Once again, Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, is courting
controversy by insulting the English before asking us to buy its
furniture (Campaign, 18 September).
Their latest ads, from St Luke’s, demand that we ’Stop being so
English’, then poke fun at some of the old-fashioned attitudes that the
English are famed for and the style of furniture we prefer. Our love of
classical literature, our dislike of nudity, our inability to complain
and our apologetic nature are some of the traits attacked.
Matti Naar, Ikea’s marketing manager, is preparing himself for the
backlash this time. ’There will be some people who will be very offended
by the ads - we know that but we’re happy for them to run.’ Naar insists
that the ads aren’t disrespectful but says it will be up to the
individual to interpret them in their own way.
Naar didn’t feel so confident when an Ikea ad was pulled earlier this
year. It attracted nearly 400 complaints to the ITC for suggesting that
a dull office could be re-vamped by making a junior employee
’I’m not too proud of that ad,’ he confesses, ’and I think we have to
admit that we made some mistakes.’
Ikea is also staging a nationwide competition for customers as part of
the ongoing campaign. The public are being encouraged to nominate the
most class-obsessed person they know and Ikea will be offering a
peerage, worth pounds 6,000, as first prize. There will also be a
discussion in October on Talk Radio when Quentin Crisp will lead a
debate on Englishness.
Naar is hoping that the latest work, while admittedly controversial,
will not be seen as a challenge to consumers but will leave them with
something to reflect on.
So what does the man behind the ’Stop being so English’ campaign think
of his new home? ’I love the English,’ he says. ’There have been big
changes in English society over recent years with the introduction of
new cuisine, restaurants and fashion. The English are very forward
thinking and that’s what this campaign is about.’ Let’s hope the English
can be as generous about him after they’ve seen the ads.