Pink is the new green.
Barbietheatrical release this weekend culminates one of the most extensive and impressive marketing campaigns in recent history. Put another way: rarely does a movie become a cultural touchstone before it’s released in theaters. Warner Bros.’ Barbiewho brings to life the most famous fashion doll in the world, is on the short list of exceptions.
In marketing circles, there is what is known as “paid media” and “earned media”. A TV ad for a trailer is considered paid media, for example. Earned media can be buzz on social media or advertising.
“One of the things about theater marketing is that you have the opportunity to engage the cultural zeitgest in an exciting way. Everybody wants to be a part of something,” says Warner’s president of global marketing Josh Goldstine, who also has long worked at Universal and Sony. “I’ve probably worked on 250 films in my career, including Spiderman at Sony in the past. I haven’t felt this kind of electricity in a long time.”
Selling a summer tent is more expensive than ever and more complicated amid the proliferation of social media and as the box office continues to find its footing post-pandemic. It is common for a Hollywood studio to spend as much, if not more, on marketing a photo of an event than on making the movie. The price tag for a global marketing campaign for a major event title is typically $100 million or more.
Then there are promotional partnership deals, which can be worth tens of millions. Barbie has attracted more than 100 such partners. From custom pink Crocs to a Prada clothing line to blow dryers, and everything in between. Retailers and brands rushed to cash in on Barbie hobby, while companies like Progressive Insurance and General Motors used Barbie in personalized television and digital advertisements. In total, these partnerships are worth at least $70 million to Warner Bros. and toymaker Mattel, home of Barbie. And the amount of publicity the film has generated is immeasurable, from spots on the local TV news to reports on architectural compendium and the new yorker. Stories about Barbie have become ubiquitous.
Barbie it’s even expected to boost overall movie attendance and help Christopher Nolan’s new movie, oppenheimerwhich opens the same day and chronicles the making of the atomic bomb (the contest between the two event films even has its own nickname, “Barbenheimer”). The pair of movies, along with Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Onethey were the last tents of the summer largely completing their publicity blitz before the SAG-AFTRA strike began and made it impossible for stars to promote their movies.
Executives from rival studios are praising Warner and Mattel for what they say is a marketing push for the story. “Barbie it will be very, very profitable,” says one such source, adding that Warner wisely focuses on the cool and fun factor, rather than nostalgia. The source, who pays close attention to tracking, says that social media metrics continued to show gains. So did the box office projections. When it first appeared in the official tracking, Barbie it was preparing for a healthy opening of $80 million. Earlier this week, that number had risen to $110 million. “People go to the movies to have fun. They want a ride,” the source continues.
Warner Bros. and its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, could win at the box office. The photo of the DC superhero of this summer The flash will incur a sizeable loss after earning less than $268 million to date at the worldwide box office. Shazam! fury of the gods, released earlier this year, was also a huge disappointment. If it lives up to expectations, Barbie, which cost $145 million to produce before it was released, could be a big profit generator for WBD. Just as marketing departments come under scrutiny when a movie doesn’t do, they get praised when there’s a win. “It’s like they saved everything for Barbiesays another rival marketing executive.
Directed by Greta Gerwig, Barbie, which is rated PG-13 is not a paint-by-numbers movie, as it proves; the campaign was also not crafted by Goldstine and his team. The first trailer, which was played earlier Avatar: The Path of Water during the year-end holidays of 2022, it was a parody of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey that replaced the famous monolith with Barbie star Margot Robbie.
The playful tone of the film came into further focus in early April with the first proper trailer, complete with a viral moment of Robbie’s arched foot sticking out of pink heels. A few weeks later, when Ryan Gosling, who plays Ken, appeared on the CinemaCon 2023 stage decked out in a pink blazer. Gosling, who was flanked by Robbie, was the toast of the show, introducing the term Ken-ergy that has become a buzzword. And all through June, there were Barbie floats in gay pride parades across the country.
“Mattel was just an amazing partner in terms of collaboration and allowed us to do things that were quite cutting-edge. We wanted to embrace a campaign that was as bold and exciting as the movie Greta was making,” says Goldstine.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, like his counterparts at other media and entertainment conglomerates, is interested in synergy as another means of keeping marketing costs in check. Several WBD divisions were part of the “Barbie in the Real World” blitz, including a competition series that featured HGTV talent redesigning a multi-room house inspired by Barbie over the decades. There was also a summer baking championship on the Food Network, while more than 15 networks across the WBD pantheon featured pink logos and other Barbie graphics on the air.
Initially, neither consumers nor Hollywood pundits knew what to expect from Gerwig’s. Barbie. In spring 2022, Warner revealed a first look at the film at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of Hollywood studio and theater owners in Las Vegas. It showed a smiling Barbie sitting in a pink Corvette.
“We saw how it lit up the Internet,” says Goldstine. “It was a very revealing moment.”