Ikea shifts focus from its shoppers to its furniture

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Ikea is introducing humorous ads that depart from its groundbreaking focus on interracial and gay couples.

The North American TV campaign breaking today via Deutsch, New York, focuses not on the Swedish retail chain's shoppers but on the home furnishings it sells.

QUIRKINESS CONTINUES

The new campaign retains an element of quirkiness but zeroes in on product, with ads featuring a gritty New York subway car and a hospital operating room redecorated by three burly Ikea workers with couches, beds, curtains and other home furnishings. In the subway spot, the workers redo the car as it travels between stops, exiting as a bewildered group of commuters climbs on at the next station.

"We were looking for something fresh," said Karen Beckman, senior VP-group director at Deutsch. "Ikea is about providing solutions, so we took places that were extremes ... [and converted them] into comfortable living spaces."

Added Sara Loos, North American director of marketing for Ikea, "It's more than understanding who you are at heart--black, white, gay, in a mixed marriage. Now it's time to move to the next step."

Ms. Loos said Ikea will run the campaign at least through the end of the year and possibly through next year as well: "This campaign has a lot of legs. This could go for a long time."

Ms. Beckman said Ikea currently has no plans to revisit the approaches of past creative, which won praise from critics for subtly shattering social taboos.

The first work in the new campaign introduces Ikea's fall 1998 collection. Commercials will also be dubbed in French to run in some areas of Canada.

IKEA PRINT EFFORT

Deutsch is also creating a print campaign for Ikea, launching in October. Those ads will focus on Ikea's kitchen and business furnishings, which for the first time will be available in all Ikea stores across North America.

Ms. Loos said print will differ from TV as the company looks to expand the brand's consumer reach. Ikea is "reaching a different customer, older and with a higher income," she said.

Ikea has 12 stores in the U.S. and seven in Canada. These outlets recorded sales of $531 million for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 1996, up 9.5% from the previous 12-month period.

Deutsch has handled Ikea's U.S. creative and media account since 1989. The new ads, though, are the first new effort from Deutsch since the agency won the retailer's entire North American account at the end of April.

OCEAN SPRAY CAMPAIGN

Deutsch also retained Ikea's $40 million media buying business in April after a review.

Additionally, Deutsch was tapped earlier this year to create Ikea's World Wide Web site. Over the next few months, Deutsch will launch the company's global corporate Web site and a North American gateway site--which will lists stores, hours, and product and pricing information.

The site will not be transactional.

"Our core concept rests on people coming to the store," Ms. Loos said. "It's a whole experience. That's our heart and soul."

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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