IKEA trolls its customers with new campaign

Who: IKEA Canada, with Rethink for strategy and creative; OPC/ Division Films for production (directed by Australian Nick Ball, who also helmed Extra gum’s hugely successful post-pandemic spot “For When It’s Time” a couple of years ago); Nimiopere, House of Parliament, Vapor Music for post-production; and Carat Media for media.

What: “The Troll,” an integrated campaign that represents the next chapter in the retailer’s “Bring Home to Life” platform. It’s a replacement for “The Beautiful Possibilities,” which was retired in September after five years.

When & Where: The campaign launched this week, running until April in both Canada and Australia. In addition to a two-minute spot running on IKEA’s owned and operated channels, there is a 60-second version running in cinema and TV, with 30- and 15-second cutdowns to follow, as well as social, out-of-home and in-store.

Why: As with so much of IKEA’s marketing in recent years, the campaign is centred around an emotional, visually interesting spot intended to forge a connection between the retailer and its customers (see here, here, here and here). The creative strategy is based on the insight that there is a link between how people feel about their home and their general wellbeing, said IKEA’s head of marketing, Johanna Andren. “We really want to create emotion, but also talk with a clear message that if you can create coziness in your home, it will impact your wellbeing.”

“You kind of stare at the same things every day, and when you change your home it can actually make you feel a little bit better,” added Rethink creative director Caroline Friesen.

How: The whimsical, dialogue-free anchor spot opens on a young boy riding in a car with his parents when they encounter a grumpy troll who lives under a bridge and forces motorists to pay a toll to cross to the other side.

Rather than being afraid of the troll, the boy returns to the bridge lugging one of IKEA’s Frakta bags filled with housewares. He helps the troll spruce up his home with IKEA items like rugs, lamps, picture frames, etc. Meanwhile, cars and pedestrians can now freely pass over the bridge, no longer required to pay the troll’s toll. “When home feels happy, you do too,” says the closing voiceover.

The subject matter was specifically chosen to create consumer engagement, said Andren. “It’s important for us to not be too expected, to give something more to the audience,” she said. “I’m very picky when it comes to the unexpected. If it’s too affected it will land in the middle, and we don’t want that.”

The spot was shot over four days in Slovenia, which beat out the Czech Republic and Poland as part of the creative team’s quest to find what Friesen described as a “fantastical, fairytale bridge.”

The hero troll character is also being featured in other campaign elements, including out-of-home and in-store activations, with TikTok and Snapchat executions also planned for February. “We’ve not done much with [TikTok] before so I’m quite excited to see how that works out,” said Andren.

Passing the test: Pre-testing found that the spot is delivering against key performance metrics such as brand recall and trust, said Andren. She attributed its success to several factors, including its use of a Swedish-sounding voiceover and highly emotive music, as well as the presence of recognizable IKEA assets including an Allen key (it doesn’t get much more IKEA than an Allen key) and a blue Frakta bag.

About that troll: The seven-foot tall troll costume featured in the spot was created by Czech puppet maker Martin Pec, who also created the fantastical characters featured in last year’s spot “The Journey” for real estate marketplace Zillow. The character was brought to life using a pair of actors inside the costume, augmented by animatronics for the mouth, eyes and ears and some post production wizardry.

And we quote: “We wanted to keep the twinkle alive with IKEA. We loved the idea of creating a character that people can see themselves in. Everybody can feel like a grumpy troll sometimes, so we wanted to create something that resonates with people and puts a smile on their face.” —Caroline Friesen, creative director, Rethink

Chris Powell