• Ikea’s advertising guerrilla ordered to clean up after itself
Guerrilla advertising: a form of advertising which skilfully keeps the consumer unaware of what product or service is being advertised.
I’m sure by now that everyone in the industry has heard about the magnificent gaffe pulled by the good folks at Ikea. Still, it’s so delightfully idiotic, brain-dead, and outright stupid that a recap is almost mandatory.
Anonymous TV spots
In order to promote the publication of their new catalogue, Ikea’s creative agency, Zig, launched a “guerrilla” advertising campaign called Any Place Can Be Beautiful. The television spot shows an unmarked cardboard box sitting on a sidewalk. After a moment, hundreds of pieces of yellow paper, which look like Post It notes, erupt from the box and form a square on the ground around it. At the bottom of the screen appears a URL (www.anyspacecanbebeautiful.com). Although there is no indication of its purpose, the URL links to a contest in which people can upload photos of rooms they would like to have beautified. Visitors vote on the photos, and the winner receives a $15,000 remodelling by Ikea. (I’d link to a Youtube video of the ad, but there doesn’t appear to be one — a surprising oversight for a well-run viral campaign.)
The TV spots were supplemented by spray painting yellow squares on various sidewalks and buildings in Vancouver and Toronto.
Urban guerrilla ads called “vandalism”
While the commercials were merely puzzling and offered the viewer no idea what was being advertised, the real world spray paintings succeeded in putting the Ikea name in the public spotlight, as local businesses and city officials took umbrage at the company’s tactics. Having just painted the outside of his Vancouver skateboard shop on a Friday, Kevin Kelly said he returned the following Monday to find “a giant, bright yellow advertisement spray-painted on the front of my building.” While Ikea agreed to remove the paint with a power washer, the results were less than satisfactory: not all the yellow came off, but some of Kelly’s original paint job did. “[Ikea] can afford billboards or television commercials,” he said. “They are a major corporation, so to be putting their corporate logo on the front of my small business is absolutely ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, Howard Moscoe, Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee in Toronto, wrote to Kerri Molinaro, the president of Ikea Canada, asking him “to cease and desist in this type of public vandalism and to clean up the mess you have created.” Moscoe further chastised Molinaro, saying: “It seems incongruous that a company like Ikea, which trumpets their environmental responsibility would be so insensitive to defile our urban environment. I think you owe the city of Toronto and your customers an apology for engaging in a guerrilla advertising campaign such as this.”
Molinaro rolled over like a good puppy, saying that he would like to “take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to you, city council and the residents of the GTA.”
So that’s the recap. An expensive television campaign which fails to reveal the company being advertised, and a batch of graffiti that results in the brand being associated with vandalism in the media.
So far, so good. A relatively typical case of cutting-edge marketing.
Sad to say, however, it actually gets worse.
The URL, “anyspacecanbebeautiful” is difficult to remember and most viewers typically don’t keep a pen and paper on hand for such instances. I tried “anyplaceisbeautiful,” “everyplayceisbeautiful,” and “anyplacecanbebeautiful,” before finally getting it right.
The website is a horrendous marriage of bad design and obsession with Flash. The uploaded photos tend to overlap each other and are shown in random order. It is permissible to vote once each day for the picture of your choice, but trying to find any particular shot entails scrolling through page after page of pictures with no idea when the one you want is going to show up.
All in all, if a traditional advertising campaign was this badly designed and had brought about this much bad publicity it would be considered an abject failure. But since nobody has actually been arrested, and a few hundred people have found their way to the site, I suppose that as an example of experimental advertising it rates as a rousing success.
Zig and Ikea
Ikea Canada chose Zig to be their advertising agency in 2004. In 2008, Zig won $200,000 worth of advertising space from the Globe and Mail in the newspaper’s creative contest. Zig was also responsible for a series of ads showing Ikea customers leaving the store and running to the car like bank robbers, convinced the low cost of their purchases is a mistake which might be caught at any moment. While I have no figures on the effectiveness of these ads, I do know that everyone I talked to unanimously hated them. On the other hand, Zig’s ad for Vim, showing a woman who is about to clean the shower saying a sad farewell to her daughter, like a prisoner about to be put away for a long time, appeared to be a universal success.
Previous Ikea Advertising
In 2003, for their “Unboring” campaign a commercial from Crispin Porter + Bogusky (written by Rob Walker and directed by Spike Jonez) upped the furniture company’s “cool” factor with a spot showing an old lamp abandoned with the garbage on the sidewalk. As the photography and music build the viewer’s sympathy for the discarded, and remarkably forlorn looking fixture, to a peak, the Ikea spokesman comes on screen and says, “”Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you’re crazy. It has no feelings! And the new one is much better.”
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