The Ken Doll Turns 50, and Wins a New Face

The Ken Doll Turns 50, and Wins a New Face

The toy maker Mattel is revamping its best-selling Barbie franchise by emphasizing her longtime beau, Ken.

The company is bolstering awareness of Barbie’s companion — who celebrated his 50th birthday on March 11 — using social networks like Facebook and Twitterand a series of just-completedwebisodes in which wholesome-looking young male contestants vied to be the new face, literally, of the soon-to-be redesigned boyfriend.

The eight-part series, called “Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend,” was Mattel’s first foray into digital reality events and an effort that “is on the beginning edge of a new marketing trend,” said Dean DeBiase, chairman of Reboot Partners, which advises companies on growth strategies.

“Major brands like Mattel are trying to shift their media mix to where the customers are,” Mr. DeBiase said. “Television viewership is shifting — kids are not watching on Saturday morning — and cable is slipping, so brands are looking to social, local, mobile and video to get their message out.

“Mattel has tied the ‘Genuine Ken’ series to Facebook and Twitter and created a lot of buzz,” he said. “The show allows it to extend its audience beyond little girls to teen girls and adults who are not playing with Barbies anymore but have an emotional tie with the brand and may be collectors.”

Excerpt from Elisabeth Olsen’s article in The New York Times. Click here for the full article.