How 2 Copywriters Convinced Strangers to Take Drugs and Try Building Ikea Furniture

'Hikea' videos began with a Craigslist ad

Earlier this week, an updated take on a famous anti-drug PSA posed the classic question: "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"

Nope. But what about your Ikea furniture on drugs?

Hunter Fine and Alex Taylor are two veteran copywriters who met several years ago while working at BBDO New York and continue to collaborate on the occasional side project. Last year, they were discussing the shared frustrations of building Ikea furniture when a friend noted that the experience would be particularly difficult for someone under the influence of certain intoxicants.

Using the power of the pun, they then developed the idea for "Hikea," a video series in which they recruited several willing strangers to go on camera, take substantial doses of psychedelic drugs, and attempt to construct new desks and drawers without injuring themselves in the process.

We think it's fair to say that they experienced varying degrees of success. In the first episode, things went predictably awry for Giancarlo and Nicole once the LSD kicked in.

Like so many potentially ill-advised projects, this one involved an awkward Craiglist ad.

"We thought, 'How do we get people to participate?' What kind of person would do this?" Taylor tells AdFreak. "So we put an ad on Craigslist a year ago, and it turned out that a lot people wanted to do it. We had to sift through the applicants and determine who wasn't dangerous."

The pair then shot the first two "webisodes" in the homes of the drugged-up volunteer subjects with the help of some agency colleagues, who handled film and production duties.

"When our partners found out about the idea behind the series, everybody was happy to participate," Taylor said.

Fine added: "We wanted to make it look professional, so we put the crew together, shot one video, did initial edits and eventually shot another one. Most of the past year was spent editing and making it right."

In the second video, a man named Keith had even less luck building his Ikea desk after consuming one eighth of an ounce of psilocybin mushrooms. "Keith had been on the Daily Show smoking pot on camera," Fine said, "So we thought, at least he isn't going to freak out and jump out of a window."

He didn't quite build the world's most stable desk, either—but all's well that ends well.

The clip contains several quotable lines, and we're still not sure what "a grease fire in my thought box" could possibly mean.

So why did these two creatives take time out of their very busy schedules to complete this project, again?

"We get a lot of pleasure out of our advertising work, but we like to do other things to get attention, entertain people, etc.," Taylor said.

The process of assembling Ikea purchases is a nearly universal experience for young people living in urban areas, so it felt like the right fit.

"Building Ikea furniture may be the only chance most of us get to take the tools out of the closet and actually build something," Taylor said. "We're not carpenters or builders, so it can go a lot of different ways. But it's something we all know; many people have built their desks after drinking a few beers or smoking a joint, and this is just the next step."

Before speaking to AdFreak, the pair sent the videos to a series of viral content sites and posted them on Reddit. The response has been so positive that they plan to continue shooting more clips … within reason.

"We don't want to repeat ourselves," Taylor said. "There are only so many drugs that people would be willing to do."

Regarding the filming and editing process, Fine said: "Really good spur-of-the-moment things happened. We tried to find the best moments."

One might say they succeeded—if by "best" you mean that unique combination of embarrassing and hilarious. In fact, this series may be the most effective anti-drug PSA we've seen all year, at least for those planning to do anything productive.