How the ‘Barbie’ Marketing Blitz Boosted Roku’s Q2

It’s the latest example of how the streaming technology company is making money off of media advertising

A Roku promotion for "Barbie"
A Roku promotion for "Barbie" helped boost the company's advertising sales. (Roku)

“Barbie” got a surprising shout-out during Roku’s second quarter earnings call Thursday thanks to the movie’s takeover of the video streaming hub, part of the all-in Warner Bros. marketing blitz to boost the film.

Tied to the premiere of the Greta Gerwig hit, “Barbie” was part of a takeover of the streaming hub on Roku devices. Roku users were treated to a bright pink main page featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling that included a link to the trailer. When users scrolled to their channels, a giant pink “B” complete with Barbie and Ken appeared on the righthand side.

But the collaboration’s most discussed aspect was perhaps its subtlest.

Barbie’s Dream House was incorporated into Roku City, the scrolling screen saver of an urban vista users see on TVs when the app hasn’t been used in a while. Charlie Collier, Roku’s president of media, cited the collaboration on a call with analysts Thursday as a “great example” of the company finding new ways for advertisers to connect with customers.

“The advertisers love it. In fact, today we have more demand and capacity in Roku City, and we’re looking for ways to expand thoughtfully. Then the streamers love it because it turns out they love seeing real brands in Roku’s virtual neighborhood,” Collier said.

Roku’s executives also noted that advertising in Roku’s virtual city offers “higher margins” than other ads.

“Barbie” is far from the first branded partnership to appear in Roku City. Typically, these ads have appeared has virtual billboards and the link within Roku City, but, as is the case with Barbie’s Dream House, the company is working on expanding this option to advertisers. McDonald’s has become part of the virtual neighborhood, and Roku has also used these collaborations to create shoppable ads, like when Wendy’s offered Roku users $5 off through a home screen ad thanks to DoorDash.

“We’ve been focused on ad diversification,” Collier said on the call. “We don’t want to be over reliant on any single vertical, so we continue to diversify and build new revenue sources and new ways to offer what were typically only [media and entertainment] placements to non [media and entertainment] advertisers.”

Roku ended its second quarter of 2023 with narrower losses than were expected. The streamer and hardware company lost 76 cents per share on revenue of $847 million.