Ikea’s Digital Work: Often Oddball, Always Clever

Many in the U.S. know Ikea’s TV spots, especially 2003’s Spike Jonze-directed “Lamp”. Fewer may be familiar with its celebrated digital campaigns, most of which have dropped in Sweden, the U.K., and elsewhere in Europe.

It’s a good moment to get acquainted that work, as Ikea will be awarded Advertiser of the Year next month at the Cannes Lions ad festival. The company won its first Cannes Lion in 1991, and has since gone on to take 50 of the awards in all categories.

Ikea works with numerous agencies. The stable has recently housed Mother London, Forsman & Bodenfors in Sweden, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, DDB Germany, and Cake Group, among others. Perhaps because of this diversity, the interiors giant strikes consistently inconsistent poses – leaping seemingly at random from cleverness to absurdity to elegance, sometimes within a single campaign. But what the brand lacks in constancy it makes up for in impact: Ikea’s digital ads are rarely boring, leveraging as they do the unique properties of whatever platform, app, or format it chooses to activate.

Consider “Facebook Showroom,” a 2009 social marketing stunt in Ikea’s native Sweden that won it a Titanium Lion in Cannes last year. The effort used Facebook’s popular photo-tagging feature to drive buzz for the opening of a new store in the city of Malmo. To pull it off, Ikea commandeered the Facebook account of the store’s manager, Gordon Gustavsson, posting photos of its showrooms there and inviting people to tag product images with their names. The first person to tag an item won that item. As a result, people willingly attached their name to a Facebook catalog and spread it to their friends’ newsfeeds.

More recently the furnishing giant has tackled mobile and online video. It created a catalog app for iPhone that lets users place products within photographs of their homes via the device’s built-in camera. According to Cake, 300,000 people installed the app in its first month.

Also in 2010, Ikea started cranking out a frenetic series of 365 video ads – one for each day of the year. Called “Elke Dag Is Anders” (Every Day Is Different) and made for Sweden, the videos demonstrate the sheer quantity of the furnishing giant’s products – too many to fit within in a single spot or even in a long-running TV campaign. It launched August 31, 2010 and has approximately 105 ads left to go.

The furnishing giant’s display ads, an inherently conservative format, have also broken new ground. A “Banner Yourself” execution allows Web users to uncrate and self-assemble a banner advertisement the way they might a kitchen cabinet (video below, or you can experience it here).

Another banner was resizable, allowing users to click and drag to give the ad space a new shape – and a rotating collection of Ikea furnishings.

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.