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‘It’s a pink world’: Barbie marketing thrives in Qatar despite movie ban

The marketing campaign for the film is believed to have cost over $150 million, surpassing the movie’s production budget of $145 million.

Despite movies in Qatar remaining vacant of the Barbie movie, residents in the country have not passed on the ‘Barbie’ trend thanks to the film’s intense marketing.

The highly-anticipated blockbuster movie will not be shown in cinemas across Qatar, a source confirmed to Doha News on Thursday, following similar decisions by other countries in the region.

The reason for the ban has not been made public, however it falls in line with decisions made in other regional countries citing “cultural” issues.

This decision however, has not deterred the iconic doll’s presence as cafes and businesses continue to incorporate Barbie themes within their products.

Prior to the ban on the movie’s screening, entities in Qatar collaborated with a wide range of companies to promote it. To the dismay of those companies, the movie was cancelled, and by extension – some of their marketing projects.

“The decision was not within the control of our company or the Barbie promoters. The cancellation resulted from the movie itself being cancelled after the contract with the promoters was already in place. As a result, the project was discontinued,” an usher hired by Qatar Toy Festival in partnership with a Dubai-based marketing company to promote Barbie products and content told Doha News.

The employee had joined the project with Spacetoon and Qatar Toy Festival to make the Barbie marketing project take life in Qatar.

Spacetoon is a leading children’s cartoon channel and entertainment company focused on providing engaging and age-appropriate animated content for young audiences.

Having seen the successful wave of marketing across the globe since the launch of the Barbie movie, promoters who had been contracted were placing immense hope in its success in Qatar.

“The reaction from the team was one of disappointment, as substantial efforts had been invested in developing and executing the marketing campaign for Barbie in Qatar,” the source who chose to remain anonymous told Doha News.

It’s a pink world

Barbie’s worldwide popularity is not solely responsible for the consumerist trend witnessed across the globe and in the Gulf state; Qatar’s demographics also contribute to it, with its youthful and cosmopolitan population showing a greater inclination to embrace global brands such as Barbie.

The colour ‘Barbie pink’ and the famous logo have appeared on a wide range of items and locations ever since Warner Bros. released an initial glimpse of then movie in April last year, featuring Margot Robbie as Barbie seated in her pink convertible.

The marketing campaign for the film is believed to have cost over $150 million, surpassing its production budget of $145 million, according to reports.

“Suddenly I was invited to two Barbie-themed gatherings where we had to dress up in pink. It became the new trend and we all wanted to partake in this pink frenzy wave,” Dana, a resident in Qatar, told Doha News.

The power of Barbie’s marketing has even touched individuals who did not think the the movie would necessarily alter their personal choice. On the impact of the colour being everywhere, Dana said, “I found myself liking the colour pink all of a sudden, which I’d never really felt before, and it’s because that is all I am seeing wherever I go.”

Mannequins draped in pink clothing and coffees spiked with the colour have become commonplace across malls, cafes and shops in the Gulf nation.

The film’s production designer, Sarah Greenwood, said that the construction of the sets caused a worldwide surge in demand for fluorescent pink Rosco paint, which was employed in the movie to establish the ideal backdrop for Barbie and Ken’s daily life.

“The world ran out of pink,” Greenwood told Architectural Digest.

“It’s quite literally a pink world now and everyone’s joining the trend,” Dana told Doha News, adding that “The power of the movie and its marketing scheme is so strong, it’s even affecting us in this part of the world [Middle East, Qatar] even though we haven’t watched it.”

Consumerism at play

Tasked to promote Barbie through activities in malls around Qatar, the same source hired by Qatar Toy Festival said: “The team had worked diligently to create engaging experiences for children at the Qatar Toy Festival and subsequently at the Mall of Qatar. The news of the movie cancellation was unexpected and led to a period of adjustment and reevaluation of our marketing strategies.”

The company had big plans to promote Barbie in Qatar, starting with a flagship event at the Qatar Toy Festival, which was was expected to continue at the Mall of Qatar to keep Barbie in people’s minds and build excitement for the live-action movie, according to the source privy to the marketing project.

“The company intended to leverage the festival’s success and the engagement of 16 dedicated promoters to create a lasting impression in the minds of children and their families.”

However, the source added that the cancellation of the Barbie movie “disrupted the original strategy, prompting a pivot in focus toward emphasising Barbie’s core values of empowerment, diversity and limitless potential through alternative marketing approaches.”

The company is reportedly still looking for avenues to promote Barbie despite the absence of the single element that has made it relevant at all: the movie.

As a testament to Barbie’s thriving marketing in the Gulf nation despite the screening ban, the Qatar-based company will continue “exploring alternative entertainment partnerships and collaborations to maintain and enhance Barbie’s brand presence in Qatar,” the source told Doha News.

Is it partially Barbie’s world?

The Barbie movie did not just fail to see the the light of day in Qatar, but other countries in the region have also refused to air the movie, citing cultural restrictions.

Arguably one of the biggest movies of the year, the movie is based on Mattel Inc.’s popular fashion doll, Barbie. According to Bloomberg, it is the “biggest box office hit for Warner Bros. Discovery Inc” and is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing film of the year.

Barbie hit a record $1.3 billion in global ticket sales this week, beating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which was released in 2011.

However, plans to rollout the movie in the Arab world have been far from smooth sailing, with Kuwait and Oman being the first to publicly ban its release.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information said the decision was made to preserve “public ethics and social traditions” and claimed the film “promulgates ideas and beliefs that are alien to Kuwaiti society and public order”.

Lebanon u-turned on its decision to bar the movie from screens across the country following a review by its Film Control Committee.

Algeria also pulled the film from theatres after a brief run, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates postponed the release date before eventually screening the movie. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain have also gone ahead with the release.