The Lego Group has placed its global ad planning and buying business in review for the first time in more than 15 years, several parties confirmed this week.
The Danish toy giant works with multiple agencies around the world, and Publicis Groupe’s Starcom has handled its U.S. media business since 2000. According to Adweek’s sources, the pitch is still in its early stages.
A company representative declined to comment, stating, “The Lego Group regularly reviews all contracts with suppliers as a standard business practice. We have no further information to share at this point.”
While the U.S. remains Lego’s largest market, the company has stumbled in recent months after a decade-long turnaround powered, in part, by movie tie-ins. In March, Lego reported flat sales for 2016 despite a major marketing effort that nearly pushed the company past its primary American competitor, Mattel.
Former chief operations officer Bali Padda was promoted to become the first non-Dane to run The Lego Group as CEO this January. He replaced Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, who took over in 2004 as the first chief executive not connected to the Kirk Christiansen family that founded the company more than 80 years ago. Knudstorp is now chairman.
Representatives for all major media agencies including IPG Mediabrands, Havas Media, Omnicom Media Group, WPP’s GroupM and Carat (which won reviews for Lego’s European business in 2004 and the Asia Pacific region in 2015) declined to comment on the news—as did U.S. incumbent Starcom and strategic advisory firm MediaLink, which has worked with Lego in the past.
According to parties with direct knowledge of the matter, however, most of the major holding companies are participating in the pitch with Starcom defending. OMD was reportedly unable to compete due to a conflict of interest with Hasbro, which consolidated most of its global media business with the Omnicom network in late 2013.
Kantar Media’s latest numbers have Lego spending approximately $85 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, a significant increase over its $49 million total for 2015. Totals for other markets affected by this review are currently unavailable.