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How IKEA Canada Froze Time to Bring Home to Life



IKEA Canada’s Claudia Mayne and Johanna Andrén, the team from Rethink, OPC director Gary Freedman, and Circonflex’s Paul-Étienne Côté on turning a house into a home, finding the perfect songs for the job, and what this new brand platform means for the future of IKEA Canada, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

How IKEA Canada Froze Time to Bring Home to Life

After a year in the making, Rethink and IKEA Canada have launched their newest brand platform, ‘Bring Home to Life’ ('La Maison, c'est la vie' in French). Dialling into the furniture supplier's mission to ‘create a better everyday life for more of the many people’, the new brand platform aims to tell compelling stories of how IKEA products and services help people bring the spaces that matter most to them, to life.

At the centre of this national, integrated campaign is a heartwarming film directed by OPC Production's Gary Freedman, which follows a newcomer family as they put together their new apartment and the life that will make that space a home. Created for both French and English-speaking viewers, in the case of the former, Rethink collaborated with Montreal music agency Circonflex to find the right song for the job, opting to use an original rendition of ‘Bye bye Nuages, Welcome Soleil’. The English version, meanwhile, was set to a cover of Elton John's ‘Your Song’ (performed by AHI, the Juno-nominated singer-songwriter) and made its debut as a 60-second spot during the 2022 Emmy Awards.

“What we love about this film is that a relatable human story comes first,” says Michelle Spivak, creative director at Rethink, in the campaign’s press release. “We’ve built this completely surreal environment for a simple purpose - to visualise that moment when you step into a new home for the first time and imagine what it will look like filled with the ones you love.”

LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with the Rethink team, IKEA Canada head of marketing, Johanna Andrén, director of brand marketing, Claudia Mayne, Gary Freedman and Circonflex CEO Paul-Étienne Côté to learn more about how this massive campaign was brought to life. 

LBB> What was the brief for this brand campaign like?  

Rethink> The brief was relatively simple: launch IKEA’s new platform, ‘Bring Home To Life’. We wanted to create something that communicated that IKEA products are the foundation for what’s really important at home – the life that gets lived inside. 

Claudia> Like with all of our briefs, we start by focusing on where we are, where we want to go with our business and brand performance, and how a particular campaign can help us move the needle. We then look at insights that are relevant to our audience, seeking to understand the challenges or barriers they face and how IKEA can be the inspiration and solution which helps them create a better everyday life at home - for themselves and their families. 

This brief was particularly important as the launch campaign of our new brand platform. We really needed to nail the insight and the IKEA solution that clearly articulated what ‘Bring Home to Life’ means. And, we’re thrilled with where we landed – a heartwarming, relatable story about a newcomer family that uses IKEA to piece together their new apartment and more importantly, the life that will turn that space into a home. 

Gary> The beautiful part of the idea is the observation that a home is not just about the physical items you put in it, but the human moments that take place there. So, that was the brief really – to bring genuine humanity to the story.

LBB> As a brand, what were your main aims and ambitions with this project? 

Claudia> Through customer and co-worker research, we saw an opportunity to build on our current platform to further define the emotional and meaningful role that IKEA can play in the lives of Canadians, and as a result, build stronger connections with both current and potential customers. While we have several quantitative measures around brand trust and penetration that we’re aiming for, we also want Canadians to feel inspired by IKEA to see the potential in their home. It’s important to us that people feel empowered to pursue the vision of their ideal home, and to know that IKEA understands the nuances and feelings of home while embracing the diversity of backgrounds and lifestyles across our country.

LBB> The ad tells a heartfelt story about a man bringing his home to life, for the arrival of his family. How did this idea come to pass, and what was the initial concepting process like?

Rethink> The idea behind the spot was inspired by the moment when you walk into a new home, and all you can see is potential. Whether it’s your first rental or your forever home - we can all relate to it. You see the bare space and think, ‘this is where the TV will go, this is where dad will sit at Christmas dinner, etc.’, and that moment was/is the inspiration for this spot.  

Ultimately a house can be filled with a number of items, but it’s the moments and memories we create around those pieces which gives them significance. Because of this, we just spent time exploring what story we wanted to tell. The most important thing, however, was that we wanted to keep it to a single narrative, in order to build a connection with whoever the main character would be. 

Gary> My take on it was to focus on the main character and have the visual effect of the frozen people be more incidental, so the emotional story takes precedence. I also suggested a loose hand-held style, which is counter to the precision one normally associates with a VFX technique like this. And, our DP, Stephane Fontaine, brought his immense talent to this part and helped create the intimacy.

LBB> The spot debuted at the 2022 Emmy Awards. What made it the right time to launch the campaign? 

Johanna> Launching the ‘Bring Home to Life’ platform and inaugural campaign at this moment in time made sense strategically for many reasons. There are, of course, many people tuning in during the Emmys, but more important than that, for IKEA as well as many Canadians (particularly students and parents with school-aged children), September is the start of a new year. It is literally and symbolically a time for new beginnings and next chapters. We felt that it would be an exciting and relevant time to celebrate our new brand platform, both internally and externally.

LBB> One of the most memorable aspects of the spot is AHI’s cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ in the English version, and ‘Bye bye Nuages, Welcome Soleil’ for the French spot. Tell us more about these song choices! How did you choose them, and what made them the right selections for the job?

Rethink> The search for our song was extensive and full of ups and downs. Ultimately, we were looking for a song that helped tell our story - one not simply about home, but at its core, a love story. ‘Bring Home To Life’ is about the sacrifice you make for love, and the story of reunion. With that as the brief, we couldn’t really imagine a better fit than ‘Your Song’: a beautiful story about a person who’s creating something special for someone he loves.  

