and the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The campaign is centered on the 50th anniversary edition of the issue, which is to come out next Tuesday, and presents Barbie as a doll-size version of the magazine’s supermodels like Tyra Banks and Christie Brinkley, clad in a new version of the black-and-white swimsuit she wore when introduced in 1959.

“Unapologetic,” the theme of the campaign, is underlined by its use, with a hashtag in front, in social media like Twitter, as well as on a billboard in Times Square. “As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in” the issue “gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic,” Mattel said in a statement on Tuesday.

The partnership includes a four-page advertising feature in the magazine, photographed by Walter Iooss Jr., who has been shooting the magazine’s (human) swimsuit models for four decades; video clips; a cover wrap that will appear on 1,000 copies of the issue, declaring Barbie to be “The Doll That Started It All”; a limited-edition Sports Illustrated Barbie, to be sold exclusively on Target.com; and a beach-themed party on Monday night in Lower Manhattan.

The alliance of the two brands ignited an online debate on Tuesday over the images of both Barbie and the swimsuit issue. Mattel has long contended with complaints that Barbie, with her lithesome figure and focus on fashion, is not a positive role model for girls. At the same time, Sports Illustrated is no favorite of some critics who believe that the swimsuit issue objectifies women.

After articles about the campaign appeared on Tuesday on the websites of the trade publications Advertising Age and Adweek, a post on the Mommyish blog carried the headline “The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Will Feature Barbie, So Your Daughter Can Feel Bad Too.” Comments under the post were mixed, however. One began, “Meh,” and continued, “I never at any point compared myself to her and felt bad.” Another comment began, “It’s easy to be unapologetic about your body when it is considered to be the absolute ideal standard of beauty in the society in which you live.”

On Twitter, opinions also varied. “Is it just me or is this incredibly creepy?” one woman asked of the Adweek.com article. “Also unsure of whether #Unapologetic is appropriate for a child’s toy.” Another woman put it this way: “Kinda ♥ this #Unapologetic side of @Barbie!”

A blog post on Time.com last Wednesday gave away its viewpoint in its headline, “In Defense of Barbie: Why She Might Be the Most Feminist Doll Around.” The comments there also ranged from outraged to supportive.

Barbie is, of course, not the only figure in popular culture to present themselves as “unapologetic.” The singer Rihanna, a lightning rod for her “bad girl” persona, titled an album released in November 2012 “Unapologetic” and often uses the hashtag #Unapologetic in social media.

“While the social campaigns are unrelated,” said a spokeswoman for Mattel, Michelle Chidoni, “they both embody similar messages.”

Mattel has been reaching out for some time to other brands to help its efforts aimed at redefining Barbie’s image, making the doll more appealing to contemporary consumers and addressing concerns that Barbie promotes unrealistic attitudes about the female body.

Other examples include a campaign promoting a new Barbie beach house, which included the Bravo series “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” and the real estate website Trulia, and the introduction of versions of Barbie (and Ken) styled after characters on the AMC series “Mad Men.” “We’re always challenging ourselves to think differently about Barbie and how we can continue to keep her relevant,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president of marketing for North America at Mattel in El Segundo, Calif.

Mattel is trying to do for Barbie what Sports Illustrated has sought to do for years on behalf of the issue: leave behind perceptions of babes in bathing suits and compare Barbie to swimsuit alumna like Ms. Banks, Ms. Brinkley, Kathy Ireland and Heidi Klum, who are celebrated for their accomplishments as entrepreneurs and career women.

“We’re focusing on the legendary women of Sports Illustrated who, like Barbie, launched their careers in a swimsuit,” Ms. McKnight said.

A post on the Barbie Twitter feed quotes Ruth Handler, who helped introduce Barbie and was a co-founder of Mattel, as saying, “Barbie has always represented that a woman has choices.” (By Ms. McKnight’s count, Barbie has had 150 careers.)

“Unapologetic” is a word that Mattel executives use internally, Ms. McKnight said, and “this is the first time we’re engaging in a conversation publicly.”

The efforts at Mattel to reshape Barbie’s image may be taking on added urgency after sales results during the crucial holiday shopping season, which fell short of expectations among investors and corporate management. “The reality is, we just didn’t sell enough Barbie dolls,” Bryan G. Stockton, chief executive, said in a conference call with analysts on Jan. 31. Sales of Barbie fell 13 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the period the previous year.

The partnership with Barbie is “a very exciting creative collaboration,” said John Joannides, associate publisher at Sports Illustrated in New York, published by the Time Inc. division of Time Warner, “one icon to another.” There will also be content on a section of the Sports Illustrated website and a blog, Swim Daily.

Mattel paid for the opportunity to integrate Barbie into the commemoration of the anniversary; Mattel and Sports Illustrated declined to be more specific.

Tags: magazine covers and articles

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for members only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →