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Life at LEGO: “I Ended Up In Advertising Because I Love to Play”



Anstice Murray, creative lead at the LEGO Agency EMEA on working in a true creative playground, sussing out Gen Alpha and bringing back a classic advertising icon for IWD

Life at LEGO: “I Ended Up In Advertising Because I Love to Play”
Could there be a more fundamentally creative brand to work on than LEGO? Prior to landing at the much-loved play brand, Anstice Murray was a copywriter and creative at agencies like Euro RSCG, Arnold, Cheil and VCCP Kin. But given her own childhood experiences with the little plastic bricks and an unbounded imagination, Anstice couldn’t resist the opportunity to jump over to the in-house agency at LEGO. Anstice says she was ‘the architect of my own slightly deranged imaginary world’, and LEGO played a big part in that.

Appropriately, given the infinite possibilities that LEGO presents, Anstice says that the briefs and projects are almost infinitely varied. It’s one of the biggest in-house agencies globally and the chance to hear whispers of projects and products at early stages is a treat for the team. There are also some incredibly substantial efforts around sustainability and education to get involved in, which makes it a brand that’s not only fun but satisfying. This International Women’s Day, the team brought back one of its classic ads, a print ad from the ‘80s featuring a proud little girl showing her creation, and a campaign that shows that LEGO has always been a pioneer with its messaging.

LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Anstice to find out more.

LBB> It was great to see you revisit the classic Lego print campaign for IWD – why does that original creative still stand up today, do you think?

Anstice> We all have a soft spot for this ad in the LEGO Group, the little girl in her dungarees looking so proud of her creation. It's a great ad that celebrates that classic LEGO creativity that we hope to inspire in everyone. The advert turns 40 this year, but somehow it still feels as relevant and meaningful today as it did then. 

LBB> Why did you and the team decide to revisit the ad for IWD?

Anstice> The ad came out in 1981, so that little girl is now a woman in her 40s, it’s hard to get one’s head around that. We can forget that our children will grow up and be adults one day…which I guess is what got us to this idea - little girls playing with LEGO bricks on the living room floor today are the leaders, role models and changemakers of the future. We should celebrate them and the unique ways they express themselves and see the world. 

International Women’s Day felt like a great moment to encourage parents to really engage with and celebrate their daughters’ LEGO creativity and share it proudly with the world… hopefully planting a seed ‘My daughter is really inventive or imaginative and will be able to achieve her dream - one day she might work at the LEGO Group, she might even run the place!’ 

LBB> And what sort of discussions does Lego have internally about inspiring girls in particular?

Anstice> It’s a big company, so there are many conversations going on. Obviously around the toys we make and how we make play experience that are inclusive for all audiences, and how we market them to welcome everyone to the joy of building, but also about our organisation and workplace and how we empower women and girls to reach their full potential.

We want to inspire more girls to keep creating and follow their dreams, never seeing their gender as a barrier to achieving great things. Interestingly, children don’t really see gender as a barrier - that’s why we do a lot of work talking to parents about their children’s creativity and the benefits of LEGO play.

LBB> Thinking about in-house agencies, they really seem to differ from brand to brand. What’s the set up at LEGO? How big is the team and how does it differ from a traditional agency?

Anstice> I think LEGO Agency is unique - because of the LEGO brand. 

If a LEGO Group brief arrived in any agency everyone would want to get involved - so when you go to build an agency for that brand, people want to work there, and you can hire and work with amazing people. Also, it’s a really loved brand, people know and understand the product - so there’s space to play - really be creative, entertain and have fun with the work we make. 

We are one of the biggest internal agencies globally, with hubs in Billund (hometown of the LEGO Group), London, Shanghai and Singapore. I’m based in London - our EMEA hub, which works closely with our Western Europe and REEMEA markets and generally works on bespoke and non-traditional projects. It’s a brilliant place to work, hugely collaborative and truly global. 

LBB> LEGO's a brand that is infused with the belief in the power of play – how does that trickle down into the way you do your job? Has it changed your approach to creativity?

Anstice> I ended up in advertising because I love to play; making up stuff to entertain myself and others and throwing around ideas, eventually bringing them to life. Really the creative process is full of play. Working at the LEGO Group we all have the space to do that. Everyone, whatever their role in the company, is encouraged to step back from things and try a new approach and make time to build and play. Not just because it’s rejuvenating and fun, but because it unlocks problems.

LBB> How do you keep yourself inspired and fresh working on the same brand?

Anstice> The briefs we get are extremely varied. Sometimes there isn’t even a solid brief yet, just the whisper of a potential opportunity or partnership. Sometimes there’s a business problem. Because you are part of the business you get to see under the bonnet and are much closer to those potential opportunities. There really is no chance of getting stuck in a rut. It’s massively collaborative and just so much fun, I feel like a child in a toyshop every day. 

LBB> How much do you draw from your own childhood memories of / relationship with LEGO in your work?

Anstice> As an only child, I was the architect of my own slightly deranged imaginary world, there were no rules, no one saying ‘you can’t do that’, ‘that banana doesn’t belong there’ or ‘that spaceship is technically inaccurate’. My imagination roamed free, untethered and fancy free! It was glorious. I had a carrier bag of LEGO bits and bobs and I played out hundreds of scenes and stories with the muddle of bricks and minifigures I had. 

I never forget the sheer delight one has as a child in the ridiculous. 

LBB> Working on a product that involves really understanding children and parents, what sort of insights have you gleaned about the up-and-coming so-called ‘generation alpha?’

Antice> As you can imagine, the LEGO Group does a huge amount of research around children, not just what they’re into which obviously changes regularly, but what they dream about for the future, and even the things they worry about. Already children of today navigate their world completely differently to previous generations. By the time they become adults, a lot more will have changed. 

Creativity will be a really vital skill for their future. Not just being able to express ideas- but building creative resilience- the ability to think critically, to collaborate and solve problems by trying different things. We’re doing a lot of work around that. 

LBB> What have been some of the most exciting or enjoyable projects you’ve worked at while at LEGO?

Anstice> Over the last year we’ve done a lot of work with the Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility team, which has been awesome. We created a platform called ‘Build and Talk’ to help parents talk to their children about tricky topics, but in a relaxed way, as they build together. Last year we focussed on online safety and well-being, with kids being online more than ever before. We invented a series of little LEGO monster characters parents could build with their kids. Some characters personified the things children love doing online and others represented online watchouts for kids. Parents could download activity packs which had info on the topics and conversation starters, along with the builds. It was really interesting to use LEGO building in this way, as a kind of fun educational tool, but in a way that kids could really enjoy. 

LBB> What’s interesting is that Lego has been going through so much change in terms of changing the blocks to go green, figuring out how to combine Lego with technology that is so central to kids’ lives these days. As a creative, what’s it’s like to be working with a company going through such an interesting period?

Anstice> It’s been super interesting to see behind the curtain in what the LEGO Group are doing in the realms of both sustainability and technology. There’s a huge ambition to innovate, but for the right reasons. No greenwashing and not just innovation for innovation’s sake. The ambition is to make all packaging sustainable by 2025 and all products from more sustainable materials by 2030. That’s no mean feat for a manufacturing business of this scale. It’s exciting now to be able to take everyone on that journey. 

view more - Inside In-Housing
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