Denny’s Daily Zinger: Lego – A Corporate Culture of Oxymorons

Senior Creative Planner for the LEGO Group’s internal advertising agency
Location: Denmark, BillundJob Category: Marketing; Market and Consumer ResearchPosted: 3/27/2014Job ID: DK 1219

Inspire children across the globe
You’ll be part of a creative team developing insights and creative twists that support the LEGO brand and inspire children through all ages and across the globe to creative play. Your key role is to collect relevant consumer insights and to translate them into propositions for communication and develop creative concepts and ideas that by the end of the day make sense for the children and their parents. You create the red thread from the strategy to the creative concept in collaboration with the team and the client
. —from Lego’s website

What triggered this column was the Adfreak Daily Newsletter from Adweek with the following headline:

Lego Ad’s Little Darth Vader Is Less Charming and Cute and More Completely Evil

The story featured the most gawd-awful, gross, repulsive TV spot for children’s products I have ever seen in 78 years on this planet.


Takeaways to Consider

  • Whenever a creative team presents storyboards and script for consideration, sweetly and quietly ask them the following questions:
    —If your personal money were invested in this ad, would you do it?
    —Who is the audience for this?
    —What is the purpose?
    —Will it sell product?
    —Will it win an award?
  • Then fire the creative team.

Denny Hatch ‘s new book is “Write Everything Right!” Wesley Murph, The Marketing Maniac, writes, “I was just dropping you a line to let you know that I totally “dig” your new book. I haven’t gotten through it all. But what I have read, I love. In particular, I really enjoy your style. You call a spade a spade. And what’s cool is nine times out of ten you’re dead on the money. Keep up the great work!” Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first 3 Chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach him at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Meg Nugent Hodges

    Guess you would have fired me on this one. If Lego’s in-house work is anywhere near as focus-group tested as a lot of American products are, this got a lot of eyeballs on it long before it went public. This job would be my dream job.

    —If your personal money were invested in this ad, would you do it?


    —Who is the audience for this?

    This the first question answered in every creative brief I’ve ever created, received, or taught. Here you have two – the children (and some adults) that will enjoy the product AND those that will actually make the purchase. Your demographic here is in part: (primarily) 25-40 parents, college degree holders. Somewhat affluent (these are wonderful toys but not cheap). If you want to look at psychographics too (those some argue this measure); they are kids at heart that will enjoy these as much as they kids will (maybe more). They grew up with Star Wars, loved it and now are sharing this joy with their kids.

    Dads seen as goofs, incompetent, etc., has probably been done to death, but for the right products it still works. Anyone that has had kids or been in a home with these toys KNOWS the dread of stepping on them in the dark. It’s funny, relatable, and completely relevant to the introduction of Darth Vader and the rest of the Star Wars cast of characters. Kids like funny, and they like seeing parents/adults behaving in a less-than-perfect manner. Who among us has never drunk milk out of the carton in front of the fridge late at night (or ice cream for that matter)?

    —What is the purpose?

    Selling legos first and foremost, including to those that already have invested in other lego sets – creating a need for THESE sets. Establishing a relatable bond between consumer and the brand. Bringing out the inner child in the purchaser to motivate them to make the purchase.

    —Will it sell product?

    Without a doubt.

    —Will it win an award?

    Meaningless to the client and not the reason to make the ad. It happens. But to me at least, this is a solid ad that will sell product and just might win an award. Biggest buzz a couple of years ago among the superbowl ads was one for volkswagen that featured a child dressed up as darth vader, trying to use "the Force" on Dad’s new car. Dad uses a remote to start the car from inside the house at just the right moment, and the expression on the child’s face is priceless. I believe that won an award AND put more than a few Jettas on the road.

  • Tim Orr

    "Most gawd-awful, gross, repulsive"? I think that may be a bit of an exaggeration. I’m not sure who gets to see this spot, kids or their parents or buyers of Lego for kids, or all three, but one thing I do know is that TV commercials without a narration track almost invariably pull better than those with narration. When the TV goes essentially silent, and when a familiar piece of music plays, people look up and have even been known to stop dead on the way to the kitchen or bathroom and come back to see what’s on the tube.

    I suspect it didn’t cost a lot to make. What is the benefit? Hard to say. Maybe it just announces that something kids would probably like is now available. And if that’s the case, it harks back to the days when N.W. Ayer was just a pup, when advertisers would announce they’d just received a new shipment of goods.

    I’d like to see it include some kind of tracking mechanism, but big advertisers often hate those things, because they believe they "cheapen" their advertising. (Foolish idea, but there it is.) I’d like to see it run in some markets and not others, then track whether there’s a difference in sales.

    I don’t think it’s good enough to win an award, but I would be willing to invest some of my own money in it, provided there’d be a way for me to get a return on my investment if the thing were successful.

  • Rob D

    Thought the commercial was funny. I am trying to figure out what makes it so awful.

    How would you have announced Vader’s glorious arrival to the Lego family? Kids will think its funny. Parents will identify with the theme since they probably watched the Star Wars movies when they were younger (or still do).
    Lego is very well entrenched in their space. Perhaps they can take a few liberties with marketing.

    Was it repulsive to you because it did not ask for an order? Or, because you did not identify with it?

    How many grandparents can identify with children’s video games? That does not stop the grandparent from buying it for the child. This was not to imply anything regarding your age, but to illustrate the desires of the children carry a lot of weight.

    This may not be the perfect commercial (if such a thing exists) but it is certainly not awful.

    Thanks Denny. I have been reading your articles (are they still called that?) for years.