Ikea Explores the Trials of Single Parenting in Its Latest Honest Take on Family Life

Åkestam Holst's new 'Where Life Happens' spot

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Having explored divorce, teenage angst and adoption in ads for its home country of Sweden this past year, Ikea takes the “Where Life Happens” campaign about modern family life into the realm of single parenting with a new :60 from agency Åkestam Holst.

After a long day, a single mother returns home—bags of groceries in her arms—to a house full of messy, oblivious teenagers. After surveying the scene, Mom is overwhelmed by it all and retreats back through the apartment’s front door to get some air on the balcony.

But then, it turns out there is room for optimism.

The latest spot, like the previous three, was directed by Martin Werner at Bacon. It has a similar goal: Rather than show glossy facsimiles of life, scrubbed to perfection—as so many marketers do—the furniture and home-goods retailer wants its target consumers to feel like it understands the entire range of their lives, not just the sunny parts, more deeply.

While not as formally clever as the divorce spot from last September, the new work gets all the details just right. The entire narrative revolves subtly around issues of food and cooking, with the kids making their own meals and generally being messy about it. This works nicely as a simple metaphor for the messiness of life. (Even Mom dumps her groceries on the floor at the moment of peak despair.)

Ikea doesn’t present itself as a solution to any of this mess. (The products, a few of which get onscreen price tags at the end, are incidental to the story, really. And there’s no real attempt to suggest they make cleanup easier.) Rather, Ikea is merely a witness to life’s imperfections—and as such, presents itself as a brand that can relate to what so many of its customers go through.

The new ad, like the others, has a 4:3 aspect ratio—an old-school choice in the world of 16:9. This is also purposeful—another way, as the agency told us last year, to get “closer to reality.”

Client: Ikea
Agency: Åkestam Holst
Director: Martin Werner, Bacon

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.