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Lego shows kids they oughta be in pictures

Marketer: Lego Systems, Enfield, Connecticut-Michael Boland, senior product manager
Agency: Lowe Lintas and Partners, New York-Steve McCall, account director
Media: Starcom Worldwide, Chicago-Judy Franks, account director
Market: North America
The idea: Hitting U.S. shelves in November and going worldwide in April...
October 1, 2000

Marketer: Lego Systems, Enfield, Connecticut-Michael Boland, senior product manager

Agency: Lowe Lintas and Partners, New York-Steve McCall, account director

Media: Starcom Worldwide, Chicago-Judy Franks, account director

Market: North America

The idea: Hitting U.S. shelves in November and going worldwide in April 2001, the Lego Studios Steven Spielberg MovieMaker Set is a very sophisticated toy. This campaign makes use of a unique mix of contests, in-store demos, TV and theatrical advertising to help kids get it.

The campaign: A 30-second spot will start airing the last week of October on ABC, Fox Kids, Fox Family, Kids’ WB!, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Toon Disney. Thirty-second movie trailers will follow, hitting 850 screens in key U.S. markets from November 17 through December 14. A 12-member live demonstration team will visit 370 retail stores across North America to show kids how the toy works, and Toys `R’ Us will train staff at over 700 locations to perform in-store demos starting at Thanksgiving. One-page inserts will appear in Teen Movieline, and a movie-making contest will run October 2000 through March 2001, challenging kids ages eight to 18 to make their own Lego Studios movies.

Total ad spend is pegged at 50% to 60% higher than the typical spend for a new Lego product launch. Competitive Media Reporting puts Lego’s typical launch spend at US$1.5 million to US$2 million, and total 1999 U.S. ad spend at about US$19.9 million.

The strategy:

You have to admit, this is a pretty cool toy. Kids can build their own studio out of Lego, build their own sets, move around Lego people with guide sticks, and film their own movies. The included digital camera has a built-in microphone and hooks up to a home computer to take still shots or film at 30 frames a second. The set includes an earthquake plate, a mobile fan, cars and a dino-foot to crush the fleeing inhabitants of a Lego town. When kids are done shooting, they can use simple editing software to turn out polished indie theatrical hits.

This product will sell itself-as long as marketers can get kids to sit still long enough to show them what it does.

With that in mind, Lego Systems senior brand manager Michael Boland figured the best way to explain the product is via live demos and TV spots, and the best place to show off the pics kids can make is, well, at the movies. ‘Research shows that movie-making is a concept that kids readily accept and understand,’ says Boland. ‘They do not, however, understand the inner workings of film editing. We felt that this marketing mix would best get the point across.’

The TV spot sticks to the toy’s features-it’s essentially a primer on what Lego Studios is and what it does. In addition to running the spots, The WB will pump up the promotional volume with a watch-and-win contest during the last week of October offering Lego Studios sets as prizes

The movie trailer, in turn, will go for a `Holy cow! This toy can do all that?’ reaction. The audience will think they’re watching the trailer for a real movie, eventually realizing that it’s a Lego Studios production.

The final element, a movie-making contest, takes kids who now have an idea of what the product can do, and shows them that this is something they can do. Boland says the key to the contest is getting kids’ creative juices flowing and showing them that Lego Studios can help bridge the gap between their imaginations and an actual production.

Three kids in each of three age categories will win a flight to New York in June 2001 for the Americas Lego Film Festival, and winners from that round will fly to Los Angeles in November 2001 for the Backyard National Children’s Film Festival (sponsored by Lego). The grand prize winner gets a trophy and the chance to attend a Hollywood premiere in 2002.

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