The In-House Life: Emma Perkins, Lego

Creatives moving to in-house agencies is a continuing trend in advertising and marketing. Here we hear from Emma Perkins, head of Lego Agency EMEA, about the pros and cons she has found from moving client-side

Emma Perkins has been head of Lego Agency EMEA since 2017, where she leads a London-based team of 55. Previously, she had worked at leading advertising agencies including CDP, Cheil Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi X and MullenLowe London, where she was ECD. Here, she talks about the difference between working in-house at a brand compared to at an external agency.

This interview forms part of a series from the In-House Agency Leaders Club, created by consultancy WDC and ex-CR editor Patrick Burgoyne, which will explore the unique opportunities and complications of working in-house.

IHALC: What attracted you to make the move in-house?
Emma Perkins: It’s the love of the brand that brings people to the Lego Group above any job title, and that was certainly the case for me. Working on a brand with a strong purpose is an amazing feeling, this year more than any other.

I had become ECD at MullenLowe London. I’d done 20+ years in ad agencies and I was looking at what the next 20 years would hold. I wanted a role in an organisation where a creative wouldn’t be pigeonholed and with a culture where you could explore creativity in a more varied way. That’s what drew me to the Lego Group. Also, being the mum of two little boys, I was looking for a culture that sees the whole person. Giving me space for the things that are important to me.

IHALC: How is the Lego Agency set up and how has it developed?
EP: The Lego Group has had some form of in-house agency for coming up to 20 years. Initially design teams sat with advertising teams who were also responsible for writing content for TV series like Ninjago [the animated TV series produced by the Lego Group]. Over the last four years, we’ve been regrouping a lot of the in-house creative talent from various parts of the group to build an end-to-end agency of 400 people from around the world.

We tend to attract people who are interested in working as more of a collective, we have many disciplines across brand identity, packaging design, promotional activities, experiential marketing, digital engagement platforms, social media and brand communication. The global hub based in Billund, Denmark develops global strategies and campaigns. We have four regional hubs based in Enfield, Connecticut for the US, Shanghai for China, Singapore for APAC, and in London, where we have about 55 agency team members and originate campaigns for our Western Europe and REEMEA regions.

Top and above: From Lego’s collaboration with adidas, which began with the release of the limited edition adidas Originals ZX 8000 Lego sneaker in September 2020

IHALC: One of the things that we talk about a lot is the challenge for in-house agencies of moving from being seen as a service department that just does task-oriented requests to being a real strategic partner to the business. How did the Lego Agency make that transition?
EP: I think there are three key areas that we looked at. The first thing is to say, which I think is true of most in-house agencies, that we have skin in the game. Our work has to work, we don’t work for fame. I’d say that is a difference between most external and in-house agencies.