Full of controversy in Vietnam but she's Pretty in pink: 'Barbie' marketing blitz hits fever pitch


Australian actress Margot Robbie poses on the pink carpet upon arrival for the European premiere of "Barbie" in central London on July 12, 2023. Hollywood A-listers have been walking red carpets in hot pink, glitter is back, and companies from The Gap to Burger King are doing rose-colored collaborations: "Barbie" mania is everywhere as the hotly anticipated film hits theaters worldwide. - AFP

NEW YORK (AFP): Hollywood A-listers have been walking red carpets in hot pink, glitter is back, and companies from The Gap to Burger King are doing rose-colored collaborations: "Barbie" mania is everywhere as the hotly anticipated film hits theaters worldwide.

Toy maker Mattel, who first unveiled the iconic doll in 1959, has reached about 100 licensing agreements for everything from roller skates to toothbrushes in connection to director Greta Gerwig's summer flick.

Of course, Barbie is big in the beauty world too -- lipsticks, blushes and mirrors all bear the famous logo.

"In the 30 years that I have been tracking and analyzing box offices and trends, I've never quite seen anything like this before," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore.

"Barbie is tailor-made for marketing," he said. "It's perfect because Barbie is a toy, it's already a product, and beyond that, it's a lifestyle and a color."

The movie, which stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as boyfriend Ken, has been hyped as one of the biggest blockbusters of the season, with numerous premieres held around the globe ahead of Friday's debut in US theaters.

Of course, that promotion blitz has been curtailed at the 11th hour, with Hollywood actors now on strike over pay and other conditions.

But the list of corporate partners is sure to keep the buzz going.

Microsoft, Forever 21, Ulta Beauty, Hot Wheels, Chevrolet and even Progressive insurance are among the companies looking to cash in on Barbie mania.

The influential color company Pantone even has a shade to match the zeitgeist: 219C is officially Barbie Pink.

Mattel has even reached a deal with rival toy giant Hasbro, which will release a Barbie version of the classic board game Monopoly in the fall.

In exchange, Mattel will showcase "Transformers" on its Uno card game in connection with a Hasbro film release.

- 'Irresistible' -

Robbie has embraced Barbiecore fashion at premieres around the world, recreating some of the doll's most iconic looks, but the Barbie lifestyle trend is also full steam ahead

Airbnb is offering up a stay at Barbie's "Malibu DreamHouse" for two nights in connection with the film's debut.

"Placed perfectly above the beach with panoramic views, this life-size toy pink mansion is a dream come true!" reads the listing.

Singer John Legend and his model wife Chrissy Teigen took the plunge, posting a series of pictures on Instagram of their stay at the hot pink property.

The most ubiquitous shade of pink used on the Warner Bros film's set, a retro bubblegum hue made by Rosco, was used in such great quantities that the shoot has been blamed for a global shortage.

"It's just become a very irresistible proposition," said Dergarabedian, crediting both Warner Bros and Mattel with ensuring the buzz had staying power.

Dergarabedian expects a strong opening weekend for Barbie, with around $75 million in North American ticket sales.

- 'Barbenheimer' -

The film is opening in parallel with another big Hollywood entry, the Christopher Nolan-directed "Oppenheimer," a biopic about the father of the atomic bomb.

The unlikely face-off between the dark historical thriller and a fuchsia-tinted romp about a doll has created online buzz about a phenomenon dubbed "Barbenheimer."

Dergarabedian said the coincidental timing of the openings had contributed to "unprecedented" fodder about the films on social media and beyond.

Both movies are opening on the heels of another big-screen blockbuster, "Mission: Impossible -- Dead Reckoning Part One," which led the domestic box office last weekend.

A starry soundtrack includes tracks from Dua Lipa (who also appears in the film), Lizzo, and Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice, who recorded a cover of "Barbie Girl," a 1997 hit by Danish-Norwegian band Aqua.

The original recording actually prompted a lengthy but unsuccessful trademark lawsuit by Mattel. The company subsequently embraced the song.

The movie's arrival has also not been without controversy.

Barbie has been banned in Vietnam over a scene with a fictitious world map criticized for allegedly showing China's claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines allowed the film to be shown -- but asked that the map be blurred. - AFP

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