I’m going to start this with a disclaimer. My wife gets Greenpeace information emailed to her and together we both donate to the organisation each year. We support many of their campaigns and believe they are a great organisation who is doing a worthy job. And we thank them for their drive to end the slaughter of whales. But their latest campaign leaves a bad taste in my mouth…
Have you seen the video that Greenpeace produced to promote their campaign to get Lego buying parents to stop buying the Shell branded products and protest against the relationship between these two companies?
I would have loved to embed it but Warner Bros and YouTube have blocked it because Greenpeace used a slowed down version of the song Everything Is Awesome for The Lego Movie over some “footage” of a stop-motion Lego Arctic being inundated with oil thanks the drilling in that area by Shell. It seems that Greenpeace did not get permission to use the song by Warner Bros Publishing company.
For those who know that I’m a stickler for obeying copyright rules (no I would NOT download a car) seeing that I have received income for my own copyright protected songs, one might assume that’s my beef with Greenpeace (beef might be a bad choice of words seeing that the cliché Greenpeace support is vegetarian or vegan). But that’s not why I am annoyed at them.
(Editor’s note; since I started writing this, Greenpeace have successfully uploaded it to Vemeo who are hosting it even though I don’t believe that Warner Bros have given permission for this to be used. I have embedded it below but by the time this is published, or by the time you read this, Vemeo might be force to take it down)
What Greenpeace want is for Lego to stop their relationship with Shell because they think that Lego is facilitating Shell’s desire to be seen as a family friendly and environmentally friendly company by teaming up with the child friendly Lego.
Now when I started plotting (not evil plotting, but you know, planning this as a blog post) my words to put into this, a debate was had between me and one of my fellow dad bloggers; Henry from the aptly titled Henry’s Blog. He beat me to the punch-line and released his “I agree with Greenpeace in this argument*” piece before I could finish this. (Hey, I’ve had a fairly busy July, okay?)
At the crux of Henry’s argument is this;
“In this day and age, does Lego really need a relationship with any company? I’d argue the answer is no, unless it aids sales. Sure, they have partnerships with major corporations like Disney, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox and others – but all of those are because the sets based on those brands sell well. Do Shell sets sell? Not likely.”
Please go and read his full post about it for a juxtaposed opinion. It’s really a good read even if I don’t agree with him. Henry has also linked in Greenpeace’s full explanation behind their rationale of attacking Lego. I was going to put that in mine but I think in the effort to encourage you to read his post for the opposing view, I’m not going to do that.
Now at the crux of my own argument is this; Why Does Greenpeace Think We Are Raising Our Children To Be Sheep? Yes, for those playing at home, that IS the name of this post and that phrase sums up in one line my own thinking here.
Lego has been manufacturing Shell branded products since the 1960s with some of their most prominent sets including the (Lego Set #6378) Shell Service Station being produced and sold from 1986 through to the early 1990s. I mentioned that set in particular because I owned that one. Yes, that’s right, someone who grew up playing with a Shell branded Lego set grew up to be someone who donated to Greenpeace and supports their causes.
And it doesn’t stop there. Shell have been a sponsor of many Ford drivers and teams within the Australian V8 Supercar competition for many years. Will Greenpeace expect that relationship to end? Many parents take their kids to watch those cars go round and round and round the track. The same can be said for their branding of Ford in the NASCAR Series as well. Shell also have a relationship with Ferrari that goes back many decades in the Formula One competition. Ask many young kids which car they’d own if they won the lottery and Ferrari will be the response by many kids.
Now sure, many of those kids WILL be dedicated to Shell and maybe they might use that brand of service station to refuel their cars when it’s their turn to become drivers. And maybe, like what happened with me this very morning, although I decided not to use Shell so that my conscience is clear for writing this article about my support for their continued relationship with Lego, I was forced to fill up at one of their branded petrol stations this morning because I was on the National Highway en route to our nation’s capital for work and my station of choice was unable to provide fuel due to a computer glitch so I was forced to use the Shell 57kms down the highway with 100kms of fuel to go and the next fuel stop was 112kms away.
What I am trying to say with this is, I don’t think that just because kids play with something that they will be brainwashed into “towing the party line” all the way through to their adulthood. They will learn about the world through reading and watching documentaries and listening to songs by artists who will help shape them into decent human beings.
Not every girl who plays with Barbie wants to conform to the negative stereotypes that Barbie’s distractors believe she promotes such as materialism, body image complexes or anti-feminism thoughts (remember that Simpson episode about Lisa Lionheart?)
So should I let my kids play with a Shell branded petrol station or will that brainwash them into liking Shell? Why not? They will drive past many Shell Shops in the back seat of my car. And they might even be in my car next time I am forced to stop at one of their service stations to refuel.
I know people who were devotee McDonald’s customers in their youth that now try to avoid taking their own kids to the Golden Arches. Somehow, even though THEY were customers eating at an “evil establishment” like that, they somehow discovered on their own that this “Family Restaurant” was not for them or their family.
But I wonder, when their own kids grow up, start hanging out with friends, will they be able to stop them from hanging out at Maccas with their peers? And even if those kids do end up eating fast food that their parents don’t want them to, will they at some point in time decide that junk food is no longer for them?
If Greenpeace’s campaign is successful and they do convince Lego to drop their friendship with Shell, does that mean anything in the scheme of things? Does it mean that the child that might have been bought a Shell branded Lego service station instead of Lego’s fictional petroleum gasoline brand of Octan will never stop at a Shell station? Chances are, not likely. And seeing that Lego produce more Octan branded sets than Shell (although Lego’s agreement with Shell is part of a wider deal that involves future Lego Ferrari sets that will carry the Shell logo on them), will that mean that kids will be on the lookout for the real life Octan service stations to fill their cars in the future? Of course not.
So I see this heavy handed approach by Greenpeace to prevent a business deal going ahead to be pointless and frivolous. And I truly wonder if a successful block of this deal will amount to anything.
What do you think? Should Lego ditch their friendship with Shell?
*That is not the title of Henry's post, I just write that as the link to his post.