Ikea has been talking a lot of trash lately.
Ikea Norway’s most recent ad, “Trash Collection,” features broken and discarded Ikea furniture languishing in yards, trash heaps, and on gloomy hillsides. Then, the furniture is given a new life—repaired and placed in a showroom of its own—to illustrate how the Swedish retailer’s products can be upcycled to cut down on waste.
The new ad aims to promote Ikea’s offer to buy back furniture that customers no longer want, as well as to supply free spare parts for furniture that needs fixing. Ikea has already started similar programs in Scotland and Canada. According to Norwegian ad agency Try, more than 3 million pieces of furniture are thrown away every year in Norway.
This campaign is Ikea’s latest move to laud sustainability. In January, it launched an ad that depicted a giant meteor made of trash—discarded appliances, toys, single-use plastics—hurtling toward Earth. The only way to stop it was for people to change their lifestyle habits and embrace the ol’ trifecta of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then in May, the brand released a spot that introduced us to a little robot who’s trying to save the planet by cleaning up things like plastic bags and a toxic oil spill (alas, with no success). The robot heads home, sad and dejected, but perks up once it’s with its robot family, which is dutifully using reusable bags and other sustainable products, from Ikea of course.
In February, Ikea launched disassembly instructions for six popular products. That effort, combined with its furniture-rental programs and the ever-expanding buyback initiative being hyped in the new Norwegian ad are all consistent with Ikea’s People & Planet-positive strategy unveiled in 2018, in which the company committed to becoming fully circular by 2030. That involves designing products with reuse, repair, repurposing, and recycling in mind from the beginning; using only renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials; and eliminating waste.
Ikea products aren’t known for their longevity, so the marketing focus on how its products can be taken out of the waste cycle is smart. It encourages us to look more closely at our consumption while also acknowledging its own massive platform and responsibility in providing the tools to help individual efforts scale up. The company’s evolution was foreshadowed with its 2018 remake of Spike Jonze’s classic 2002 “Lamp” ad. In it, the Swedish lurker finally realizes that feeling bad about throwing out a lamp isn’t crazy at all.