Would you watch a eight-minute-long ad featuring two twentysomethings unsuccessfully trying to make out on a sofa? Or an ad of a teen cleaning the dishes for almost five minutes? How about an ad of some millennials arm wrestling and watching TV for six?
Me neither–until I actually watched these absurdly long YouTube pre-roll ads for Ikea. Their creators, the Stockholm-based communication agency Åkestam Holst, call them “irresistible pointless trueview ads,” and they are as Swedish as Bergman and cod roe in a tube.
The idle ads seem to take a page from Slow TV, the long, linear format of television that originated in Scandinavia a few years ago. Slow TV programs usually show a long journey–like a train trip across the fjords of Norway–in real time, often from a fixed point of view. It may sound boring in this age of audiovisual overstimulation, where most people demand fast cuts and story plots that advance relentlessly toward a climatic battle full of CGI effects, but these programs can actually be quite mesmerizing.
Ikea took that trend and played it even harder. The ads, which play as pre-roll in front of YouTube content, actually invite people to skip them. The actors break the fourth wall and ask you–a sort of Peeping Tom who wasn’t invited to their homes–to leave. The twentysomething woman trying to have sex repeatedly tells you to go away (the man doesn’t seem to care as much). The teen cleaning plates tells you that this is going to be really long and boring, and begs you to skip the ad. So do the people arm wrestling. There’s no point in watching totally normal people doing totally normal things, after all. While you watch these vignettes, an Ikea product name may appear over a lamp or a sofa from time to time, along with the item’s price.
And yet, despite the length and the banality of them all, people watch them. According to the agency, Ikea’s totally skippable long commercials have an average viewing time of three minutes, something that most regular, non-ad content videos can’t claim.
Perhaps it is precisely because the ads invite people to stop watching that these viewers stay. Maybe people just wait to see if something happens in these perfectly normal and boring worlds. Or it could be that we’re so saturated in speedy content that we crave a moment of pause. Whatever it is, I watched them all.