In 2014, the world was shocked to learn that the carefully coiffed scenes inside Ikea catalogs were actually not real photographs of real objects. At the time, approximately 75% of the photos were built with detailed, digital 3D models. They were fake—a way for Ikea’s global business to create marketing materials quickly and efficiently.
Six years later, Ikea’s prescient digital-first advertising is being pushed to new heights. Working with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo, Ikea Japan has released a series of ads and even a live installation featuring Imma—the popular Japanese influencer who happens to be a CGI creation herself. (Okay, she’s technically created from a real human model photographed inside a scene. Imma’s 3D animated head is placed on top during postproduction.)
Why is Ikea doing this? The campaign is to promote Ikea’s new Harajuku district store in Tokyo. Looking through the windows of the store from the outside, you can get a peek directly into Imma’s Ikea-strewn bedroom, rendered on an LED screen. There, she’s living her life: she sits on her couch, eats meals, makes calls, and posts plenty to the ‘gram. And you can see all of those social media posts made in Ikea’s room on Imma’s own Instagram page, of course, creating a very watertight advertising campaign built entirely upon a fictitious person.
Unsettling? Sure. But reality itself is an increasingly digital construct, and Imma is one of many virtual models currently on Instagram. A virtual model doesn’t even need a face to be effective, as the fashion label Hanifa demonstrated recently, when it ran a completely digital runway show in which the dresses themselves were filled with otherwise invisible, shapely silhouettes. Once a novelty, the use of virtual models is particularly useful during a pandemic. So don’t be surprised if we see a lot more campaigns like this one—without even ever realizing it.