A 'Digital-First' Agency for an Analog Toy: Lego Taps Initiative for Global Media

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The Lego Group has picked Initiative as its new global media agency.
The Lego Group has picked Initiative as its new global media agency. Credit: LEGO, R/GA

IPG Mediabrands-owned Initiative has been selected as the global media agency for The Lego Group — not even a month after news the agency had kept Amazon's global media business.

Lego has had a hard time clicking with children as their toy preferences increasingly skew digital. The Danish toymaker said in September it would be cutting 1,400 jobs after sales in the first half dropped 5 percent. The Lego Group CMO Julia Goldin said the company was excited about working with Initiative to connect with parents and kids in "new, innovative ways."

"After an extensive global review, we believe that Initiative's digital-first approach, international reach and strong local insights will support our long-term ambition to bring LEGO play to more children around the world," Goldin said in a statement.

Initiative will work with sibling agency R/GA on global markets including the U.S. on a "cross-agency solution" as the brand evolves for the next generation of children, the company said in a statement. R/GA will handle shopper marketing for Lego, Initiative Global CEO Mat Baxter says.

Publicis Media's Starcom previously handled Lego's North America business and referred comment to the client.

Initiative punched the reset button last year after several years of few wins and staff turnover. The agency kicked off a number of changes including hiring Baxter and U.S. CEO Amy Armstrong, appointing regional presidents in the U.S., and rethinking how it could help brands be cultural leaders. It won global media duties for Carlsberg Group in August, then kept global media duties for Amazon a couple months later after a competitive review.

Baxter says a big part of the new strategy is helping brands find ways to connect with consumers that don't rely as heavily on paid media. Instead, brands need to be finding ways to be leaning into culture, he says. The company's reorganization (which has involved employing a cultural anthropologist and other experts) is meant in part to help brands decide which channels resonate best with the audiences they want to connect with.

"We've done a whole host of things to bring science to what can often be a fairly fluffy conversation around culture," he says.

Initiative will also be affected by regulations around marketing to kids, such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires brands to be careful about how they market to kids. As such, the agency created a bespoke unit called "Initiative Junior"

"We recalibrated our entire model of tools and capabilities to fit the standard Lego needed to meet in its marketing efforts to kids," he says. That involved reengineering its planning process with the help of consumer psychologists and behavioral experts in the children's space to drill down into how children interact with different marketing channels.

Lego Systems A/S spent $66.6 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2016, according to Kantar Media, though it wasn't known how much Lego spends on marketing efforts globally.

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