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How Al-Futtaim IKEA Captured the Essence of Ramadan


Grey Dubai's executive creative director Pablo Maldonado on conveying the spirit and togetherness of traditions during the holy month, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

How Al-Futtaim IKEA Captured the Essence of Ramadan

Ramadan is a time for reflection and togetherness as Muslims around the world fast and pray during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this time, there’s a focus on community, family togetherness and supporting one another to keep morale high. Keeping this in mind, Al-Futtaim IKEA were keen to capture this feeling in its Ramadan 2023 campaign.

Working with Grey Dubai, the furniture and homeware retailer wanted to authentically represent a family dynamic but bring a modern twist into the mix. Casting a young boy, Sami, the spot focuses on how even he plays a part in supporting the family with Iftar celebrations. As Sami puts his effort into beautifully setting the table, carefully placing walking sticks, phone holders and pictures on the table to create the mood, he adorably falls asleep only to be woken in time for the family breaking their fast.

To tell us more about the spot, Grey Dubai's executive creative director Pablo Maldonado speaks with LBB’s Nisna Mahtani.

LBB> Tell us a little bit about the Ramadan period and how Al-Futtaim IKEA wanted to celebrate the holy month of the Islamic calendar.

Pablo> In this region, the importance of Ramadan as a major religious and cultural festival can never be understated. And it's the same when it comes to the advertising world of the region. This year, the brief from IKEA was simple and clear, but challenging at the same time. We wanted to talk about the importance of togetherness and family while bringing back this emotional concept with a modern twist.

LBB> Can you tell us about some of the key themes you wanted to include?

Pablo> The key theme we wanted to highlight in our film was the important role that every little piece plays in assembling a big moment. Our focus was on showing how some of the most unexpected characters can play a central role in making a celebration special. Plus, the perspective of a boy instead of a girl helping mom set the table was a cleverly addressed and relevant theme at this moment in time.

LBB> And how did you convey these themes within the storytelling of the spot?

Pablo> The process was two-fold. First, we decided that this Ramadan, IKEA is not just about assembling pieces of furniture, no. They had a much bigger role to play. IKEA empowers us all to assemble moments of togetherness.

Secondly, we had to approach it from a place that hadn't been seen before – enter Sami.

LBB> Of course, IKEA furniture was a big part of the campaign. When did you first land on the idea of a characterful table set by Sami, the youngest member of the family?

Pablo> Ramadan is a time for food, decorations, and celebrations. It's a time for families to come together and share happiness and joy. But we noticed that young children, especially boys too young to fast, did not have a role to play during Ramadan. And so, the idea of Sami being our little hero was born. And, of course, since [the movie] Home Alone, watching a little boy running around hatching his master plan is always entertaining.

LBB> This campaign is running across the UAE, Qatar and Oman – how did you ensure it was relevant to all of these markets?

Pablo> Although Ramadan celebrations may vary from country to country, the heart of it is still the same. And so, we dove straight into what makes Ramadan the major cultural festival that it is. We focused on finding the emotions behind every character, the hustle and bustle of the household, the different generations coming together, and the preparation of the food – basically, all the themes experienced by everyone, regardless of the market. We also injected a bit of each market's culture into the film with different elements in an organic way.

LBB> Tell us about the filming process, how long it took and how you found the right location for the shoot.

Pablo> We filmed the entire thing in one day. It was hectic, super demanding, and crazy in a good sense. Big Kahuna, the production house, was a solid partner, and their previous experience with the brand greatly helped us. The director, Hadi Siryani, was spot on, especially in casting little Sami and his family.

About the location, when you have the best builders and designers in the industry as your client, you don't look for the perfect location, you can build it exactly the way you want.

LBB> What was the process of including all of the furniture that features and how did you incorporate the full range of goods from the furniture retailer?

Pablo> Since the entire home was built from scratch, incorporating the pieces of furniture and accessories that we wanted to highlight into the story became a breeze. Instead of having to retrofit each detail at a later stage, the script, the build and the shot selection happened hand in hand.

LBB> Are there any little details we may have missed the first time and should look out for as we rewatch the spot?

Pablo> There is a little easter egg, and a member of Grey's creative team makes an appearance in the film for a split second. Spot them if you can.

LBB> What have the reactions to the campaign been like so far?

Pablo> So far, the reactions to the campaign have been overwhelmingly positive. Our film quickly became one of the most watched pieces of content on IKEA's social media accounts, and it seems that our audiences have taken to little Sami and his adventure. I've got three children, who drive my wife and me crazy, and they approved the film! I've always had a certain intuition for portraying stories with children, plus I have worked with many children's brands in the past. I think it all happened at the right moment and time, and we're thrilled with the result so far.

LBB> There's more to this campaign, which is launching soon, so can you give us some insight into what's to come?

Pablo> We do have another surprise up our sleeve this Ramadan, but let's not give it away! I can say that IKEA not only assembles but can also help reassemble things — wink wink. Stay tuned.

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Grey Dubai/MENA, Mon, 17 Apr 2023 15:40:00 GMT