IKEA’s Lauren MacDonald, Rethink’s Mike Dubrick and director Mark Zibert on giving an advertising classic a new lease of life
Spike Jonze’s ‘Lamp’ commercial for IKEA is one of the advertising industry’s most revered pieces of filmmaking. Directed by Spike Jonze and launched in 2002, Lamp told the story of an old, unneeded lamp, tossed out in the trash. It managed to make leaky-eyed viewers feel sorry for an inanimate object and scooped the Film Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in 2003.
IKEA Canada, along with its agency Rethink, has brought this early noughties gem back to life, but with a twist. ‘Lamp 2’, which was directed by Mark Zibert through Scouts Honour, uses the lamp as a metaphor to encourage people to recycle and reuse older projects. The creative and production team went to great lengths to stay meticulously true to the original, from building an exact model of the original lamp from scratch to recreating a crack on the curb next to the lamp and getting Jonas Fornander - who starred in the Jonze’s original Lamp and is something of a radio celebrity in Canada - in again to conclude the spot in fitting fashion.
LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with IKEA Canada CMO Lauren MacDonald, Rethink partner and creative director Mike Dubrick, and director Mark to find out more.
LBB> What kind of brief did you present Rethink with and what was the strategic thinking behind it?
Lauren> The brief built on our existing brand platform, the Beautiful Possibilities, which launched exactly a year ago. The Beautiful Possibilities is an optimistic lens through which to look at the world, both inside the home and outside. This phrase encapsulates how IKEA sees the world, which aligns to our vision ‘To create a better everyday life for the many people’. In June, IKEA released its new People + Planet strategy which outlined ambitions to be a completely circular business by 2030. We saw this as an opportunity to anchor the next chapter of the Beautiful Possibilities. For such a bold ambition, we required a bold campaign.
LBB> Mike, what did the idea hit you to make a sequel to Lamp? Was it in discussions for a while or more of a lightbulb moment?
Mike> The idea came from a great brief. IKEA is making a huge shift towards sustainability and creating products from renewable and reused materials. They really wanted to shine a light on that. We thought, what better way to talk about IKEA's commitment to re-using items than putting one of the best ads of all time to re-use?
LBB> How does this campaign fit into IKEA Canada’s Beautiful Possibilities platform and IKEA’s global People + Planet strategy?
Mike> Like I said, IKEA is making a huge shift towards sustainability. They really are walking the walk. Everything from sourcing materials, to renewable material products, to putting solar panels on the roofs of their stores. It's pretty rare to see a brand be brave enough to encourage consumers to reuse products, but that's all part of their willingness to try to do their part.
LBB> Lamp is so iconic and considered a classic within the advertising industry - how did you ensure that IKEA customers got the link to the older spot? Or was it more about making sure that the spot had the power to stand on its own?
Lauren> This is a great question and one that we also asked ourselves. We had many internal debates about whether the sequel could stand on its own and whether or not we should dare to create a sequel for one of the most beloved IKEA ads of all time. In the end, we decided to take the leap! We ‘teased’ the original lamp ad on social channels a few days before we went live with our sequel to build nostalgia and momentum. The response has been overwhelmingly positive to the sequel! The consumer response is loud and clear. They love how we’ve evolved as a business, a brand, and how we leveraged an old classic to demonstrate our evolution.
Mike> Both actually. We wanted to make sure the spot could stand alone and be powerful on its own. But of course, knowing the original makes it that much better. In the new spot, there are lots of nods to the original; even mimicking some angles and camera moves. But we also re-aired the original in Canada and promoted it through social leading up to the launch of Lamp 2.
LBB> Why do you think the original was so well loved?
Mike> Because it's perfect. Everything from the casting to the music, the direction, editing, the choice of lamp. It was meticulously crafted. And, it's the greatest misdirect of all time. Even after watching it 1,000 times ‘Jonas’ still makes you smile when he calls you ‘crazy’.
LBB> What kind of pressure did you feel to live up to the original spot?
Mike> Everyone on the project poured their heart and soul into this. We owed it to IKEA for believing in the idea and we owed it to CP+B to do justice to the original. We had to get it right. I hope we did.
LBB> Jonas Fornander features in the new spot! How did you track him down? Am I right in thinking that he’s radio personality in Canada?
