Lego reverses bulk order policy following public criticism over Ai Weiwei standoff

Company said "misunderstandings" over previous rule not to supply bricks to those with specific agendas has led to change in position

Lego has done an about face regarding its policy on supplying bulk orders of its bricks following last year’s public spat with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The company, which last October refused on political grounds to supply Ai with blocks for a new project, has released a statement saying it will now not ask for a buyer’s "thematic purpose" before supplying the bricks.

"As of January 1st, the Lego Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects," the statement reads.

"Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear - if they intend to display their Lego creations in public - that the Lego Group does not support or endorse the specific projects."

Lego’s brand reputation took a hit over the incident with Ai. The artist vented his frustration on social media at the company’s "act of censorship and discrimination", with hundreds of consumers taking his side.

Furthermore, the matter led to people donating their spare Lego to Ai at locations across the globe, with the hashtag #legoforweiwei turning into a significant social media campaign.

Heaps of Lego have been dropped off for @aiww Have you donated your Lego bricks yet to support his art project? #legosforweiwei #aiweiwei #foamamsterdam

A photo posted by Foam Photography Museum (@foam_amsterdam) on

As a result, Lego has made the decision to change its policy.

"Previously, when asked to sell very large quantities of Lego bricks for projects, the Lego Group has asked about the thematic purpose of the project… as the purpose of the LEGO Group is to inspire children through creative play, not to actively support or endorse specific agendas of individuals or organizations," the statement says.

"However, those guidelines could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent, and the Lego Group has therefore adjusted the guidelines for sales of Lego bricks in very large quantities."

Ai welcomed Lego’s move on Twitter.

Lars Voedisch, at PRecious Communications in Singapore, told PRWeek Asia he welcomed Lego’s move as the previous position could have been viewed as either supporting or rejecting certain agendas depending on who the company chose to supply.

"Lego basically emphasises that it's an a-political brand that supports the expression of creativity - and that's the core of their brand. The new guideline is transparent to all and therefore an improvement," he said.

Ai’s Lego-based project is currently on show at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

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