Ad of the Day: How Did People Instagram in the 18th Century? Ikea Envisions Just That

In a stunning bit of Masterpiece Theater addressing a very modern problem

Headshot of Angela Natividad

It's dinner time! But wait—don't dig in yet. Somebody needs to take a picture first. 

Ikea's latest campaign, "Let's Relax," takes a shot at how our compulsion to socialize—and compete—has invaded the haven of home. Created for AOL Platforms, this first film marks a surprising departure from the Swedish brand's typical marketing fare, which tends to stick to our own century (if not future ones).

In this case, we open on an 18th century family at table. The feast is copious, and Dad's fingertips are bouncing expectantly off one another. A little girl, eager to start, grabs a piece of fruit and prepares to take a bite. 

"Uh-uh!" Dad snaps. The girl gives her sister an exasperated, familiar look—and a painter is ushered in to immortalize the meal while everyone waits.

That would already have been an OK gag, but it doesn't end there—not by a long shot.

Once the painter is through, the resulting tableau does the rounds of the local community before finally getting a significant eyebrow raise from the dandied king of aristocrats. That response trickles all the way back down to the family with a well-earned thumbs up, and finally—finally!—everyone can eat. 

"It's a meal. Not a competition," the film concludes, bouncing back into modernity, where that same father is Instagramming dinner over his waiting family. "Let's relax," says the onscreen line. 

The costumes and little details—including two men preparing to duel—are delightful, and the insight is good, too. The problem with always-on social culture isn't just that we wait for somebody to perfectly capture a meal; it's that they're capturing it for others, a crowd of invisible faces who've somehow taken precedence over those who are present. And that's where this film really shines.

The insight stems from Ikea's latest Life at Home report, which tells us that, in Shanghai, 49 percent of respondents think it's more important to have good Wi-Fi than to have social spaces at home, so they can nurture relationships without having to be out. 

Before the internet was mainstream and smartphones secured the last coffin nail, closing your front door meant shutting out the world. Now, we socialize around the clock. It isn't just a way to pass idle time; it's competitive, increasingly more perfectionist and fraught with FOMO. It's become a job—not just for you but for everyone around you. 

The goal of "Let's Relax" is to seduce us away from our cable tethers and remind us of "the joy of cooking, eating and being together," Ikea says. In addition to teaching us how to recapture peace of mind (the rarest of Pokemon!), future iterations of "Let's Relax" will address the expectations and realities of "augmented relationships," like how 73 percent of people feel more at home when they cook … but 42 percent lack the time to cook daily, and potentially even feel intimidated by the perfection that "social" cooking demands in our Likes-addled brains.

The goal will be to address these twitchy burdens, and hopefully help divest us of them. Possibly while selling us tables—which the study calls "an enabler for social gatherings," an euphemism so frilly, it rivals the costumes we've seen here. 


Client: Ikea

Agency: Acne

Creative Director: Johan Holmgren

Executive Producer: David Olsson

Art Director: Cecilia Dufils

Copywriter: Markus Bjurman

Creative (Ikea): Fredrik Preisler, Katie Copeland

Creative Director (Ikea): Morten Kjaer

Head of Planning (Ikea): Morten Lundholm

Project Manager (Ikea): Mia Malmström

Producer: Fredrik Skoglund

Director: Tompa & Rondo

Director of Photography: Anders Jedenfors

Final Art: Oliver Juan

Production Company: Acne

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.