New Ad Formats Are LEGO's Building Blocks for Holiday Sales

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In a bid to drive qualified traffic and sales to LEGO.com, Danish toy maker LEGO has asked its interactive agency to produce an online holiday marketing campaign for this fourth quarter that betters last year's banners effort.


In response, Organic Inc. has devised a program that features customized content modules, product boutiques and site sponsorships. Targeted to multiple audiences, this $500,000 effort largely ignores traditional banners.


"The challenge is to get users to actually buy the products at LEGO.com," said Scott Witt, media director of Organic, New York, "because LEGO, by nature, is a very tactile-involved brand -- the experience is really in touching and feeling it.


"So we've tried our best in the digital space to sort of accomplish that by really unique graphical or rich media elements where people can go in and play with the ads," he said.


This quarter, advertising's mission is to generate interest in LEGO product lines sold online and in stores, plus LEGO.com/shop exclusives like the Sopwith Camel, Statue of Liberty and trains. Prices range from $2 to upward of $200.


Three segments have been identified for the online program. The first is LEGO enthusiasts, who are high-volume spenders and collectors. Next is gift buyers like parents and relatives. Most important are the browsers, children ages 2 to 12 who influence decisions but cannot buy on their own.


"They're in the LEGO-friendly universe, and we're trying to convert them to make their first direct-to-consumer purchase from us," said Alexander Algermissen, global marketing manager at LEGO Direct, New York.


Forty ad formats have been employed to boost LEGO's e-commerce push. Thirty of them do not conform to the standards set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.


"We're using a couple of banners, a couple of buttons, but the main drivers are these sort of off-the-wall placements where we create and customize real estate," Witt said.


Ads include 540-by-480 Flash units, a 600-by-350 Flash soccer game, a few puzzles and a Unicast Superstitial.


"We know from the learning we've generated in previous campaigns that, for us, non-standardized units are giving us a better performance," Algermissen said.


Among the buys, LEGO took over the home page of about.com for two weeks and launched a microsite as well.


"Every visitor to about.com will be met with a large LEGO advertorial splash, which will lead them to a co-branded mini-site featuring select products on LEGO.com," Witt said.


Other rich media ads accompany. A larger unit is now running in the video pre-plays section of Shockwave. MTV Networks' Nick.com unveiled LEGO's Adisode and Unicast Superstitial on Nov. 1. More rich media ads will debut in mid-November on CartoonNetwork.com's Toonami area and FoxKids.com's Digimon location.


On the same timetable, Nick.com last week opened a LEGO shopping area. Similar stores on FoxKids.com and NickJr.com will open Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, respectively.


A LEGO boutique on Disney.com debuted Oct. 8 on the site's Main Street Merchants' area. LEGO's Harry Potter-themed Wizard Shop launched a month earlier on Warner Bros.' Web site.


Sites were chosen based on their appeal. FoxKids.com attracts kids ages 2 to 12. NickJr.com is favored by children ages 2 to 6, often surfing in the company of parents.


Organic, which is partly owned by Omnicom Group, is particularly proud of its partnership with Sony. The Japanese company owns www.starwarsgalaxies.com, a preview site for the new multi-player online strategy game featuring the Star Wars theme.


"LEGO owns the user experience on this preview site," Witt said, "from every ad impression to five- and 10-second Flash video bumpers before and after each game preview download. This vehicle was perhaps the best example of publisher, manufacturer, licensee and agency synergy."


Last year's effort for LEGO was only banner ads linking to LEGO.com. Results showed 423,000 clicks and 5,271 transactions.


"I think last year's campaign was to drive overall awareness of the e-commerce channel of LEGO.com, while this year we're using specific product concepts from TV and print [ads] to drive awareness and, of course, traffic and sales to the Web shop," Algermissen said.


Witt said his agency's challenge now is that the people who buy LEGO products and the people who play with the products are two distinct audiences.


"So, we need to do a sort of parallel marketing and media targeting objective," he said. "Where we're getting the interest of children up to 14 years, we need engage them with compelling eye candy. Once they're there on the site, we know they can't transact, so we actually have them create a wish list that they can e-mail to their parents, so the parents can be the enabler of the transaction."


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