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The Story Behind the IKEA Ad that Asked Magazine Readers to Pee on It

Åkestam Holst ECD Magnus Jakobsson on the innovative print ad that doubles as a pregnancy test

The Story Behind the IKEA Ad that Asked Magazine Readers to Pee on It

At first glance, this work for IKEA by Åkestam Holst looks like an ordinary IKEA print ad. But look closer at the tagline and you’ll notice something slightly different. It’s asking the reader to pee on the ad. The seemingly odd request is part of a promotion for IKEA’s membership club, IKEA FAMILY. If you apply a sample of urine to a marked area, the ad’s offer will change right before your eyes… as long as you are pregnant. 

What’s more, the technology developed for this project - created in close collaboration with medical tech lab Mercene Labs - could go so much further than the ad itself. It could lead to diagnostics for certain types of heart diseases .

It’s a pretty surprising effort for a brand that has been known for being a true innovator and pioneer – led by founder Ingvar Kamprad, who sadly passed away on 27th January 2018.

Intrigued to know more about the creative process behind such an out-there idea, LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with Magnus Jakobsson, executive creative director at Åkestam Holst.

LBB> What was the initial brief like from IKEA for this work and what were you thinking when you first saw it? Or was it more a case of the idea leading the brief?
MJ> The pee ad was basically a retail ‘appendix’ to a larger brand concept brief. 

But as with most of our work for IKEA we are constantly looking to see beyond the boundaries of media, and ask ourselves what it CAN be within these boundaries. In this case: can it be more than just a retail ad and still fit our overall brand concept ‘Where Life Happens’? Turns out, it could. That’s also what I like about it; it’s breaking all the rules, but is within the boundaries of both media and brand concept. 

The same goes for a lot of our IKEA work, our ‘Irresistible Pointless TrueView’ for example. That challenged the format of TrueView advertising, and turned something annoying into something you actually wanted to watch. And last year’s IKEA ‘Retail Therapy’, which was basically a retail campaign that re-imagined traditional SEO in its own way.



LBB> What was the inspiration behind this idea? How early on did the concept of a print ad to be peed on come into the conversation? 
MJ> The idea itself was actually presented as early as a year ago, in the beginning of 2017. It was part of a bigger presentation. After that, we had to make it happen. That’s when we turned to medical tech lab Mercene Labs, who helped us develop the technology for the ad. Naturally the technique is similar to a traditional pregnancy test, but it had to be developed separately to function as we wanted - as an ad highlighting a better price if you’re pregnant.

LBB> What was the client’s reaction when you pitched it? 
MJ> They liked it. It fits perfectly into our overall brand concept, ‘Where Life Happens’. A concept rooted in understanding and helping people in all phases of everyday life. And it’s a really innovative way to make people think of IKEA when they are planning or thinking about having kids.

LBB> Aside from fitting a pregnancy test inside a piece of magazine paper, there’s the fact that it alters the print on the paper after. How does that work?
MJ> It doesn’t alter the printed price, but a new price appears below the pre-printed price in the ad. This area of the paper is connected to the pregnancy test area on the bottom of the page. And shows you a better price on the crib, instead of the traditional coloured line in ‘normal’ pregnancy tests.

LBB> You teamed up with Mercene Labs on this side of the project - why were they the ideal partners? 
MJ> Because we have no idea whatsoever how to actually develop the technique for such an ad. Like with any idea, you will need some help to actually produce it. This time we needed a partner in medical tech.

LBB> Which magazine did the ad feature in?
MJ> It ran in a Swedish women’s magazine called Amelia, in the December 2017 issue.


LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them? 
MJ> I think the trickiest part here was actually producing the ad and making it work. The work behind developing the technique for the ad took three-four months to complete.
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Genre: Creative technology , Print , Strategy/Insight , Stunts