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The Lego Movie: Thinking outside the box

The Lego Movie opened with record box office in the US and, after clever TV advertising, is sure to build a good audience on its UK release this week

Picking up hundreds of Lego pieces after a messy child is a familiar scenario to most parents, but mothers and fathers must be feeling a little grateful towards the Danish toy company at the moment. The Lego Movie, which is released on Friday, is currently the must-see family film, and a guaranteed way to get a couple of hour's peace during the forthcoming school half-term.

And the marketing team behind the film are going all out with promoting it. On Sunday night, during ITV's Dancing on Ice, Lego took over an entire ad break, and put out a series of well-known commercials that had been remade with the famous plastic figurines. The charming three-and-a-half minutes saw ads from the British Heart Foundation, Confused.com, BT and Premier Inn replicated using Lego figures, including the original soundtracks, for a one-off special.

Viewers flocked to social media to praise the Lego-fied commercial break. Despite it essentially being advertising within advertising, it seemed that the public struggled to be cynical about such a wonderfully executed concept.

The idea came from the media agency PHD, which worked alongside Warner Bros, ITV and its sister agency Drum. The ads were created by ITN Productions and Bricksports, a company that recreates major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics with Lego. The brands featured paid for the ads to be made. One can only imagine how much of a headache it was to get all the businesses involved to sign everything off.

The Lego Movie might feature Abraham Lincoln and Batman as plastic figurines, but this ad montage boasted Lego recreations of Vinnie Jones (British Heart Foundation) and Lenny Henry (Premier Inn). And all the more endearing it was for it.

"To support the launch of a movie in which the whole world is made of Lego, we came up with the idea of transporting ITV viewers there," said David Wilding, the head of planning at PHD. "It's a testament to the strength of the idea, just how much passion, energy and sheer enthusiasm every partner in this project has put in."

The UK team behind The Lego Movie, which follows ordinary Lego construction worker Emmet as he is dragged in to a quest to stop an evil tyrant, must be hoping to repeat the success it has enjoyed in the US. It opened there at the weekend with a box office taking of $69.1m (£42.1m), the second biggest February opening of all time.

Another grand idea by a marketing bod cooked up to support the movie was to put on an exhibition called The Art of the Brick at Discovery, a museum in New York's Times Square. The impressive Lego sculptures by artist Nathan Sawaya (known as the Michelangelo of Lego), who gave up a career as a corporate lawyer to play with bricks, have also been getting plenty of attention online. Sawaya's work is just the latest thing to highlight the versatility of Lego, which, despite harking back to playtime in a pre-PlayStation age, achieved revenues of $4bn (£2.4bn) in 2012.

Most recently, the Danish company partnered with Google to create virtual Lego which can be built online. Naturally, many pointed out that this completely defeated the educational benefits of learning how to construct with Lego. But perhaps the app, called Build with Chrome, isn't exactly aimed at the little ones. After all, a breakdown of The Lego Movie's weekend audience in the US showed that 59 per cent of the ticket holders were over 18. These adult Lego-lovers might be embarrassed to own an actual set, but they're probably the ones constructing virtual cargo planes online during their lunch break.

For the bricks' fans young and old, it seems that everything really is awesome.