PETER YORK ON ADS No 300: BARBIE CAMERA

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The Independent Culture
Now here's something. A Barbie commercial without Barbie. I'm quite resistant to Barbie - though I know she's big with young intellectuals. We've got so used to Barbie doing everything - Spacewoman Barbie, Pony Club Barbie, Surfer Barber - that I rather assumed she'd do Dot.Com Millionaires Barbie soon. But no, she's gone virtual, she's had her brand stretched (could be painful, but remember she's only a little pink plastic thing really). Instead, the usual Barbie chorus of screamy American nine-year- olds, with the regulatory mix of race, blondes and darks, etc, have something new to pester for, a piece of kit that actually works: the Barbie digital camera.

Somebody's little darling focuses an obscene-looking camera, its lens surrounded by fleshy pink petals, and another poses. Then it's technology all the way. There's a CD-Rom, deep pink, sliding suggestively into the player, and there's a website to visit.

And instead of the girls putting Ballerina Barbie through her paces, they're doing on-screen editing and learning those key skills for the OK! mag generation - how to manipulate key people in and out of pictures and how to put together a home cinema collage.

Then they're mass printing oval vignettes of their gang. This is technology without tears, wrapped up in terrific late-Sixties pop-psychedelic packaging.

In line with this nice retro touch, the soundtrack is "Shout", a special update of the Isley Brothers original rather than our Lulu. (Barbie commercials are strictly made in America for a waiting world - they don't act local.) "You can make your own show," sing the old boys, "starring everyone you know." The new Barbie Digital Camera allows you to take pictures without film and then see them on screen instantly. What a way to introduce girls to the click culture.

This ad is quite a ground-breaker. It's the first Barbie commercial I've seen without its passive-aggressive little star; it's the first with CDs and websites for girls, and the first to show girls tasking away together with a PC.

With something as compelling as "How do I look?" this should be a big hit with the Ada Foster, Anna Scher vanity case set; vital training for the next generation of Little Denises and Martines.

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