Why the Ikea Ad That You Pee on Is (Maybe) Not as Weird as You Thought

Åkestam Holst gives us the backstory

Ikea
Headshot of Tim Nudd

Ikea is no stranger to generating buzz with its advertising. But the brand’s first viral ad of 2018 is unusual, even so.

The magazine ad, running in Sweden, encourages the reader to pee on it. If she does so, and is pregnant, the ad reveals previously invisible text offering a discounted price on a crib—using similar technology that pregnancy tests use to show a positive result.

Reaction has been mostly positive—the ad is undeniably clever, after all, and has gotten a huge amount of attention. On the other hand, isn’t peeing on an ad a bit … gross? Some think it is. Others, exaggerating just a bit, have suggested it’s a sign of the end times (as if we needed more of those).

Following our earlier story, we figured we’d go back to the agency, Åkestam Holst, and find out more about how the ad came to be, and whether there were any qualms—at the agency, client or magazine—about producing it.

The first thing to note, creative chief Magnus Jakobsson told us—and maybe this wasn’t clear before—is that the ad is not a coupon. “You don’t have to bring an ad soaked in urine to Ikea to get the discount,” Jakobsson says. (Whew.)

Rather, the discount is available to all members of the Ikea Family program. Thus, the ad really functions more as a simple, free pregnancy test—and encourages readers who are pregnant to join Ikea Family and reap the benefits. (Families who are adopting, of course, can do the same—it’s not a discount for pregnant women only.)

The idea came from two Åkestam Holst creatives, Evelina Rönnung and Hugo Wallmo. The agency then collaborated with the client and with Mercene Labs, who developed the tech for the ad. It was tested multiple times using pregnant women’s urine, which can be bought by labs for medical purposes.

Agency and client weren’t concerned at all about any negative feedback, Jakobsson says, given that the ad is “not any grosser than taking an ordinary pregnancy test.”

'People think it’s a strange, funny and likable ad. Well, mostly.'
Magnus Jakobsson, Åkestam Holst

“Not a worry in the world, actually,” he says. “We have worked on the ad for almost a year, believe it or not, and our client, Ikea Sweden, has been really supportive during this process. Publishing an ad that is a pregnancy test, and reminding consumers about the fact that you can get a better price with the Ikea Family discount in a creative and unusual way, isn’t really that controversial, when you think about it.”

Likewise, the magazine, Amelia, didn’t balk at running it.

“They liked the ad and were positive about publishing it, as it is basically an oversized, limited-edition pregnancy test,” says Jakobsson. “You just rip out the page and apply some urine to the marked area, and get a better price instead of a blue line.”

And how has the reaction been in Sweden?

“It’s been really good, as in the rest of Europe,” Jakobsson says. “People think it’s a strange, funny and likable ad. Well, mostly.”

It also fits well into the ongoing “Where Life Happens” theme of the brand’s domestic advertising, which has been celebrated for shining a light on ordinary, relatable people and plots.

“‘Where life happens’ is all about life’s everyday situations, and being pregnant is definitely one of those,” says Jakobsson. “We try to make every single [ad] under the concept of ‘Where life happens’ as relevant and creative as possible in every type of media, and this time we got the chance to explore print. Could it be more than just an ordinary ad for a baby crib stating a price? Could it prosper outside the boundaries of a magazine and go viral? Yes, it most certainly could.”

From the brand’s point of view, he adds: “Ikea takes pride in offering affordable solutions for all stages of life. This is just another way of providing a surprising and relevant offer at a moment in life when big changes happen.”


@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
{"taxonomy":"","sortby":"","label":"","shouldShow":""}