Ads and Rhetoric- Barbie through the Years

When a company puts together an advertisement, their marketing team must keep in mind their audience when utilizing rhetoric. Before Barbie was first founded on 1959,  “Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, observed her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls for hours. ”

Barbie’s first ad and doll were released in 1959. The first doll came with either blonde or brunette hair, and a black and white one piece swimwear. The ads were clean and simple, so the audience solely focused on the doll.


In 1989, Barbie released this ad with their doll and cereal. This ad was aimed at the parents who played with Barbie when they were a child. The combination of the left picture and the right picture with the mom and daughter appeals to the audience’s pathos and nostalgia.  audiences can also see the famous Barbie pink come into play.


Then, in January 2016, Mattel unveiled their new curvy, tall, and petite Barbie dolls. These dolls also came with new skin tones, facial structures, and hair types to appeal to the girls who don’t look like the original blonde and blue eyed Barbie. Girls now have a larger array of dolls to choose from that resembled powerful women in their lives.

After decades of criticism, Barbie releases dolls with realistic body types.

Richard Dickson, Mattel’s president and chief operating officer, spoke with the New York Times. “I think today, frankly more so than any other time,” said Dickerson, “Barbie is truly representing what girls see.”

With this change, Barbie released their new ads. These focused on encouraging young girls to become whatever they wanted, regardless of gender stereotypes.

Barbie’s 2016 ad encourages girls to follow their dreams.

Of course the ads keep Barbie’s iconic pink, but now they begin to show girls of all backgrounds and ethnicities to appeal to the audiences’ ethos. The brand wants to show that their dolls are for every child, no matter what they look like. Unlike their original ads, they also began featuring boys in their advertisements. These were both important moves to inclusiveness.

The timeliness of theses ads were opportune. Body positivity movements were springing up around the world. Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand promised it would stop retouching their models. The Body Positive Movement began in 1996, but has gained momentum in the last decade. Self love, gender equality, and inclusiveness went hand in hand, and Barbie appealed to advocates of those movements.

Women of all ages remember playing with Barbies as a child, so the new focus of Barbie touched parents, and empowered young girls.


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