The billboard posters show a depressed gnome in yellow jacket and red cap lying down on a stretch of rail track with the advertising copy "An end to feeling grumpy -- Ikea is coming.''
But the ad the company intended as a fun way of showing Germany there is more to home decoration than garden gnomes and cuckoo clocks has kicked up a storm of angry protest.
The sad gnome has won no supporters at Germany's national railway, the Deutsche Bahn, which said the ad could encourage people to try a railway suicide.
IKEA spokeswoman Stefanie Neumann defended the campaign and says the gnome was not in danger as he was lying on a model railway.
"We just wanted to show that IKEA is a bit different," she said. "We have cheeky ideas and our adverts are always meant as a bit of a joke. The gnome is really small and it is not lying on anything more dangerous than a model railway."
But her reassurances have not calmed some Germans who are worried the sad gnome could spark a wave of copy-cat suicides.
Schwandorf-based Federal Border Police spokesman Hans Rachwalik said, "This is a typical suicide posture with the head and legs against the tracks. In this year alone we've had more than 50 suicides and we are really trying to alert people to the danger -- especially in schools -- and then there's an ad like this!"
Ikea said the ads had done their job and 27,000 people came along to the store when it opened Thursday in Regensberg.
The company has no plans to withdraw the gnome ads. -- Mike Leidig