The Impact of Generative AI on the Phenomenal Success of the Barbie Movie

B.
3 min readAug 13, 2023

The latest Warner Bros’ Barbie movie has broken many records: 2023’s biggest opening, biggest opening weekend for a film directed by a woman, first $1 billion movie from a sole female director and one of the few films having the marketing spent exceeding the production budget: An estimated $150 million according Warner Bros rival studios. In an interview, Josh Goldstine, President of Global Marketing for Warner Bros, affirms that “They spent responsably for an event movie”. What they did differently was to leverage the social media buzz around the film and wisely mix AI technology and human creativity to reach and impact an audience beyond the targeted one.

In fact Warner Bros collaborated with PhotoRoom, an AI based photo editing app to create and introduce the Barbie Selfie Generator barbieselfie.ai powered by DALL-E, the text to image model of OpenAI. The official Barbie movie’s filter let anyone turn themselves into Barbie or Ken character. Launched on April 3rd, this interactive tool marked the pinnacle of a marketing campaign that started in 2022 through traditional channels such as TV and Radio. Combined with instagram-able visuals and a storytelling that resonate with our childhood, the content generated via the app had all needed elements to ignite a buzz across major social media platforms, prompting users to organically create marketing content for the film…for free. By mid of July, barbie selfie generator was used over 13 million times; a unforeseen level of engagement that generate additional content which the team has repurposed to tease the film.

The film’s release fortuitously coincided with the surge of interest in generative AI and themes discussed within the movie such as diversity and inclusion were also relevant for the mass adoption of this technology. This unexpected encounter has given ideas to those interested in this area of AI, prompting them to leverage online available barbie movie content to explore the extent of their creativity using Generative AI. From an AI-generated cover of the popular Aqua’s song “Barbie Girl” covered by Johnny Cash to the Bairbie.me, a tool that transform you into a barbie doll, crazy ideas around the film emerged through generative AI and swiftly gained traction online, fostering a contagious virality — a true gift for the Barbie movie marketing team. The most prominent idea is undoubtedly the Barbenheimer trailer, where Barbie and Oppenheimer movies, two films that have nothing in common, except their release date, were ingeniously interwoven.

AI succed to create a scenario, where main characters of both films meet and have a common goal without losing the essence of their respective personalities. Released a day prior to the official films’ debuts, this trailer exacerbated the curiosity around both films. Audience drawn to Oppenheimer became intrigued by the Barbie film and vice versa.

The role of AI generated content in the success of the Barbie movie marketing offensive is indeniable. Indeed, this could serve as a compelling case study on how the synergy between AI and human creativity lead to faster content creation, bigger mass reach and higher turnover for companies.

This article is part of a series of articles on Generative AI.

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B.

Retail & Marketing on my heart - Automotive on my mind - Data & Analytics driven. I write in English, German or French