BBH LA, Director Amanda Blue Team On Barbie Film Showing How Doll Play Can Make For A More Empathetic World


Robert Goldrich
Monday, May. 3, 2021


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BBH LA created a brand campaign, “A Doll Can Help Change The World,” for Mattel’s Barbie line which includes this hero film directed by Amanda Blue via production company SKUNK. In the piece kids re seen reading to their dolls, pretending to feed them and tucking their dolls into bed. As these scenes play out, a series of on-screen questions ask the viewer what the future would hold if we all had a little more empathy. The film’s juxtaposition of doll play, together with the statements about the future, illustrates how playing can help kids develop empathy.

“We wanted to bring to life the idea, reinforced with neuroscientific data, that playing with dolls naturally helps kids strengthen these important social processing skills,” said Ned McNeilage, chief creative officer at BBH LA. “With this campaign, we focus on capturing beautiful moments of play and the difference these small moments can make to help shape a child’s future.”

The premise is based on the findings of a recent neuroscience study conducted by a team of researchers from Cardiff University in collaboration with Barbie.  Working in partnership with BBH LA, the campaign brings to life how the benefits of doll play can help positively impact the world. 

The peer-reviewed study, published in October 2020, used neuroimaging to show that playing with dolls, like Barbie, allows children to develop empathy and social processing skills, which are key determinants in kids’ future emotional, academic, and social success. The research team found that the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), a region of the brain associated with social information processing, was activated even when the child was playing on their own.

“This is a completely new finding,” said Cardiff University lead researcher Dr. Sarah Gerson. “We use this area of the brain when we think about other people, especially when we think about another person’s thoughts or feelings. Dolls encourage them to create their own little imaginary worlds, as opposed to say, problem-solving or building games. They encourage children to think about other people and how they might interact with each other. The fact that we saw the pSTS to be active in our study shows that playing with dolls is helping them rehearse some of the social skills they will need in later life.”


Client Mattel/Barbie Agency BBH LA Ned McNeilage, chief creative officer; Yohan Daver, Sapna Ahluwalia, creative directors; Danny Nouri, sr. producer; Katie Acosta, head of strategy; Maggie Bonner, sr. strategist; Dillah Zakbah, director of tech & innovation; Erica Barringer, art director; Conner Schrock, copywriter; Kevin Tosi, sr. copywritier. Production SKUNK Amanda Blue, director; Bonnie Elliott, DP; Bec Lorrimer, photographer; Nicki Gardiner, production designer; Kim Kirby, line producer; Matt Factor, exec producer. Editorial Rock Paper Scissors Color MPC LA Music New Math Sound Design/Mix Barking Owl Finishing Therapy Studios

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