Minifigure 40: LEGO® Town [Advertisement Archive]

Untitled 7Forty years ago, we saw the change in LEGO® sets: the arrival of the minifigure.  Now we had articulated figures to bring our models to life: no need to remove the torso for our figures to sit down. As part of #minfigure40 I received access to a large number of media assets: today, I would like to look at some of the features of the advertisements in the LEGO Town/City series, one of the few themes to have been continuously available in some form or another for forty years!  The majority of these advertisements were placed in comics, or magazines featuring comic strip anthologies, and puzzles and kid’s news. They have been published in multiple markets – ands languages.  I have attempted to translate them as well as an online translation engine will allow.

The art style is typically similar to that seen in contemporary catalogs: certainly I suspect the early advertisements were shot at a similar time to the catalogs for that year.

1978: The Minifigure Arrives in Classic Town

When minifigures were first available, we were aware that they were available in several streams: town, Space and Castle.  However, they were not branded as such, rather continuing with the ‘LEGOLAND’ packaging that had accompanied sets of this scale for the previouslcouple of years.

Advertisements of this era all had a very similar art style, regardless of where they were published: with a cardboard cutout landscape; A collection of sets featuring road plates and minifigures populating the town layout.  During this first year, a limited number of sets were highlighted in each advertisement, as well as the road plates.

Denmark 1978:

Ad 1978_41.jpg
NEW! An idea for collecting at a pocket money price.
In LEGOLAND there are many construction sites.
LEGO is a new toy every day

Denmark and Sweden

France 1978

Ad 1978_38.jpg
Hurry up!
LEGO firefighters are already here.
Now LEGO has a whole “Pocket money” collection
Ad 1978_57
Breaking news
Fanfare! The LEGOLAND fire department in large-scale deployment!
Complete with a fire station, vehicles and an intrepid team – there are hours and hours of fantastic play opportunities for children from 6 years.
The new street plates for the construction of a whole city – and many other new LEGOLAND sets at the pocket money price are just right
LEGO is a new toy every day.

1979: Our Town Grows

At the end of 1978, our town was well set up with emergency services and construction. In 1979 we saw the expansion  with more sets depicting everyday life: a  house, taxi, garage, bus station and service station for a start. The advertisements showed an overview of life in the LEGOLAND town, with only a few focussing on specific sets.

This picture was apparently used in an ad in an Italian publication, Topolino, in 1977, a year before the official release of the minifigure, and 2 years before the release of the sets in question!

Ad 1979_38
1979 Year’s news already here! Build your own LEGOLAND City. LEGO is a new toy every day. For both boys and girls!

Another advertisement that appeared in multiple markets that year was this:

Ad 1979_37
There is always a lot to do in LEGOLAND city.
LEGO is a new toy every day.

The German advertisement focusses on the fire department needing new courageous members, while the Swedish and Italian ads focus on the pace of life in LEGO City.

Other advertisements that year focused on individual sets and their play features:

Ad 1979_42.jpg
Closed/Can be opened to play indoors
In the LEGOLAND holiday home you can play inside and outside.

This German advertisement is one of the few from this era where the child at play is included in the image, and the accompanying copy talks of the importance of the play for children’s development.

Ad 1979_47.jpg
Where is there already a city where children feel so good?
In LEGOLAND.
The city that children can build, play and collect.
Where else can your child fly helicopters and planes? Where else can you drive fire engines, sports cars, tankers, tow trucks, stripe and ambulances?
In LEGOLAND city, everything is allowed. Can be a doctor, a nurse, a sausage shopper, a gardener, a road builder, an architect.
Nothing is impossible, if only because everything can be rebuilt and combined to your heart’s content. Because LEGOLAND comes from the house of LEGO.
With LEGOLAND, your child will become familiar with the world of adults.
LEGOLAND city. The exciting world for playing and building. For children over 6.

The Early 1980’s

Over the next few years, we see advertisements focussing a specific sub themes of town – such as construction, the fire brigade and ambulance, as part of the town layout, rather than views of the the town as a whole.

Ad 1981_31
Then we break the road
Try the new LEGOLAND construction machine
It’s like living in your own town. For children from 5-12 years old
Ad 1980_39
Everybody counts!
The medical team is in LEGOLAND city
The helicopter is in front of the hospital in LEGOLAND city. The ambulance is ready, and the helpers with the stretcher are ready. Helping every second.
Accidents can happen in every city. That’s why the LEGO rescue team is also in LEGOLAND city.
LEGO is a new toy every day.

1982:

In 1982, there was a renewed focus on the new aspects of sets, but with others sets of the era in the background of the photographs:

Ad 1982_33
Are there any exciting letters?
The new LEGOLAND post office.
Ad 1982_38
Welcome to Miniland
Have you already seen the new fire-fighting helicopter?
LEGO is new and different every day.
Ad 1983_42
The new gas station is opened!
Now there is a brand new gas station to LEGOLAND city. And of course, vehicles, figures, road signs and new houses. Build this together with the city you already have – and you have new and exciting things to play with!
Ad 1983_46
Good news, the postman has already found our new home.
LEGOLAND City: Play in your own city.

Over the next year or two, we see a couple of ads vary from the previously consistent bright and cheery artwork, with the same developing city layout. The police station at night, looking over LEGOLAND City is a new experience, and then we have the brightly coloured ad for the new boats. With the headline being shouted by a cartoon bird sitting on a buoy, this is a radical departure from the previous advertisements seen.

