Will Barbie be Don Draper’s next conquest?

March 17, 2010

I recently read this New York Times story about Mattel introducing a line of Barbie and Ken dolls styled after four “Mad Men” characters. While I’m a big fan of the popular AMC series, and there is no doubt it has a cult-like following, my initial reaction after reading Stuart Elliott’s “Mad Men’ Dolls in a Barbie World, but the Cocktails Must Stay Behind” headline was one of absurdity. After all, Barbies are for kids, right? And, if you’ve ever seen an episode, you know there’s nothing in the storylines about life in the advertising world in the 1960s that is intended for youth audiences.

However, after reading more of Elliott’s article, I started to get it. With its $74.95 price tag, these dolls aren’t intended to appeal to kids. They are part of a premium-price collectors’ series for adults. Still, I questioned whether the market for a Don and Betty Draper doll set could be that great but then realized it’s really just another buzz-building tactic for the show.

Like me, people probably will take a minute to form an opinion about the notion of “Mad Men” Barbie dolls. The “Mad Men” fanatics might snatch up a few to use as props at the next “Mad Men”-themed party. But at the end of the day, it’s just something to keep people talking about the series and hopefully entice a few new viewers to tune in when the show returns from its hiatus this summer.

Kevin Beggs, president for television programming and production at Lionsgate (the studio that produces “Mad Men”) admits “Mad Men” is not an easy show to promote. He adds that they need to seek nontraditional methods to stimulate viewership.

So, now I understand Lionsgate’s and AMC’s motives a bit better, but is this really a smart move for the Barbie franchise? (The New York Times article points out that while the dolls come with period accessories such as hats, overcoats, pearls and padded undergarments, they won’t be sporting the character’s usual cigarettes, ashtrays, martini glasses or cocktail shakers.) What do you think? Should Don Draper really be living in a Barbie world?