Cowboys don’t cry – but they should play with Barbie…

If I could go back and do my life over, I’d spend more time with my children and be a little less harsh on them. The way I was brought up was definitely from the “cowboys don’t cry” playbook, with displays of emotion as few and far between as thunderstorms in the desert.

I believed – and still do, to an extent – that spoiling kids is bad for them in the long run, because they grow up never pushing themselves because they are comfortable enough. Growing up, my family never had much money, so I was never comfortable enough. So I did push myself a bit (although, to be honest, not as hard and as far as my children, who probably take after their mother in their work ethic). My mother was always hyper-critical and, often, in her eyes,  I wasn’t good enough. And a lot of that strange, Irish harshness carried through to the way I treated my children as they grew up.

I regret not spending more time with them, not spending more time playing…and particularly with my daughter. The presence of a strong, loving, and encouraging father, is what girls in this country need to survive when they enter what is still a very male chauvinist society. But, we have made it plain to our daughter that she should never define herself by a man and should never let a man dictate her life. We see that far too often….

This chain of thought was sparked the other night when I watched an ad for, of all things, Barbie dolls. It flighted around 9pm, so was clearly not aimed at its young girl target market.

It was aimed at their Dads – and the message was that it’s OK for Dads to play with Barbies.

We saw a father with his clearly dearly beloved daughter, playing Barbie with her. Holding a Barbie and putting on a high-pitched female voice, Dad tells daughter that he has a sore throat and a cough. Her own Doctor Barbie’s verdict? “Oh my, you are sick!”

“What should I do?”

Reaching over for her cuddly toy, she says: “Take a bunny…”

It’s a very cute ad and it reminds all fathers that they should not neglect the young girls in their lives…and that it is OK for Dads to Play With Barbies.

The ad gets an Orchid from me…but that is not the end of the story because, when I went to look for frame grabs from the ad to illustrate this column, I came upon the full version on YouTube. And, for some reason – cost-cutting, perhaps –the ad flighted in South Africa has been badly cut.

And I say badly because excluded is the Dad’s comment that, although he is a “man’s man”, he would “do anything” for his daughter. He explains that Sundays used to be all about football, but now they include Barbie.

But the whole point of the campaign was missed by the agency in South Africa which decided to clip the ad. Mattel, maker of Barbie, makes way more than a selling pitch with its comment that “Time spent in her imaginary world is an investment in her real world”.

Barbie or no Barbie, that is a sentiment all parents should take on board.

If you don’t allow your child the freedom to dream, they’ll never soar in their adult lives.

What a pity that line never saw the light of day in the SA version of the ad. All in the name of making it shorter, I believe, to save money on the costs of TV airtime.

An Onion for you ham-handed locals for mutilating a really great ad.

Maybe Barbie put me in a good mood, but I haven’t seen anything this week in the ad world which really makes me fume. If you have, though, drop me a line –

Because of my good mood, a second Orchid this week goes to SuperSport.

I hear you in the background complaining that DsTV’s charges are exploitatively high and that there are too many re-runs. Agreed on all of that – but do you realise that, in SuperSports outside broadcast teams, we have simply the best in the world at their jobs?

I was watching the Six Nations rugby on SuperSport last weekend and could not believe how bad the production values were.

Particularly galling was to have to see a controversial movement, which was being discussed by the commentators, without replays. And the camera-persons often missed vital passages of play, despite all of their fancy overhead “spider” cameras…

By comparison, our local TV crews covering Super rugby here are already running the re-winds as the matter is being talked about.

Our camera work is also sharper and our sporting anticipation is better,  too.

Truly, a masterclass and something that the European broadcasters particularly should strive to emulate.

Thanks SuperSport, for making sports viewing that much more enriching. Doing your job above and beyond the standard of the rest of the world demonstrates the quality of your Product. And the Product is the first thing you have to get right for good marketing.

So, an Orchid for you all.

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