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.”
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.
“He has been Ikea Canada’s radio personality for over 15 years,” says MacDonald. “When Jonas came through Canadian customs (en route to the shoot), the officer immediately asked ‘Are you the Ikea radio guy?’ The police officers who closed off the Toronto street where we were filming the final scene enthusiastically asked if I could take a picture of them with Jonas. I, of course, happily obliged.”
The crew went above and beyond to make “Lamp 2” flow seamlessly from the earlier commercial and tell a complete story, with the soundtrack playing a vital role.
“It was important to have the recognizable sad music track up front, but we needed to shift towards happiness and optimism,” Starkman says. Oscar-nominated composer Ren Klyce, who created the original ad’s music, returned, contributing a contemplative track that manages to sound hopeful without seeming intrusively upbeat.
The team really sweated the finale, which “had to be perfect” in order for the new spot to mesh with old and bring the story around full circle, Starkman says. “We wanted him (Jonas Fornander) to walk into frame in the exact same way, wearing the exact same clothes. And even though he had the same coat as the original, it looked totally different prior to rolling because in the original the rain made it much darker, so we wet it down to get the color much closer.”
On location, prior to filming, Fornander rehearsed his lines and entrance repeatedly, toiling to polish every nuance and inflection. Perfection remained the watchword once the cameras rolled, and it took eight takes to get the scene just right.
“It was serendipitous that one of the most iconic Ikea spots was about a product that was discarded,” Starkman says, “and we couldn’t pass up the chance to show the lamp getting new life, which truly fits with Ikea’s values today.”
Creative Director: Aaron Starkman
Art Director: Joel Holtby
Writer: Mike Dubrick
Strategist: Sean McDonald, Stacy Ross
Broadcast Producer (in house): Anne Marie Martignago
Production Company: Scouts Honour
Director: Mark Zibert
Editor: Marc Langley
Director of photography: Todd Martin
Line Producer: Rita Popielak
Postproduction House: Rooster Editorial
On-Line: Ernie Mordak, Fort York VFX
Grading: Eric Whipp
Audio House: Mit Out Sound
Producer/Composer (Audio House): Ren Klyce
Audio Mix and Sound design: Vapor-rmw
Caleb Goodman, Managing Partner
Marie Lunny, Group Account Director
Sarah Riedlinger, Account Director
Becky Rudson, Account Manager
Lauren MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer, Ikea
Jordan Sequeira, Brand Manager, Ikea