World’s best ads ever #8: Ikea’s mournful ‘Lamp’ tricks viewers into feeling sorry for furniture
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
In 2002, Ikea pulled a bait and switch when it made you pity an inanimate object, then quickly chastised you for that.
The spot opens with a red lamp, obviously from Ikea, in the corner of a room. Sad piano music pulls on the heartstrings as the lamp gets cast out on to the street. It’s slow, deliberate and agonizing, before flipping a switch. A peculiar Swedish man approaches the camera and says: “Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you crazy [sic]. It has no feelings, and the new one is much better.”
This odd man, played by Jonas Fornander, was supposed to encapsulate the entire Ikea brand.
’Ikea Lamp,’ a 60-second TV commercial, was created by ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky and was the first part of the ‘Unböring’ campaign that wanted to position household items as fashion pieces that should be replaced.
Director Spike Jonze, perhaps best known for the film Being John Malkovich, focused on creating an ad with a tragic air. He has also worked on tip ads for Gap, Adidas, Nissan and Levi’s, and was aided by production company Morton/Jankel/Zander.
Fornander had never acted before being cast in the ad, with Jonze wanting someone who felt like “a worker at Ikea who’d walked out of the store and on to the street.”
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The commercial was some of Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s first work on the account after replacing Carmichael Lynch, which had been with the brand since 2000.
Alex Bogusky, partner at the agency, said: “[The campaign was] trying to convince consumers that it is OK to throw out mom’s old coffee table and splurge on a new one. While Americans overspend on ‘fashion’ purchases such as clothes and shoes, they still cling to a ‘till death do us part attitude’ with their furniture.
“Americans have as many coffee tables in their lives as they do spouses.”
CP+B senior producer Rupert Samuel said of Jonze: “As an agency we had always wanted to work with him, and he really brought [’Lamp’] to life. He turned it into more than what it was on paper.”
Lamp was flooded with awards, including a Grand Clio and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions. It was hugely popular with viewers, and rival agencies had kind words too. Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden+Kennedy, said: “Lamp hits audiences like a bullet between the eyes.”
It ran concurrently with ‘Moo Cow’ in 2002, which saw a coffee table hold the weight of a passionate couple. Again, the fourth wall is broken by our critiquing Swede.
The brand has since ‘flipped’ the script on its famous commercial now that it’s more focused on upcycling. The titular Lamp gets a happy ending in this follow-up.