UPDATED: Squabble at the toy box as Vizeum and Initiative both claim Lego’s MENA media account

This article was updated on December 24, 2017, to include a statement from Lego.

Both the incumbent Dentsu Aegis Network media agency Vizeum and Interpublic’s Initiative are claiming to represent Danish toy brand Lego in the MENA region.

In Campaign‘s December 3 issue we reported that Lego had awarded its global brief to Initiative.

However, we were contacted shortly afterwards by a representive of Vizeum to say, “Vizeum MENA rather than Initiative has retained the account for our region”.

We updated the story accordingly. But have since been contacted again by Initiative to insist that “Initiative MENA did indeed win Lego in the MENA region.”

When we presented this claim to Vizeum we were informed that “As of September, the MENA region was removed from the global review/pitch process as Vizeum had retained the account. Vizeum has already received their briefs for 2018 and submitted their formal plans to the client.”

A spokeswoman for Lego told Campaign (after an initial version of this article had been published): “We can confirm that the Initiative media agency will work with The Lego Group 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. At the moment, we cannot comment on our cooperation in greater detail, since it is now being set.”

When pushed to confirm that the global alignment with Initiative includes the MENA region, she said: “The cooperation is set on a Global level. At the moment collaboration on regional and local level is being discussed.”

IPG Mediabrands’ Initiative agency won the global account after a competitive pitch and takes over from Dentsu Aegis Network’s Carat in Europe and Publicis Groupe’s Starcom in the US.

Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief marketing officer, said Initiative’s “digital-first approach” would help the brand’s ambition to bring Lego to more children around the world.

The media agency will now work with IPG stablemate R/GA, which has worked with Lego globally since earlier this year, on a “cross-agency solution” as the Lego brand aims to evolve for the next generation of children.

Carat had held the pan-European media business (including in the UK) since 2004, as well as Asia-Pacific since 2015. Starcom, meanwhile, had handled the US business for the same amount of time. The US is the Danish brand’s largest market.

Lego launched the global media review within months of Bali Padda, the former chief operations officer, being promoted to chief executive. Padda, the first non-Dane to run Lego, replaced Jørgen Vig Knudstorp.

Initiative has won three major global pitches this year, having defended Amazon and picking up drinks brand Carlsberg.

“We are excited about working with the Initiative team to connect with parents and kids in new, innovative ways,” said Goldin.

“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.”

Mat Baxter, global CEO of Initiative, said: “The Lego brand and iconic products have a special place in the lives of children and parents, and we’re honoured they’ve entrusted us with such a big responsibility.”

He added: “We’re thrilled to be part of their team.”

In a statement, Initiative said “The agency understands the nuances of culture and will lead clients through changes in our industry by focusing on ‘cultural branding’ as opposed to historical ‘brand advertising’.”

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