Agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky,

Agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami

Creative director Paul Keister and his team were hanging out in his house, brainstorming ideas for the strategy that won them the Ikea account in 2002: You don’t have to live with furniture you don’t like. One suggestion was to depict heavy, old furniture as tombstones in a cemetery. But that “seemed too negative, and there wasn’t an easy way into Ikea,” recalls Keister.

A better route, they decided, was to show new Ikea furniture replacing an iconic old-fashioned item, a grandfather clock. Faded paint or wallpaper would indicate the antique was once there. Other ads would feature the silhouettes of a coffee table and a bed. But what seemed like a simple idea was tricky to execute.

The team—which also included art directors Alex Burnard and Mike del Marmol and copywriters Dave Schiff and Bob Cianfrone—looked for appropriate rooms but decided they could better control the environment if they built a set. Then they went to smoky restaurants and removed the artwork to see what the fade marks looked like. Finally, they installed a grandfather-clock cutout an inch from the set’s wall and created the tobacco-colored silhouette with a paint gun.

When the effect was finally achieved, photographer David Harriman shot the small Ikea lamp in front of the silhouettes.

Keister says subtlety is key to the ads, which won a bronze Clio. “If you’re one of those magazine flippers, I’m not sure if you see it,” he says. “But if you do see it, I think it grabs you.”