West meets East in IKEA’s holiday campaign

Who: IKEA Canada, with Rethink for strategy and creative. Wunderman Thompson for CRM, production from Merchant Studios (directed by Tim Godsall), post-production by Outsider Editorial with Alter Ego, The Vanity, Vapor Music and Carat for media.

What: “Assemble Together,” a holiday spot featuring a modern twist on the traditional family-coming-together-for-the-holidays approach that is a hallmark of so much Christmas advertising. It was created by a team of people from a diverse set of cultural backgrounds and perspectives, from Indian and Persian to Filipino and Italian, as well as Canadian and Swedish.

When & where: The campaign launched on Nov. 8 and runs to Dec. 19 across broadcast, digital, out-of-home and social media.

Why: While advertising in general has become more diverse over the past couple of years, Christmas ads have for the most part retained many of the themes and characters popularized by decades of popular culture (i.e. very white, and very Western).

IKEA Canada’s head of marketing Johanna Andrén said the spot is intended to reflect the retailer’s deep understanding of life at home, while also conveying the message that how Canadians celebrate the holidays has evolved, with families now putting their own cultural spin on the occasion.

“Canada’s population is among the world’s most diverse, and we know that holiday celebrations have evolved for the many given cultural contexts and other factors including changing dietary preferences, household sizes, and blended families today,” said the company. “‘Assemble Together’ was designed to inspire the many Canadians who are passionate about holiday décor, entertaining, cooking, gifting and more importantly, assembling together with loved ones, celebrating traditions new and old, in their own varied ways.”

How: The spot features a Canadian family of South Asian heritage “assembling” (it is IKEA, after all) for the holidays, and features a blend of Western and Eastern cultures—with Christmas trees and lights sharing space with marigold strings and curries.

Rather than the jingling bells synonymous with holiday advertising, it is soundtracked by the famous Bollywood track “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” an earworm of a song that has garnered significant cultural import since its first appearance in the 1998 film Dil Se—including placing ninth on a BBC World Service poll of the top songs of all time (Cher’s “Believe” was eighth on the list, so debate its merits as you see fit).

The spot opens on a young women using IKEA’s iconic Allen key to assemble a chair, before showing the South Asian family joyously preparing a meal. The spot takes on a rhythmic tone, with everything from pot-lids, peppers, ponytails and the family Corgis bopping along in time with the music.

And we quote: “With the bright, lively energy and light that this spot brings, we’re celebrating the essence of the season, gathering with family and friends, enjoying good food, music and togetherness at a time when we all treasure it most.” —Johanna Andrén, head of marketing, IKEA Canada

Chris Powell