16 Years After Breaking Our Hearts, Ikea Finally Tells an Abandoned Lamp’s Full Story

One of advertising's most iconic spots gets a sequel

The tale of Ikea's 'Lamp' from 2002 continues.
Ikea Canada

Some sequels seem dimmer than the original, but this one really shines.

And that’s pretty impressive, because we’re talking about a follow-up to one of the most iconic commercials of all time.

Sixteen years ago, Ikea’s “Lamp,” from Crispin Porter + Bogusky and director Spike Jonze, lit up the industry, generating massive buzz and winning major prizes, including a Grand Clio and Film Grand Prix at Cannes.

The original was a masterpiece of misdirection, telling the tale of an old desktop lamp, discarded by its owner beside trash bins during a late-night downpour. Shot and scored for maximum melancholic effect, most viewers couldn’t help but feel achingly sad for the appliance:

The somber tone lasts only until the last few seconds of the film, when Ikea brilliantly flipped the script. Actor Jonas Fornander appeared in the midst of the storm to inform us, in Swedish-accented English, and with impressive nonchalance, that “Many of you feel bad for this lamp. This is because you’re crazy. This lamp has no feelings. And the new one is much better.”

“Lamp 2,” which drops today in Canada, picks up the story on that same dreary street corner where the first ad left off.

A school-age girl passing by the next morning takes the lamp home, puts in a fresh LED bulb, and it lights up her life in magical ways, becoming a constant companion for reading, playtime and falling asleep at night.

And, in a genius touch, a familiar face once again has the last word.

“Many of you feel happy for this lamp,” Fornander says at the spot’s conclusion. “That’s not crazy. Reusing things is much better.”

Driven by the same deft storytelling as the original, the sequel supports Ikea’s “Beautiful Possibilities” platform that focuses on sustainability and diversity (while also selling furniture and household supplies). “Lamp 2” delivers its message in compelling fashion and can easily stand on its own, with no knowledge of the earlier spot required.

(A new lamp was created to closely resemble the original, which was itself a prop and never a model sold at Ikea.)

“It was an amazing brief from Ikea that centered around circularity,” says Aaron Starkman, creative director at Rethink Canada, which developed the spot. “There was some discussion around possibly reusing an older product or products, and right after the briefing a few people from the agency half-joked that someone should just pick up the old red lamp. It quickly became an exciting thought, and we wrote it up about a dozen ways before landing on the little-girl narrative.”

Several directors declined the project, wary of “making a sequel to one of the best directed commercials ever,” says Aaron Starkman, creative director at Rethink Canada.

Ikea Canada chief marketer Lauren MacDonald says she was a fan of the “Lamp 2” concept even before the agency presented specific treatments, and she championed the sequel during its development.

“I will admit, I was outnumbered in the room—not everyone liked it as much as I did,” she recalls. “We had some good constructive conversations internally: ‘Can it stand alone as its own body of work if consumers don’t remember the first ad?’ ‘Should we dare to take on the challenge of a sequel?’ ‘What if we can’t live up to the first one?’ After a lot of discussion and soliciting different points of view, we decided to take the leap.”

Once the story was set, several directors demurred, wary of “making a sequel to one of the best directed commercials ever,” says Starkman.

Ultimately, Mark Zibert—an Adweek Toronto Brand Star, who has directed striking work for SickKids Foundation and AXA, among others—signed on.

In “Lamp 2,” he evokes the perfect mood, respectful of the original but staking out his own visual territory with a sweet story that puts Briley Cafaro, as the lamp’s youthful rescuer, at the center of the action. She delivers a memorable performance, using mainly facial expressions and body language, while Fornander’s deadpan delivery provides a fitting coda.

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