A Couple Live-Streamed an Ikea Sleepover Attempt; It Wasn't a Marketing Stunt

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A Chinese shopper sleeps on a bed in the showroom of the Ikea store on July 6, 2014 in Beijing
A Chinese shopper sleeps on a bed in the showroom of the Ikea store on July 6, 2014 in Beijing Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Sleeping over at an Ikea is apparently a fantasy for some people. Back in 2011, almost 100,000 people signed up for a Facebook group called "I wanna have a sleepover at Ikea." The retailer granted the wish for 100 fans in the U.K. There have been other store-approved Ikea slumber parties too, but an incident in China this weekend was not a marketing stunt.

A Chinese couple tried to camp overnight at an Ikea in Beijing and live-streamed their attempt. Despite hiding out in a wardrobe, they were caught by security guards and handed to police.

Ikea China said it "will strengthen security inspections to prevent such incidents." In a statement, it also urged consumers to help build "a safe and civilized shopping environment." (Retailers in China are perhaps more concerned about keeping things "safe and civilized" since a sex tape shot in a Beijing Uniqlo dressing room went viral last year.)

Ikea has 21 stores in China, a fast-growing market for the retailer, and Chinese families are famously fond of hanging out – and napping – on the sofas and beds. The pair in Beijing broadcast their attempted sleepover on an app called Yizhibo. Live streaming is big in China, fuelling an entire industry of people turning their lives into reality shows; there's a mix of sexy women vamping for the cameras, pranksters trying to get attention and people going about their ordinary, boring lives.

In this case, one of the group said he was inspired by foreigners who pulled off something similar – perhaps a reference to two buddies who spent the night at a Belgian Ikea and made a viral video about it. "I thought it would be meaningful and wanted to copy them," said a user calling himself Blue Fat Guy, in an online apology shared by the China News network. He added that he saw it as a playful, childlike game. It was not clear whether the two faced punishment.

China's live streaming is fuelled by viewers sending performers virtual gifts or emojis that are converted into real money and divided between the performers and the platforms. There has been a wave of crackdowns on the industry, especially censorship of lewd or sexual posts.

Still, there are at least 140 apps with live-streaming offers, according to China Tech Insights, a research project from internet giant Tencent, which has invested in the technology. The report said at least $254 million was spent on Chinese live-streaming platforms between June and August.

Marketers from Oreo to Maybelline to Durex have gotten into the game, too -- which may be one reason Ikea was careful to call the couple's sleepover attempt a "spontaneous" plan that it was unaware of. Durex was an early adopter of live streaming in China; in April it promised three hours of 50 couples in bed, but in the end nothing steamy happened, and many viewers complained of being led on.