Ikea again furnishes stylish whimsy in ads

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Advertiser: Ikea
Agency: Deutsch, New York
Ad Review rating: 3 stars

When last we looked, Ikea was fearlessly crashing through barriers, proving its understanding of contemporary lifestyles by depicting certain lifestyles that advertisers hitherto did not acknowledge--unless Sunny Delight did an interracial procreation spot and we just missed it.

At least two of those Ikea spots were magnificent breakthroughs, but now Deutsch, New York, is replacing them with a campaign that, in more ways than one, marks a stunning transformation.

Oh well. To paraphrase Will Rogers, Ad Review never met a morphosis we didn't like. The new work, though hardly daring, is still inspired. It takes notoriously austere environments and transforms them with bright, contemporary furnishings.

In one spot, three guys barge into a hospital operating room and begin to dress the place up with Ikea merchandise. By the time they're finished, the place looks downright homey. In another spot, they put a little Swedish pizazz into a New York subway train. Also very cool.

The voice-over: "If Ikea has everything to make this space more livable, imagine the possibilities for your home."

We're imagining. We're imagining, because, a) One Ad Review Centre is a little shy in the pizazz department and, b) this advertising idea could have some legs. Beyond the hospital and the subway train, perhaps subsequent spots will redecorate some equally dour venues.

A submarine.

A grade-school classroom.


Whatever. In the meantime, the spots succeed on a number of levels. First of all, considering there's virtually no copy, and more bustle than particularly interesting action between the setup and the payoff, these spots hold your attention rather nicely. Sure, these things are basically print ads on film, yet they still create suspense. You want to see what a brightly furnished subway car will look like. (Unanswered is the question of how the ambience might be affected by the overwhelming stench of urine.)

Secondly, this campaign is yet another iteration of the cultivated irreverence that has infused much of the chain's advertising at Deutsch and its predecessor agency. Ikea's boldness isn't the sort of outrageous, arrogant, in-your-face obnoxiousness that infects so much contemporary advertising--just an undercurrent of stylish whimsy, which, combined with its unique catalog and in-store merchandising, has imbued Ikea with a brand personality such as few retailers could ever hope for.

Finally, and most importantly, the campaign shows off lots and lots of the handsome, expansive Ikea line. Shows it off to rather good effect, too. The operating room looks a lot better than our office, for example. (Although, it looked better than our office in the "before" shot, too.)

These ads aren't as charming and courageous as the campaign they replace. There are no taboos being broken, no heroic depictions of interracial marriage and homosexual cohabitation that--with admirably little fanfare--previously announced the chain as an equal opportunity outfitter.

It turns out that from gay cohabitants to spiffed up subway cars is itself no great leap. Certainly the new ads are more product centered, and a lot less intrepid.

But in the end both campaigns speak substantially to the same brand benefit--because, in addition to style and whimsy, Ikea advertising also always stands for a world of possibilities.

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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