Barbie wants to help kids emerge from lockdown with social skills and empathy

Tray Ling

After a year of lockdowns that saw many kids focused on screens, deprived of the social interactions of a school environment, parents are looking for ways to help their children develop empathy. Barbie is tapping into that need with a new campaign designed to illustrate the social benefits of doll play. […]

After a year of lockdowns that saw many kids focused on screens, deprived of the social interactions of a school environment, parents are looking for ways to help their children develop empathy. Barbie is tapping into that need with a new campaign designed to illustrate the social benefits of doll play.

In the anthem video for “A Doll Can Help Change the World,” children are shown engaging in empathetic behavior, like reading to their dolls, kissing them goodnight and encouraging them to ask questions. It’s the first campaign for the Mattel-owned brand from BBH, which won the work following an RFP. Barbie had worked for years with BBDO, the agency that first developed the “You Can Be Anything” marketing platform that “A Doll Can Help Change the World” falls under.

“We found that when kids play with dolls, it unlocks social skills like empathy,” says Lisa McKnight, senior VP and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel, noting that Barbie commissioned a study with Cardiff University two years ago looking at the neurological benefits of dolls. “With everyone in lockdown over the last year and spending so much time at home, we’ve had a lot of time to connect with parents.” McKnight says that 91% of parents Mattel spoke to ranked empathy as a key social skill they’d like their children to develop. In addition, parents are looking for other play outlets for kids following months of excessive screen engagement for things like virtual school.

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