IKEA recreates beloved spot for TikTok debut

IKEA Canada has a stated goal of becoming a circular business by 2030, an idea that apparently extends to its advertising.

The home goods retailer has updated one of its most famous commercials to mark its TikTok debut. Developed by Dentsu Creative, “Start the Phone” is a shot-for-shot remake of the famous 2005 spot “It’s Not a Mistake” (better known as “Start the car,”), which features a woman trying to make a quick getaway after mistakenly believing she’s been undercharged after checkout.

Directed by Mark Gilbert, the original spot, created by the now-defunct agency zig, was enormously successful, with its catchphrase “start the car” even entering the lexicon as shorthand for getting a great deal.

In 2016, it was selected as one of the country’s 10 essential ads by TIFF as part of its list of Canada’s 150 definitive works spanning animation, documentaries, feature films and television, where it was surrounded by advertising heavyweights including “The Rant” and “Dove Evolution.”

The new spot, which became the brand’s first official TikTok post on March 1, was shot at IKEA’s Etobicoke location, and features a woman (played by a longtime IKEA employee) opening her phone to discover that the home furnishings retailer is now on the popular social platform. She bolts from the store and begins yelling at people to “start the phone.”

The “enduring humour” of the 2005 spot aligns with the entertaining tone of TikTok, said Kristin Newbigging, integrated media manager with IKEA. “The spot often comes up in brand and creative conversations and this clever, modern revival seemed like a great fit for this platform.”

“It’s always fun to bring back something nostalgic and well loved, especially in the TikTok space—which has proven to have a lot of heart for revivals and nostalgia,” added Dentsu Creative’s executive creative director, Max Sauté. “That being said, you do always run the risk that it doesn’t ‘land’ with your audience. In our case, they seem to remember it and have a lot of heart for bringing back the original spot.”

In fact, the TikTok comments section suggests that consumers are glad to see the spot return. “OMG the iconic commercial,” “Best IKEA commercial ever,” “The commercial that lives rent-free in my mind. Love it,” and “Probably my favourite commercial of all time. So glad it’s been modernized” were just some of the comments accompanying the post.

The #IKEACanada hashtag had been viewed more than 50 million times on TikTok prior to its March 1 debut, said Newbigging. “[W]e’re excited to jump in and engage directly with this fast-growing audience, while embracing the humour, entertainment and trending features that make TikTok completely unique.”

Dentsu has been leading content for IKEA’s social channels for the past year, while Rethink continues to lead creative and Carat handles media. The brand has amassed just over 3,000 followers and more than 20,000 likes since last week’s TikTok debut.

It’s not the first time a brand has revisited a beloved ad for a new generation of consumers. Last year’s “Where’s the Bacon?” campaign from Wendy’s Canada was a virtual recreation of the QSR’s beloved “Where’s the Beef?” advertising from the 1980s, while Coca-Cola revisited its famous 1980 spot starring the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Mean” Joe Green with an updated version starring Troy Polamalu.

Alka-Seltzer, meanwhile, brought back a popular early ’70s spot featuring the iconic line “Try it, you’ll like it” in a 2006 spot featuring Kathie Griffin (it had previously resurrected another ’70s spot featuring a similarly iconic line, “I can’t believe I ate that whole thing,” with a new version featuring Everybody Loves Raymond stars Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts.)

So, who’s ready for a remake of Canadian Tire’s “Bike Story,” this time featuring an electric scooter?

Chris Powell