LEGO have run promotions in national UK newspapers for a few years, and clearly tabloid, red-top newspapers have the largest readership. So it makes sense that if LEGO are going to try and promote their product, they promote it to the greatest number of people possible. Initially the Daily Mirror ran the LEGO promotions, and for the past couple of years the Sun has been peddling bricks.
It mainly seemed to be the AFOL community who were adversely affected by this, as they had to trundle up the counter at WHSmith and pull their hoods down far over their face as they shamefully purchased the Sun. “I take it you don’t usually buy the Sun?” one attendant asked me once. I appreciated her mitigating my shame, and deflected it by telling her I collect copies of the Sun and just throw the free LEGO away.
But then it turned out that the Sun liked to listen to listen to other peoples’ voicemails, even if that person’s child has been kidnapped. The reputation of the newspaper had sunk even lower than it was before, but LEGO decided to press on with the relationship. LEGO Sales Reps even felt necessary to justify it to retailers, explaining that the Sun has the largest readership, and that giving away LEGO sets with it would reach new customers who may not usually buy the toys.
It seems, however, that the final straw was the fact that the Sun is giving away a toy for children – and advertising that fact on TV – whilst also showing almost naked women in the newspaper. Steve Grout took the decision to campaign for LEGO to end their relationship with the Sun. “Grout's petition started on 22 February, but took off after a Lego promotion appeared next to a spread featuring the naked breasts of 12 Hollywood actors, including Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz.” – the Guardian.
LEGO have stated that the promotion was due to end anyway - but as it has been seen as successful in the past, it is significant that they are not renewing it. Particularly with the controversy during the launch of LEGO Friends – when LEGO were accused of pandering to reductive gender stereotypes – it is not surprising that they do not want to be associated with any negative publicity relating to women.
With the restructuring of the company having seen more manufacturing outsourced to the East, prices going up constantly and an increasing quantity of product each year, it is important for LEGO to maintain their image as an ethical company. The LEGO Friends range has been embraced now on the whole and enjoyed fantastic sales, but after the negative headlines this time last year, the further controversy that could have been caused if Steve Grout’s campaign had gone on for longer would have been damaging for the image of LEGO. It may have thrown a spanner in the works for one of the company’s big promotions, but it seems like the wisest decision in the circumstances.