The Late 80’s

As the decade progresses, me move away from the previously well established shots of our LEGOLAND city, and see some new and dramatic layouts, set over multiple levels. We Also see simple branding for LEGOLAND City/Stad/Stadt around this time.

We also see an advertisement for ‘Free Technic waterskier as a gift with purchase’ when you purchase a LEGO Boat.

Ad 1987_80.jpg

Ad 1987_32.jpg
Temporarily a water skier gift at every launch.
You get such a fantastic LEGO Boot for obtaining your swimming diploma, then LEGO will give you a nice water skier for free.
Cut out the barcode from the LEGO boat-box (write your name and address) and send it before 1 November 1987: LEGO Information, (Address). Come and see them in your toy store, because there are just 3 new, unsinkable boats launched
Ad 1987_27.jpg
Hurry up! Every second is important.
Exercise rescues with the new LEGO Hospital, Fire Department and 13 new LEGOLAND City boxes.

While these ads have some similarity to what we saw a decade earlier – colourful backdrops, rolling green hills –  the layouts are cleaner, with very little confusion as to what may be included in the set on display. We also we limited attempts to establish a narrative in these advertisements – slightly more specific than those that we have seen previously. During this period, we see few opportunities for cross promotion being taken.

Ad 1988_37.jpg
Attention – emergency! Clear the tarmac!
The pilot of the four-engine rescue aircraft turns on the engines. There is no time to lose. LEGOLAND city – as life goes by

Ad 1989_18.jpg

Ad 1989_21.jpg

And as the decade drew to a close, we announce the arrival of new play features: Light and Sound

Ad 1989_34.jpg
Leave room! Here comes Light & Sound to your bricks!

The Early 90’s

The early 90’s began showcasing sets as a part of a larger, multilevelled diorama, as an extension of the original advertisements that we saw in the late 70’s.

However, before long, we start to see a totally different art style: Large dioramas, spanning multiple levels, with model cliffs and mountains to give a split level effect.We also get a more dynamic logo for the Stadt/Ville/City label, in the red arrow outline. In late 1991-92 we see the LEGO System branding adopted.

As we move forward into 1994, we continue with the brightly coloured mixed media landscapes, and we see a much more obvious narrative entering the advertisements, as the hunt for smugglers gets under way:

1996

Moving forward: This advertisement features many of the city sets, with the added drama of a runaway truck, bursting through multple scenes with dialog to add drama and excitement.

Ad 1996_15

1996: It drives straight through the roadblock. “All cars to depot! Last car coming here!” “Help! How do you stop a runaway truck?”

1997: ” – from 5 years”: The Road to Juniorisation.

This year, a new tag line appears  – ” for all children from 5 years of age”/”Easy to build when you are five years old.” Advertising easy construction, big elements, presorted parts and their own construction manual, this is a shift from earlier town/city sets. Gone are the extravagant paper mâché landscapes of the early 90’s:  We see a return to simple drawn landscapes, more cartoonish than before, and the continuing rise of the composite photomontage that is so familiar today. We also see the ‘red arrow’ logo used in conjunction with the System branding.

Ad 1997_27
1997: “Alarm! It’s burning.” “Hey, stay cool, with our new trucks you can control fires quickly.” New! For all children from 5 years of age on LEGO system.

Ad 1998_11

1999: Globalisation and the rise of a common language

Ad 1999_29
1999:NEW: Talk of the town. LEGO City – that’s how easy your child starts with LEGO System; Because every single model comes pre-sorted and comes with its own construction manual. With large elements, the real world can be replayed simply and independently. For children from 5 years old

Up until now, all of the advertisements have only featured the language for the market in which they were published.  In 1999, we see an increasingly juniorised ‘City’ line.  Not ‘Stadt’, ‘stad’, ‘cità’, ‘by’, ‘ville’ or πόλη, but ‘City’ – the English word, in a diamond, with a dark city silhouette, with the sun rising in the background. Even in the German advertisement! This is where we start to see global branding appear in the advertisements.  Not only the City logo, but also the tag line: “LEGO Just imagine…”

As time has gone past, we have seen this early city evolve into ‘World City’ and finally to the LEGO City that we know today.

While documentation tends to remain in the local language, the branding is now universal.  Which allows for consistent packaging around the world, subject to local regulations regarding part counts and so forth.

Ad 2000_18Certainly at this time we have seen a simplification of the artwork – similar to that seen 20 years earlier, but involving  contemporary art and design: a change from what appeared to be newspaper article back in the day.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the first 20 years of LEGO Town advertising.  I have a soft spot for the material from the late 70’s, but I love the detailed landscapes that we saw in the early nineties. What about you? What was your favorite period? Why not share your thoughts below.

I am grateful to the LEGO Group for making the images available. Perhaps we will take a look at another classic theme soon.  Or maybe something else.  In the mean time, you can check out my survey of train specific adverts here. Until next time…

Play Well!

3 thoughts on “Minifigure 40: LEGO® Town [Advertisement Archive]

  1. Dear Rambling Brick (sorry I don’t know your name), many compliments for the great article. Next time you need a translation from Italian please take in consideration my help, if you desire, since I really appreciate to support your activity. I used to translate technical sheets from English to Italian for many years, for this reason I have the right skills. Best regards

    Like

    • Hi Daniele, thanks for reaching out, I shall bear you in mind. I had limited time and I appreciate that google translate has its limits. Could you please send an email to ramblingbrick(at)gmail.com… I might have a little task I need help with. – Richard

      Like

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