We also knew we wanted a local artist’s interpretation of the track. We had narrowed our demos to both a male and female version of the song, and ultimately felt that AHI’s voice could be seen as coming from our main character. As the father of young children of his own, you could feel AHI’s connection to the story in his performance.  

Paul-Étienne> There were a few other contenders, one of which was ‘Une chance qu'on s'a’ (We're lucky to have one another) from Jean-Pierre Ferland. However, it’s been used before in advertising, and as there's always an added value to sync a song that has never been synced before, we kept searching for the gem.    

In terms of choosing a song to fit the narrative of the film, we wanted something that would reflect the fact that this is about a guy who found a new place - he's building and furnishing it - and he's (obviously) eagerly awaiting his loved ones coming and joining him (and once they do, he'll throw a nice welcoming party for them with all their friends!). It’s for this reason that we chose ‘Bye bye Nuages, Welcome Soleil’, which essentially means ‘Goodbye Clouds, Welcome Sun’. The song is about this guy who's talking to the sun and saying things like ‘Sun! I've been waiting for you all day! I've invited all of our friends and told them you were coming!’. In my opinion, this is a metaphorically strong option, as you can draw a parallel between the sun and his wife - his light!

For the spot itself, we re-recorded the song so that structurally, it matched the picture perfectly. As a matter of fact, I actually sang on the re-record to sell the idea. I gave it all I had to get the right emotion, and the clients loved it! So, they bought the song with my voice on it (laughs). You're welcome!

LBB> Watching an empty apartment turn into a fully-furnished living space is very satisfying. How was décor selected for showcasing in the final spot, where was shooting done, and do you have any interesting anecdotes to share from on set?

Rethink> We shot both on set, and on location in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.  

A lot of the joy on set came from actors and their ability to freeze. Going into the shoot, the actors needing to stay perfectly still was a bit of a concern (would they be able to do it? Would continuity be a challenge? etc.). When the time came, however, everyone was amazingly good at it – going from casually chatting on break to perfectly frozen in the exact same position as a day earlier. They may have discovered new talents in themselves! 

Gary> We filmed the interior of the apartment on a set, and the hallway and exteriors on location. So, the challenge was to have those two things mesh convincingly. The locations have natural patina, whilst sets can sometimes feel a little sterile, so we worked to bring the same character to both - with lighting and so on.

Claudia> It is very satisfying and inspiring to see an empty space transform into a home where lives are lived, connections are forged, and memories are made! When it comes to selecting décor to showcase in a spot, we have a complex, multi-faceted process that takes into account many factors such as stock availability (so as not to frustrate consumers), priorities for the business, reflection of the IKEA style, inspiration for current and new customers, authenticity to the story that we’re telling, and various production considerations. 

On the subject of shooting, we have an interior design team with whom we collaborate when bringing the final sets to life. That’s proven a wonderful example of our effort internally to embrace this project and to engage co-workers in our emotional storytelling as well.

LBB> What made Gary the right director for this job?

Rethink> Gary immediately understood the assignment – the fact that the technique/visual hook couldn’t get in the way of the heart of the story. Those aspects needed to be there to tell the story, but the effect of the frozen people wasn’t the story itself. 

This resulting focus on the emotion and the character, perfect casting, and getting the performances as natural as possible made this story feel real and relatable (even though it’s still quite imaginative), and is why he was perfect for the job. 


LBB> The shots of the frozen people are visually striking, but also impressive. How did you achieve this, and how did it impact the way you captured the main action shots?

Gary> It's surprisingly straight-forward. The people were simply holding still, and where they weren’t able to support themselves in a position, we had little rigs to assist them (which we removed in post). With this type of film, I think it’s best to have the story and character lead the way and keep the technical stuff to a minimum.

LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them? 

Rethink> We alluded before to the song search [for the English version]. Well, Elton John (in the middle of a world tour), was not an easy man to pin down. This actually gave rise to a fun little anecdote. After nearly a month of trying to get his final sign-off on the song, we had pushed the deadline to its absolute limits. 15 minutes before we had to commit to/ship an alternate song, we finally got word, ‘Elton loves it’. You only overcome that kind of obstacle with stellar production partners. Vapor, our audio house, never let up and never missed a beat - ultimately getting us that track.

Gary> As is often the case, the challenge was to maintain a balance between the commercial needs of the film and the emotional. But, I think this worked out well.

LBB> What has the initial response to the campaign been like? 

Rethink> The response has been great.  A lot of people see their own story in ours (their first home, or their move to a new country) – and that relatability has some real staying power.

Johanna> Because the brand platform was developed with co-worker input across the organisation, the internal response has been one of tremendous excitement and pride. Many of our co-workers have been posting about the new brand platform and the launch film on their personal social media accounts. Externally, we have seen great pick-up from media outlets like LBB!

LBB> Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Claudia> Typically, platforms are created by marketing and shared across an organisation. Our approach was to include IKEA co-workers in the process, which is very much aligned with ‘togetherness’, one of our core values. We’re very excited to see the initial results!

Johanna> Our previous brand platform, ‘The Beautiful Possibilities’, celebrated the endless opportunity that IKEA products and solutions provide to create a better home, a better world, and a better life. It was fantastic to broadly inspire Canadians, especially around the matter of sustainability. Our new brand platform dials into our mission to create a better everyday life for the many people, while helping us to make a more emotional connection with our customer - especially in response to how many of us are seeing home in a new way. 

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Rethink, Tue, 04 Oct 2022 14:42:33 GMT