New Bratz Dolls Are Social Media Savvy & Creepier Than Ever

Bratz are back! And with an evil-genius marketing plan. While they are somewhat toned down in terms of their outrageous sexiness, there's something even creepier about them than before. Because, ladies and gentlemen, the new Bratz dolls are armed with smart phones, selfie sticks, and social media savvy.

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And, oh yes, there sure is an app for that.

For those not up-to-date on the Bratz doll saga, these sassy somethings in super-short skirts have been through a lot over the past decade. Thanks to a lawsuit filed by Mattel back in 2006, they were pulled off the shelves for a while (leaving a certain kind of mom sighing with relief) (that would be me), and apparently their sales never totally recovered once they reappeared. Whatevs -- now they’re "BACK" with something of a redesign (though they still have ginormous lips that would win any Kylie Jenner challenge, along with those freakishly big, heavily made-up eyes and those tiny, tiny noses.) (SO TINY!) Even creepier, however, is their brand-new marketing campaign that’s all about reaching your tween directly through her smart phone.

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It’s actually really smart: "You need to go where the customer is, whether it's toys or any other brand," said Isaac Larian, the CEO of the company that owns the dolls, MGA Entertainment.  

And where are the customers? "Glued to their smartphones," says Evan Wray, co-founder of Swyft Media, the company that designed a set of Bratz emoticons.

Yikes.

And there you have it: a marketing campaign that involves an app, digital content like an online animated series (in 2.5-minute episodes, perfect for today's attention span), and a play set called the "Bratz #SelfieSnaps." The play set, obvs, allows kids to share their #selfies along with those special Bratz emojiis. And, of course, MGA is working with yet another company that will engage "online influencers" to help promote the dolls and all their accessories.

#SMART!

Now, this isn’t anything super new, as any parent who's been asked to download a My Little Pony game or watch a teen YouTuber talk about her fave beauty products knows. It’s a digital world, and we’re just living in it. And so are our kids. But as a mom, I was totally creeped out reading about this strategy built right into the relaunch of the Bratz line. Because we’re talking about a "consumer base" of 6- to 11-year-olds, here, people. Kids! Little kids who are highly impressionable and influenceable, especially when it comes to their peers.

The lines between advertising and entertainment have never been more blurred, and our kids, with their online lives, have so much more access to outside influences than ever before in the history of the world. We can limit kids' "screen time," but it's not realistic to try to shield them completely from social media -- that just creates bigger problems. But it's so much easier to point out an old-school TV commercial as something separate from the TV show than it is to point out the messaging behind all this "branded entertainment." (I mean, it would be if kids watched TV with commercials anymore!) It’s so much easier to close a toy catalog than it is to point out that the cute new emojiis popping up on your Instagram feed are actually trying to make you want to buy something.

There's going to be more and more of this kind of selling through social media, of this subtle and smart connection directly from brands to our kids. What's the solution? I don't know, other than just being smart and aware, and trying to teach our kids to recognize advertising for what it is -- no matter what form it comes in.

Because frankly? Bratz dolls, with their still overly sexualized features and outfits (and those poor little noses!), combined with their new obsessions with #selfies, aren't selling anything I'd want any little girl of mine to be buying.

 

Image via Bratz

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