Middleton on Barbie’s makeover and billboards

Marketing guru Alan Middleton, a professor with York’s Schulich School of Business, weighs in on Barbie’s need for a makeover, and the demise of the 30-second TV commercial and rise of billboards:

  • How does a 46-year-old product remain relevant in a market where girls won’t be caught dead playing with dolls beyond age 8 or 9, wonders Middleton in a Toronto Star story about Barbie’s future, July 19. “Can Barbie be revived? Absolutely. But it’s going to be difficult,” Middleton said. “The modern girl is more in-your-face, much more of what used be called a tomboy,” he said. Mattel has tried to update Barbie’s image with new clothes and activities, he said, “but she’s still an old-fashioned girl.” In a world where electronic games allow children to create anything they want, “Barbie is just a little plastic figure with clothes,” Middleton added.
  • More real research coupled with highly refined media plans is the natural offshoot of the move away from the 30-second TV commercial, Middleton told Strategy in a July 1 story about how Virgin Mobile has changed its marketing strategy based on feedback at face-to-face meetings with potential consumers. Marketers are finally recognizing that culling simplified yes-no answers from consumers in sterile environments is simply not enough. And to get closer still, says Middleton, marketers are asking agencies to dig deeper and “find out how media is intercepted.” The answer, he says, explains the rise in street level, outdoor billboards and PR strategies.

Site kicked around

Despite a furious bid by the City of Toronto to get the Canadian Soccer Association’s new stadium at Exhibition Place, it seems to be firmly stuck as the second choice, reported The Toronto Sun July 19. The first choice is Downsview Park, sources said Monday. The federally owned site is considered in the heart of the city’s soccer community and in the centre of the Greater Toronto Area, two huge selling points, sources in Ottawa said. A stadium in the park could also help the drive to build infrastructure in the area – specifically the York University subway extension, the source said.

The federal government has pledged $27 million to the Canadian Soccer Association to build a new soccer stadium in Toronto in time for FIFA’s 2007 World Youth Championship. With Ottawa paying the bulk of the bill on the $50- to $75-million stadium, the federal preference could rule the day. There are still many key stumbling blocks to be tackled quickly as construction must start by year’s end. One issue is the federal infrastructure money set to fund this project can’t be given to a Crown corporation, like Downsview Park, under existing rules. Another is the lack of parking and who will pay for the operating costs.

On air

  • Sociologist Pat Armstrong, who holds the Health Services and Nursing Research Chair at York and is a member of the Canadian Health Coalition, participated in a panel discussion of the “third way” of health care introduced by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, on “The Broad Perspective” aired on Ottawa’s CFRA-AM July 17.
  • Alison Macpherson, injury researcher and professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, agreed with other experts on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” July 18 that sweltering heat is not a good excuse for not wearing a bicycle helmet and risking injury. Her comments were also aired on regional CBC Radio newscasts in an item about the push to make helmets mandatory for adult cyclists.
  • William Wicken, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed a pending Supreme Court ruling on a landmark case that will affect native rights in the Martimes, on CBC Radio’s “Info Morning” in Halifax July 19.