LONDON: As The Lego Movie opens to popular and critical acclaim, industry observers have remarked on the "genius" of a 100-minute long advertisement that people pay to watch.
Econsultancy, the digital marketing specialist, described the film as "an exceptional piece of content marketing" and pinpointed the moment the marketing strategy took off when Lego began treating children and adults the same, with "a catch-all policy" across social channels and its own Lego Cuusoo website.
And in a first for UK television, Lego took over an advertising break in a Sunday night show to recreate a number of well-known ads – The British Heart Foundation, Confused.com, BT and Premier Inn all gave their permission – using Lego animations.
"I think what we've really found is that Lego is a medium," Michael McNally, Lego's brand relations director, told The Verge. "It's not a toy, it's a medium for other people to tell their own stories and create their own adventures."
Over the years Lego has licensed various characters, many of whom make an appearance in the movie alongside those of filmmaker Warner Brothers, so Batman and Bart Simpson both get cameos.
The AV Club noted that the Toy Story films had trodden a similar path "but they don't spotlight a specific product the way The Lego Movie does". It pronounced the movie "a perfect piece of product placement".
Forbes contributor Will Burns was intrigued by the trend of "mixing not only movie brands with product brands, but corresponding business objectives as well". He referred to last year's Anchorman II, the marketing of which had seen actor Will Ferrell, in character as Ron Burgundy, selling the new Dodge Durango SUV on the basis of its roomy glove compartment.
"One media buy, two products sold," said Burns, who suggested that we were seeing the emergence of a new genre of "movietising", where movies looked for brands that furthered the image of their characters while brands chose movies that made sense for their products.
But all parties still have to get the final product right, something that Lego and Warner Brothers took time to achieve. The studio spent two years persuading Lego to do the movie and another four years making it.
"A feature film was never really something we set out to make," said McNally. "It wasn't like we needed a movie to help us sell more stuff."
Data sourced from Econsultancy, Forbes, The Verge, The AV Club; additional content by Warc staff