Recently Greenpeace achieved a notable victory when Lego announced it would not renew it’s contact with Shell, allowing Shell to sell Lego sets at it’s gas stations. Greenpeace had been advocating for the end of this partnership due to Shell’s controversial efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic. Greenpeace’s effort can be encapsulated with a Youtube video created by Creative agency, Don’t Panic; that is less than two minutes long but already has 6 million hits on Youtube as of this writing.
It would be fantastical to believe that Lego CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, was moved to end his company’s partnership with Shell simply from the tears of watching this video. But regardless of personal tears (or more likely awareness that bad publicity isn’t cool) the video is awesome is because it encapsulates so many elements of great story.
Parody: With most audience knowing Lego in recent memories to the highly successful Lego movie, the viewer is reminded of this fact, most blatantly with the music (more on next entry) but with the appearance of Emmett and Wyldstyle. The businessman lego figure standing on his oil drill is also standing in as Lord Businessman, the villain of the Lego movie, ensures that it reaches the memories of the targeted viewers aka the parents who paid for the tickets to see the Lego movie with their kids and will decide if little Tommy deserves another lego set with another Emmett lego figure while gassing up their van.
Music: The Youtube music video of the movie’s hit song “Everything is Awesome” already has 23 million hits, (for my personal record I have listened to this song longer than I have watching the movie). The sharp ironic callback, with “Everything is not awesome” is not just a obvious jab at the original but calls out to the movie where the song was used for propaganda purposes (especially when sung by Lego workers as they destroyed Lego constructions Lord Business detested) to keep the citizens of Bricksburg complacent and not question what was beyond their walls. As metaphor it attaches itself to Lego’s questionable business with Shell even as Lego tries to maintain a wholesome family image.
Plot: The set-up of the Lego Movie is about Lord Business keeping his citizens happy while quietly planning to destroy their world by dumping glue over them. So what do we have in this video? Happy citizens? Check! Businessman pouring out dangerous chemical on lego figures? Check! A montage of individual lego figures, some of their faces changed to fear, creating a sense of dramatic enormity of the dangers of this chemical? Awesome Check!!! Wait, drowning lego children in oil? Not awesome 🙁
Focus: The entire video it’s entirely focused on the relationship between Lego and Shell, where the blatant examples are the Shell branded truck in one scene, or the wholesome image of Lego machines drilling for oil. This is sharply juxtaposed by the highly evocative imagery of oil slowly swallowing up the individual lego figures. The final ending of a LEGO flag of Shell dominating the sea of oil, is the perfect imagery to imply end result of any continued relationship between LEGO and Shell.
Sad, thoughtful, provoking, it almost makes you want to burn down a Shell gas station (don’t do that please, you’ll get arrested). Regardless of the debate about arctic drilling or how awesome the Lego movie is (to pre-empt any debate, yes it was) the way Greenpeace was able to market its campaign in all the right ways is a reason to applause, when Greenpeace succeeds they succeed.