I've already explored the treasure trove of vintage doll commercials from the 1960s and 1970s available online, in Watch Vintage Doll Television Commercials Online!
In addition to the TV commercials for classic Mattel and Ideal dolls, plus many lesser-known vintage dolls, there is also a treasure trove of early Barbie doll ads from 1959 ( for the original, #1 Barbie doll) through the early 1970s. This article focuses on those wonderful, early vintage Barbie commercials. An additional article will deal with television commercials for dolls produced from the late 1970s through the 1990s.
These early Barbie television commercials are a great primary source of research. It is also wonderful to see the dolls when they were brand new, as well as the social context that they were produced in. Finally, watching these commercials is a walk down memory lane for those of us that played with these dolls as children or those that collect them now. Here are some of my favorite vintage Barbie doll television commercials.
This wonderful early television commercial, from 1959, introduced Barbie dolls to little girls in the United States. It first aired on the Mickey Mouse Club. The commercial runs one minute, and is in black and white. It shows the early ponytail Barbie dolls, with all their clothing and accessories, with a sweet song in the background that started "Barbie, you're beautiful, you make me feel, my Barbie doll is really real!" One interesting thing to note about this commercial--although this was the first commercial for the doll, the commercial does not show any of the very early #1 and #2 Barbie dolls--the dolls in the commercial look to start at #3. Also note the price of Barbie--she was $3, and clothes started at $1.99.
And now Matel brings you Ken
...Barbie's boyfriend. It didn't take Ken long to show up on the scene. In 1961, only two years after Barbie was introduced, Ken came on to the scene. Ken was introduced as Barbie's boyfriend in this one minute long, black and white commercial. The commercial says that they met at a dance...and then goes on to detail all of Ken's great outfits that are available, to match Barbie's of course. Then Ken and Barbie can go to the dance together, or go to school. And, as the commercial points out, the whole thing could end up in a wedding (with a lovely shot of Barbie and Ken in one of their wedding gown and tuxedo outfits).
This 1964 commercial introduced Skipper
, Barbie's little sister. The commercial, again, is in black and white and one minute long. Skipper was introduced after Ken, and after Barbie's best friend Midge and her boyfriend Allan. Ken, Midge and Allan all appear in the commercial. The commercial points out that Skipper has long, brushable hair, and that she has outfits that match Barbie for activities such as ballet, skating, and masquerade. The commercial, like the earlier Ken commercial, also points out that the wrist tag will say "Genuine Skipper," because by now, there were many competitors with similar looks to these dolls on the market.
This one minute, black and white commercial touted a major change to Barbie's body--bendable legs! I believe this commercial was about 1966 at the latest, since the American Girl
Barbie is the Barbie featured in the commercial, and she was only on the market in 1965 and 1966. The commercial shows (with a very fast announcer!) that Barbie can now sit and cross her legs, and even be posed for dancing, which means more fun! Before this, the only posable joints for Barbie were her neck, shoulders, and hips. Also appearing in the commercial are Ken, Midge and Skipper.
If you read my article Watch Vintage Doll Television Commercials Online!
, you'll note that Maureen McCormick was in many doll commercials in the 1960s. This commercial also has Maureen, and in fact features her, two years before the start of The Brady Bunch. This commercial is in color, and runs one minute. Besides the appearance by Maureen McCormick, there are several other notable things about this commercial. First, this commercial introduces the Twist and Turn Barbie doll, the first one to have a twist waist. Also notable is that this is the commercial that introduced the trade-in program to little girls. You could take your older, Ponytail or Bubble Cut or similar Barbie to your local toy store, and for $1.50 (half the price of Barbie), you could get a new Twist and Turn Barbie. This program was responsible for taking many older Barbies out of circulation. Of course, not all girls parted with their older dolls. The "groovy" late 1960s fee comes through in this commercial, and the line of dancing little girls going into the cardboard "toy shop" to trade in their Barbies is worth the price of admission.
Barbie is still popular, but not as popular as before. Mattel keeps innovating Barbie to keep children interested, and one of the results of the constant innovation is Living Barbie
. This one minute color commercial is for Living Barbie. Once again, Maureen McCormick from Brady Bunch fame appears in the commercial (I have to assume there were other girl actresses in Hollywood at the time, but perhaps Maureen was under contract with Mattel?). In any event, this is the first commercial in this group that was shot on location and not in a studio. The commercial shows Maureen outdoors modeling different poses--tumbling, running, holding, and showing the new Living Barbie doing the exact same thing. Living Barbie had extra jointing at the wrist, for example, and a rotating hip. The commercial shows some of the great mod outfits available at the time too!