For anyone that hasn’t noticed, Barbie has undergone some big changes in recent years. The traditional slim, blonde, white doll has had a well-needed makeover. She’s now available in various sizes, body shapes and skin tones. She’s also updated her personality and perception through a very successful campaign that focused on her ability to help girls imagine a powerful and fulfilling future for themselves. And now she’s trying to get dads in on the act through a brilliant new campaign ‘Dads Who Play Barbie’.

Launched in January with a 30 second ad spot during the NFL playoffs, the campaign from BBDO San Francisco encourages dads to engage in play with their daughters. The ads tread a very difficult tight-rope of being authentic and emotive without being too gushy. They manage to do this perfectly, helped largely by the unscripted play moments between real dads and their daughters. There are some great little moments, funny and touching, that really resonated with me, the subtle looks and voice changes of the dads, and the imaginations of their daughters.

Matt Miller, executive creative director at BBDO San Francisco, says the work was particularly poignant to him personally.

“When our brilliant creative team, Rachel Kelly and Taylor Garrett, first showed this idea, I immediately fell in love with it. Not only is it a perfect expression of Barbie’s purpose of helping girls imagine all their possibilities, I could see myself in it,” he says. “I grew up with four brothers, no sisters, so I never had Barbie in the house. Despite that, now that I have a 3-year-old daughter, I often find myself on the floor with her, Barbie in hand.”

Admittedly, we don’t have any Barbie’s in our house, but I can often be found trying to force feed another generic plastic doll some plastic vegetables in a bizarre ‘play imitating life’ tea party re-enactment on the instructions of my 4yr old daughter. She hasn’t quite grasped the imaginative side of play yet, but loves bossing me around, this usually ends  with me and a couple of dolls on the naughty step!

The campaign was backed up with research conducted by Wake Forest University in the US, showing that girls who have loving, communicative, supportive relationships with their fathers from early childhood are less likely to suffer from a lack of self-confidence and self-reliance as they grow up. This is echoed through the campaigns main message ‘Time spent in her imaginary world, is an investment in her real world.’

If that’s the case I’m fully committed to my daughter’s real world but need to work a bit on the imaginary one.