Ikea: the ads

From films starring monkeys and a flock of flying T-shirts to a Halloween parody of The Shining, Ikea’s recent ads include some brilliantly inventive and witty ways to advertise furniture.

In the UK in particular, recent spots feature some impressive visual effects and elaborate sets. For The Joy of Storage, directed by Dougal Wilson, agency Mother London teamed up with MPC to create a beautiful spot in which T-shirts fly over rivers and Arctic landscapes to reach a neatly arranged wardrobe, while Joy of the Kitchen featured a group of monkeys cavorting in a set that the agency had constructed in the Costa Rican jungle. A dream-like ad for Ikea’s bedroom range from last year, There’s No Bed Like Home, involved some ambitious stunts and CG trickery, while last year’s Carousel made clever use of a revolving set.

The brand works with several agencies around the world, from Mother to BBH Singapore and Forsman & Bodenfors. Each region has its own marketing team, which co-ordinates the ad activity for that country.

“In terms of the planning process, each country starts with relevant insights and knowledge of the market, together with global input in terms of focus areas, and then develops a business plan,” explains Peter Wright, country marketing manager for UK & Ireland.  The brand also chooses a particular area of the home to focus on each year (2014 was bedrooms and bathrooms and this year, it’s kitchens), and it is up to each market to decide how to communicate that externally, says Wright.

“Each Ikea market will have their own advertising approach but in the UK we try to be bold and creative… all with the desire to create a strong emotional connection,” he says. “All countries adhere to Ikea’s brand guidelines but it’s really up to each team to ensure that their advertising is consistent with Ikea’s tone of voice and that it is relevant for their market,” he adds.

While the brand’s ads vary across regions, there are some recurring themes, most notably, a sense of humour or a witty, tongue-in-cheek approach. BBH Singapore was behind both the brilliant Bookbook ad, an Apple parody which explains the technical features of the catalogue, from how to share it and how to read it, and last year’s Halloween spot, which pictured a small boy riding around the store at night in scenes reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. In August, Ikea Switzerland recruited literary critic Hellmuth Karasek to review this year’s catalogue, with some wonderfully deadpan responses.

Many of these ads for single regions go viral, inevitably attracting a global audience (Bookbook has had over 70 million views), something that Wright says is “embraced” by teams in each country.  The brand has also been making some interesting uses of social media and video platforms (Ikea Russia launched an innovative Instagram catalogue website for its PS range last year, encouraging people to share images of the products, and the brand’s US Youtube account features dozens of films offering interior design and DIY tips), as well as experiential marketing and pop-up installations (Ikea Australia partnered with Airbnb last year to allow people to sleep in its Sydney store).  The size of the brand’s online following varies across regions (Ikea US has 500,000 Instagram followers, compared to the UK’s 65,000), but Wright says social media is a key focus for each market.“Most markets have seen social media play an effective role in their marketing campaigns but social media really differs in strength from country to country. For the UK, it’s certainly an area of interest that we will continue to develop in the future,”
he adds.

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