Ikea is the Advertiser of the Year at the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This may come as a surprise to U.S. consumers (yes, you, recent college grad/struggling artist/cheapskate), many of whom might be fond of their Ektorp sofa, but don't think of Ikea as an advertising juggernaut.
In Europe, however, and especially in the company's native Sweden, Ikea has been responsible for some of the most lauded, discussed, award-winning work in the industry. The retailer has won over 50 Cannes Lions in the past 20 years. Many of Ikea's spots have been created by Gothenburg-and-Stockholm-based agency Forsman & Bodenfors. (See below for highlights of their Ikea work from the past decade).
The company also has a strong holistic brand approach and a design-driven culture. That is, the fact that you don't think of Ikea in terms of advertising would probably be just fine with the people from Ikea, says Filip Nilsson, chief creative officer at Forsman & Bodenfors. Nilsson says the company is actually somewhat skeptical about advertising, focusing more of its energy on product and brand experience. And, like other companies that have a whole-brand approach, it is run according to the philosophy of an iconoclastic founder, Ingvar Kamprad, whose "bible" guides the company to focus on being different than others in the market. What does that mean in terms of ads? Ikea wants you to be surprised.
"We always ask ourselves how can we challenge our partners and be innovating and surprising, but with a purpose," says Noel Wijsmans, global retail manager and VP of the Ikea Group, who will be on hand in Cannes to pick up the award. "Sometimes we also choose not to calculate ROI — we follow our instinct and have fun!"
Ikea is also known for working with a large roster of agencies around the world, rather than with a global network, the better, says Wijsmans, to connect the Ikea brand ethos to local markets in the most relevant ways. And on the brand's knack for making fruitful partnerships with strong creative agencies, Wijsmans says, "We really look more at the individuals than to the name and brand of the agency. One major requirement is that we need to feel that we share the same values, like humbleness, cost consciousness, simplicity, etc."
In the videos above and below, Nilsson talks about working with Ikea and the return of craft in the digital age.
Highlights Of Ikea Advertising, 2003 - 2010
In 2006, Forsman created the award-winning "Come into the Closet," a flashtastic interactive experience that allowed users to control on-screen characters with music and audio inputs. The agency followed up "Closet" with "Dream Kitchens for Everyone," an even more successful interactive campaign.
In 2009, the agency launched a new Ikea store in Malmo by creating a Facebook presence for the store's manager, Gordon Gustavsson, and uploading photos of merchandise; people who tagged the photos won the stuff. The effort won a Titanium Lion prize at Cannes.
Then, in 2010, the digitally savvy Forsman zagged with a gorgeous cookbook, Homemade is Best, full of photos of deconstructed Swedish treats.
Ikea upset the ad world in 2003 when Crispin Porter + Bogusky's "Lamp" won the film Grand Prix, besting frontrunner Honda Cog. In the spot, a strange Swede calls American consumers crazy.
In the U.K. last year, Mother London created a sensation when it released 100 cats into an Ikea store and filmed the results.
[Image: Flickr user ktpupp]