Ikea is one of those global brands that is strong creatively all around the world. And 2017 was no exception. If anything, the famed Swedish retailer raised the bar this year with inspired advertising, real-time marketing and stunts in so many of its global markets.
Below are 14 examples of its enviable work from 2017. All told, it paints a picture of a company ever more in touch with culture, consumers and next-level creative inspiration.
‘Irresistible Pointless TrueView Ads’
Ikea has been doing some of its best work in its home country of Sweden, thanks to Åkestam Holst, Adweek’s International Agency of the Year for 2017. The brand’s domestic “Where Life Happens” campaign has been marvelous in its depiction of ordinary lives, and an inspired YouTube campaign extended it further—featuring intentionally boring long-form prerolls that were so weirdly compelling, they were all but unskippable.
Ikea also excels at reacting wryly to current events. This year was no different, with the brand weighing in on lots of newsy topics—including, most amusingly, fashion house Balenciaga’s odd decision to make a $2,145 leather version of Ikea’s iconic 99-cent blue bag. Ikea responded to this with a tongue-in-cheek ad (from agency Acne and in-house group Ikea Creative Shop) explaining “how to identify an original Ikea Frakta bag.” Here were the step-by-step instructions:
1) Shake it. If it rustles, it’s the real deal.
2) Multifunctional. It can carry hockey gear, bricks, and even water.
3) Throw it in the dirt. A true Frakta is simply rinsed off with a garden hose when dirty.
4) Fold it. Are you able to fold it to the size of a small purse? If the answer is yes, congratulations.
5) Look inside. The original has an authentic Ikea tag.
6) Price tag. Only $0.99.
‘Allen the Peregrine’
To celebrate a store opening in Sheffield, England, Ikea honored the city’s most famous creatures—the peregrine falcons who have become beloved figures thanks to a webcam on St. George’s Church that follows their every move. Agency Mother London worked with local artist Jason Heppenstall to make a remarkable falcon sculpture, with a brand-focused twist: The 23-foot-wide bird was made from over 17,000 Allen wrenches—the tools used to assemble so much of Ikea’s furniture.
Åkestam Holst’s “Where Life Happens” campaign, which launched so memorably in 2016, continued with strong TV executions this year—including “Enough,” a spot about a single mother dealing with a house full of messy teens. The idea of the campaign generally is to get closer to people’s lives. This is embodied even in the old-school 4:3 aspect ratio, which Åkestam Holst has told Adweek is intended to help the ads get “closer to reality.”
Ikea got into the ASMR trend—videos that make various soothing sounds to elicit a positive ASMR feeling in viewers—in a 25-minute digital spot from Ogilvy New York, touting back-to-school products for college dorms. “We knew ASMR videos are very popular, especially with young people, college students and Ikea co-workers,” Ikea and Ogilvy told Adweek in an email. “So we put two and two together. Our products are designed to help people every day. Our dorm room solutions help students relax after a long day. So we thought of content that does the same.”
This was another real-time marketing gem from Acne and Ikea Creative Hub, in the same vein as the Balenciaga ad above. This time, Ikea had a fun take on Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting after it sold at auction for a staggering $450 million. “At Ikea, we believe anyone should have the possibility to decorate their home without spending their life savings,” says Morten Kjaer, creative director at Ikea Creative Hub. “That’s why Ikea offers a range of frames that work with any photo, print or painting you want to show off, even those from the 1490s.”
Ikea’s products are some of its best advertising, and that includes the new Ikea Place app. Built on Apple’s ARKit technology, it uses augmented reality to help customers visualize how a piece of Ikea furniture will look in their apartments, offices and homes. “I think for Ikea it’s an opportunity to, in a modern world, take a brick and mortar store and put it into a hugely technological environment but in an way that is very Ikea,” Simon Summerscales, director of communications strategy at 72andSunny Amsterdam, told Adweek. “We’re excited to help transform Ikea from a traditional world into a technological world.”
Mother London has been doing great Ikea TV work for years. This year’s “Lion Man” spot continued that tradition. Lions spend up to 18 hours a day at rest—a factoid charmingly brought to life here, as part of the “Wonderful Everyday” campaign. “But if you think they are lazy, think again,” says the spot’s voiceover narrator, Swedish actor Rikard Wolf.
‘The Changing Catalog’
Ikea prints some 200 million copies of its catalog every year, so there’s plenty to go around. But if you need to protect yours from thieving friends, Ikea Italy and DDB Milan had just the solution—fake magazine covers, downloadable and printable online, that fit the exact dimensions of the catalog. There was a cover about sheepdogs, one about lawnmowers, another about lampposts. One was devoted entirely to spoons, another to mushrooms.
‘The Fracta Collection’
The iconic Fracta bag got lots of play this year. In addition to Balenciaga’s attentions, the bag was also the subject of a fun campaign from Ikea Dubai, which began packaging instructions with it showing people how to cut it up and give it a second life—as a baby bib, an apron, a picnic mat or even a pet raincoat (!). “We simply printed a set of lines on the inside of each Frakta bag, turning it from ‘just’ a bag into a product with endless possibilities. It’s pretty much reflecting what the entire product range of Ikea promises,” says agency Memac Ogilvy & Mather, which dreamed up the idea.
We wrap up this list with a holiday ad released just this week. “Bottled,” from Ikea Canada and agency Rethink, tells the sweet story of a single mom and her son, who finds a charming way to capture all the love they shared throughout the year—all set to Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” “As a consumer, the takeaway should be that you don’t need a lot of money to have the beautiful kind of life you want and the beautiful kind of home you want,” says Rethink creative director Aaron Starkman.
UPDATE: The Van Morrison song was only licensed for use in Canada, so Adweek had to remove the ad.