SubScribe: How Lego changes the game by doing nothing Google+

Saturday, 12 November 2016

How Lego changes the game by doing nothing

lego promotions
The Mail's Lego promotions in May and October this year. 

And so Twitter erupted in joy. The BBC, the Independent, the Huffington Post reported that Lego was pulling its advertising from the Mail.
It isn't.
Lego was stopping its free giveaways with the paper.
It wasn't.
A promotion had run its natural course. When a customer wrote to say he didn't think the tie-in with the Mail was appropriate, Lego responded with the tweet at the top.
The customer's letter may genuinely have caused the company to pause and think: "Hey, no. We don't want to be associated with anti-migrant, anti-judge headlines." Or it may have thought: "Here's an opportunity for some good publicity at no cost. We don't actually have to do anything.
"After all, the last freebie promotion ended last month and the next one isn't due until the spring and then we can just pick up as usual."

Well the Twitter reaction means they won't now - unless the Daily Mail demonstrably changes tack in the next six months.
And therein lies Stop Funding Hate's victory. Not in what it has achieved, but in what it is possible for it to achieve thanks to Lego's response. For not only is Lego unlikely to resume any deal with the Mail - or any other newspaper that might be perceived as peddling hate - but other companies will also think twice before entering into promotional contracts with them.

lego promotion november 2015

The timing of the Lego story, coinciding with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks across Paris, couldn't have been bettered. For that atrocity demonstrated the importance to the Mail of the Lego promotions - and makes Stop Funding Hate's "victory" the greater.
The paper has combined with the company and WH Smith to give away the toys twice a year for the past two or three years. They clearly boost circulation as the launch puff is always bigger the norm, dominating the page.
And so it did for the issue of November 14 last year - in spite of the fact that even before the bombers and gunmen struck in Paris, there was a pretty big news story in the killing of Mohamed Emwazi, the ISIS killer glorified by the media as "Jihadi John".
As the scale of the horror in Paris became apparent, most night editors cleared their front pages. But at the Mail, the Lego puff remained inviolate, surrendering not an inch of space to the unfolding drama.
(The Mirror really came a cropper: it's "real" front page was concealed beneath a wraparound advertising Morrison's Christmas puds.)

Lego may have inadvertently painted itself into a corner, but the good publicity will be invaluable. It may well give it a Christmas sales fillip.
Unfortunately, John Lewis found itself on the other end of this see-saw. After two days of appreciative oohs and aahs over its latest Christmas video, it looks leaden and po-faced in its response to Stop Funding Hate's suggestion that it cease advertising with the Mail, Express, Sun etc.

This is, in fairness, what most businesses have told SFH. But, coming hot on the heels of the Lego story, it looks churlish.

And of course businesses do make editorial judgments. They decide where to advertise on the basis of which newspaper, radio station, roadside poster position best matches the customers they want to reach. John Lewis would not advertise in a porn magazine or a rundown inner city sidestreet because they wouldn't fit with its brand.

There are questions to be asked - and SubScribe has asked them - about the advisability of trying to get advertisers to put pressure on newspapers to change their attitudes.
Look at the furore over the Telegraph's lack of coverage - some would call it suppression - of the HSBC tax scandal last year, which was attributed to the fear of losing a valuable client.
Advertisers should not be in a position to decide what papers do or do not carry.
Stop Funding Hate accepts that, and argues that it is not asking advertisers to influence editorial judgments, simply to make a judgment of their own: Does their brand benefit from being associated with a particular type of journalism? And if it doesn't, to walk away.

This has all been theoretical until now. But Stop Funding Hate's bombardment of companies advertising in the Mail's "Enemies of the people" issue and its new video, combining some frankly offensive front pages with the cloying Christmas adverts, have brought its campaign to the attention of hundreds of thousands of people.

Not for the first time in its history, Lego may well be a game-changer.


  1. Lego will be judged by where any future ads or promos appear. In the meantime, I'm sure it can look forward to a pre-Christmas sales boost, all for free. Nice one Lego.

  2. Donnachadh McCarthy13 November 2016 at 08:06

    The fact the UKs media is owned by a tiny illiberal elite of 5 far right extremist billionaires is terribly destructive of our democracy.
    This is a useful campaign to wake us up to this and to do something constructive about it.
    Their collective oppoisition to climate action is an existential threat to Britain and the future of our planet.

  3. What’s even more placing about LEGO’s efficiency is that they compete in an awfully tough market. The patent for the LEGO brick expired in the Nineteen Eighties. Making plastic bricks is slightly low-priced and convenient to do – any person can get into the industry. Stroll into any toy retailer and you’ll see dozens of aggressive toys with near-same bricks at a fraction of the cost

  4. I'd be very interested to know what you think of Hugo Rifkind's piece on this.

    I used to be fairly relaxed about these things but the recent anti-migrant, anti-judge, anti-Remainer stuff has shocked me. Either things have got worse or I've got more sensitive. It's all feeling a little bit fascist.

    I don't really see that there's much of a freedom-of-speech case here. It isn't about what is being said but how it's being said. Demonising, polarising, hateful language makes thought and argument impossible. If people are not just different or misguided but malign, then violence is the next step.

    Even the comments under Hugo Rifkind's piece are revealing. You get a Melanie Phillips-style headline ("Beware the thought police and their boycotts") and anger at "liberals", "luvvies", "the liberal elite". This isn't disagreement, it's hatred.

  5. I think Lego is a beautiful example of a World-wided corporation that affects all the life aspects with it's production