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Mattel Battles Sales Slump With Branded Entertainment Offensive

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NEW YORK ( -- Mattel, the toy giant that pioneered branded entertainment concepts in the 1980s, creating action figures-cum-cartoon-stars He-Man and She-Ra, is back at it again this year with its troubled Barbie Doll line.
The latest Barbie has morphed into an ultra-glam stage entertainer.

American Idol Barbie
This time around the company's multimedia character build-out aligns the struggling Barbie brand with Fox TV's wildly popular American Idol show in hopes of finding enough audience lift to make the doll a winner again.

Last year's domestic sales of the beauty fantasy toy declined for the third year in a row in the face of stiff competition from a new wave of trendier dolls, such as the Bratz line.

Sagging sales
In 2003, with Barbie sales down 15% from the year before, Mattel's management began to lay plans to create an integrated matrix of entertainment content features promoting the doll brand in movies, Web sites, music, books and magazines.

A pivotal part of that new cross-platform effort is the 2005 American Idol Barbie dolls now appearing in stores and starring on

1.2 million Web site votes
The Web site hosts an online competition featuring video clips of the dolls and enables visitors to vote for their favorite. So far, more than 1.2 million online votes have been cast for the winner of the fictitious contest, according to the company.

The three online competitors are animated versions of the in-store dolls: pop singer Barbie and her two friends, rock-and-roller Tori and R&B songstress Simone.

The voting concludes in April, and Mattel hopes to align a TV commercial announcement of the winner with the American Idol finals May 24 and 25, said Debbie Haag, Mattel's senior director of girl brands.

Fall superstar version
The toy maker will continue to push the line at the retail level, with the fall release of a post-competition, superstar version of Barbie and friends, along with a recording studio and Mustang convertible.

Other content-driven Barbie promotional projects include a full-length Barbie movie titled Fairytopia; a 3-D-enhanced animated film called Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus; the Famous Friends line of Barbie dolls modeled after the members of Destiny's Child, Disney star Raven Simeon and country crooner Leanne Rimes; and the Lindsay Lohan-modeled doll, which appears in the My Scene Barbie line.

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