Friday, June 3, 2011

Barbie vs Body Shop - Truth or Fiction

Over the past few days, this photo and accompanying text has gone viral on Facebook:

"This was an ad made by bodyshop. But Barbie INC. found out about it and now it’s banned. Repost if you think this ad deserves to be seen."

The advertisement is a real one, part of the "Ruby" campaign designed in-house by the Body Shop, back in 1996 (read the case study here).  I love the message, and the ad campaign was certainly effective when it was launched, 15 years ago. The fact that it has gone viral, now, indicates that its message still resonates with the general public.

But is the text that goes with it correct? When something like this gets posted and re-posted willy-nilly all over the internet with one click, it makes me wonder.

I did a quick search for references to the supposedly "banned" campaign, and found lots of references to it, most of them word-for-word reprints of the text above, or text worded in similarly vague fashion. Barbie INC isn't a real company (Mattel, however, is) and online sources are rather evasive in saying when, where, and by whom the ad was actually banned.

A 1997 New York Times article gives an overview of the campaign, but doesn't mention a ban. The only websites I could find that do are blogs or personal opinion sites (like the one you are reading now).

This doesn't mean that the ad wasn't banned somewhere. If someone has an actual news source, a printed journal reference, or a court record that shows that a ban was actually in effect, I'd love to see something that references where and when a ban took place. I'm still waiting for the article.

I think there is something ironic in the way the ad has resurfaced, a decade and a half later, with its new text.  The campaign suggests to us that we should think critically about issues like body image, and truth in advertising. Thinking for ourselves, critically, about what is true and what isn't, is probably something we should ALSO do before clicking the "share" button on an internet meme.

But then, maybe, folklorists like me would be out of a job!


Aunt Foggy said...

I had the same reaction so I went to Anita Roddick's site (founder of the Body Shop).
Per her posting from the time they got a "cease and desist" from Mattel's lawyers - not "banned".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I've been seeing this all over Facebook for the last couple days, and something immediately seemed fishy about the description.

I agree with the ad's sentiment, but I can't stand when people spread misinformation as fact without doing their research.

Erica said...

I read that the ad was banned in China for the nudity of the doll, but that was the only 'ban' of the ad.

d'Olivia said...

I saw it on FB too, and it sounded funny (Barbie Inc?, one co. banning another's ad?) and I found this
I am glad to find a doll that looks like me! :)

Raine said...

I was asking the same questions and found this: a case study in "Competition in Corporate Communications" that is specifically about Mattel's "Barbie" and anti-Barbie campaigns. This also confirms the "cease and desist" in the USA and the ban in China.