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The Barbification of Media

The media world is abuzz at the success of two women with high profile stature around the globe. They are Barbie and Taylor Swift. They’re both creating excitement with 18–34 and 25–54-year-old women by crossing demos and genres. Michelle Goldberg of the NY Times said “An obvious lesson from the gargantuan success of both 'Barbie' and the Eras Tour is that there is a huge, underserved market for entertainment that takes the feelings of girls and women seriously." A market that has been discounted by much of media in the most recent past. Especially given the advertiser demand for Adult 25-54 as the target demo of an ad buy.

The Barbie movie is successfully reinvigorating the in-theater industry. Women of all ages are engaged in Barbie-mania. It makes sense that the film about the Mattel doll is universally intriguing as Barbie was first launched in March 1959. If you were a young person that year, you would now be somewhere in your mid-60s to mid-70s. Thus Barbie has a connection to women starting from a very young single digit age. The movie has created a family dynamic that has parents and children literally giddy waiting to head into the theater.

The movie is setting records and it’s only in its’ second week of showings. Barbie’s attraction goes well beyond gender. Barbie is everywhere. Cross-Promotion in national advertising from Progressive Insurance. Clothing lines are mirroring Barbies’ wardrobe. Crocs came out with a Barbie Pink shoe. Barbie pink nails are “the thing.” There is a Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse that you can rent on Airbnb. One in Germany, too. There is a Barbie Themed Cruise Ship sailing in the Boston area. People are showing up in theaters dressed in Barbie Pink. Which makes the film reminiscent of the way audiences came in costume for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Taylor Swift, the other woman attracting a female audience, is arguably this generations Beatles. Taylor started attracting significant notoriety as she launched The Eras Tour earlier this year in Glendale, Arizona. This is her sixth concert tour and second stadium tour. She’s slated for 131 shows across five continents before the tour concludes. That is if it isn’t extended beyond its London performance in August 2024.

The performances are customized and seem to vary by city. The amazing large screens give every attendee the feel of being personal and up close to the artist. One friend shared with me that it reminded them of the videos of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. That is at times the screaming crowd drowned out the singers performance. There have been some negative reviews and the occasional negatives posted on social media, but the majority of feedback has been very positive.

The economic, commercial, political and cultural impact of Taylor Swift is unlike anything we’ve seen in music since the 60s. The Eras Tour caused an economic demand that was fueled in large part by the need to celebrate a “post pandemic” world. Swift recorded unprecedented numbers of user registrations for ticket sale access across the globe, such as over 22 million customers clamoring for the tour's Singapore tickets. The sale of tickets in the United States leg showed a flaw in the Ticketmaster platform and Live Nation was criticized publicly. All this leading to a vote of censure by bipartisan lawmakers.

Fortune estimated the tour's net consumer spending to be $4.6 billion in the US alone. Thank you, Taylor. Perhaps singlehandedly pulling the USA out of an Advertising and Entertainment recession. Reinvigorating those radio stations who haven’t yet knocked off the stench of Covid. Bringing an audience back to traditional media to hear her music, win tickets and feel a part of a movement.

The message that radio should be receiving comes from the success of The Eras Tour and the realization that the movie “Barbie” is bringing people back to the theater. People of all ages. We should focus on more than Adults 25-54. That’s the darling demo for National advertisers. That I understand and accept. What is disappointing is how very few clusters use any part of their platform to target 18-34 or 45+ as viable and desirable audiences for advertisers.

Not every radio station can or should target Adults 25-54. Blasphemy you say? Such thinking ignores the older monied audience that uses radio the most as well as the younger audience that should be radios future.

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