Lauren> You’re correct! We’ve been working with Jonas for over 15 years and his radio personality and voice are very well known by the Canadian public. He is certainly a bit of a celebrity in his own right in Canada. Some of the social media responses related to Jonas are really funny ‘OMG we get to see the guy that does the IKEA radio voice’ and ‘I can now sleep knowing it (the lamp) has a good home… great commercial IKEA and it was great to see the man with the famous IKEA voice’.
Mike> We tried to be meticulous about all the details. Tracking down the original lamp, finding the original composer (Ren Kylce), we even recreated the crack on the curb where the lamp is sitting in the rain. And of course, Jonas. That was the easy part actually. Jonas is a household voice in Canada. He's been the voice of IKEA for over 15 years.
LBB> Why was Mark Zibert perfect to helm the spot?
Mike> We've wanted to work with Mark for a while now and this really was the perfect project for him. Besides being an amazing talent, you want to work with good people, and Mark is one of the best. It was great to collaborate with him on the project. He gave everything to this.
LBB> Mark, what were your initial thoughts when this job first came in? Why was it something you were keen to get involved in?
Mark> I was barely out of photography school when the original aired and directing was not even on my radar yet. But even then I remember appreciating the ‘Ikea Lamp Commercial’ as something great. Since then I’ve lost count of how many times it’s been referenced on briefing calls. So when ‘Lamp 2’ came in for me, I wondered aloud to the agency, ‘Why not get Spike to shoot it?’ They quickly informed me he wasn’t available! Then we joked it’s like being tasked to make Empire Strikes Back.
Good for me I guess… no pressure then!
LBB> How did the original spot affect your approach to the film, with regards to aesthetic, colour grading, and direction?
Mark> Obviously we referenced the storytelling techniques used in the original, like the POV photography and keeping the owner anonymous. We purposefully mirrored some moments in the new story to play off of the original beats, also added a few easter eggs for the ad nerds (myself included). Like a POV shot of lamp leaving the outside world where the original used POV to leave the inside world.
We also wanted to carve out some of our own storytelling and used the original as the jumping off point, we couldn’t not. Like the way we embraced the ‘anonymous owner’ technique for the first part of our film while the lamp was still ‘old’. Once the bulb was replaced with the new LED bulb and the lamp turns on, we intentionally cut to the lamp POV of the girls face glowing in its warm light, no longer alone in the world.
LBB> What was the casting process like and why was the young girl perfect for the film? What kind of conversations were you having with her on set?
Mark> Casting was a multi-day endeavour. The little girl had to exude curiosity but also have the perfect balance of cuteness while still feeling authentic. Ultimately we found Briley, who performed naturally with simple direction like ‘imagine this lamp is a lost puppy’. When the days (and nights) got long we’d take her for a quick rip on the Segway we used for most of the photography… she’d roll back in ready for another take, she was awesome.
LBB> Getting an inanimate object like a lamp to exude emotion must be an interesting challenge! How did you pull that off?
Mark> And this is why the original has been referenced so many times. Spike Jonze effortlessly showed us all how it’s done. Dramatic dolly push into lamp’s ‘face’ with emotive piano track - it’s incredible. From there, our ‘evolution’ kicks off with a brighter story of a girl and her lamp becoming fast friends. The pace and tone are more energetic and hopeful. Faster cuts, flowing camera and saturated colour paired with a more optimistic track sets the new tone and emotion. Until the end when we circle back to a homage of the original with an inverted end. The lamp is now happy instead of sad and, of course, the audience is no longer ‘crazy’.
LBB> What were the trickiest elements of the project and how did you overcome them?
Mike> Finding the lamp! It's impossible to find the original. And without it, we didn't have a spot. So, we had to completely build it from scratch. We used stills from the original and tracked down parts manufacturers to bring it back to life piece by piece.
LBB> What kind of reaction have you seen to the spot?
Lauren> It is still early days, but I can confidently say it is overwhelmingly positive. We seem to have struck a chord with Canadians. With this campaign we have stirred up a lot of emotions - many consumers have commented ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry’ or ‘I can’t believe I’m crying about a lamp’. Most importantly, we have certainly started a very positive conversation about circularity. Times have changed and throwing out a perfectly good lamp is no longer acceptable to us at IKEA or within society. This is the real win for us. IKEA has a wonderful opportunity and a responsibility to help our customers live a better life within the limits of the planet. Our view is that sustainable living should be available to everyone, not a luxury for the view. It is not about compromise, but living better, more efficiently and consciously.
Mike> It's been phenomenal. We knew we'd have our fair share of haters, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive from both the public and the industry. Any time you can make someone cry over a lamp, you know you've struck a chord.
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