Hilary Pepler is planning to change the taste of UK women.
It seems a long way from Miami’s ritzy Coconut Grove district to
London’s North Circular Road. But then the Ikea communications manager,
Hilary Pepler, formerly a nanny in one of Miami’s nicest districts,
spent five years making journeys at least as routinely adventurous as
that one, as a British Airways stewardess.
This, it is rapidly becoming clear, was not the conventional route to
the top in marketing, not even perhaps to the top of the distinctive
blue-and-yellow tower that serves as Ikea’s head office in the
charmless, smog-filled surroundings of the North Circular Road.
‘I always say that if you can cope with a few overflowing sickbags and
juggle those plastic trays you can pretty much deal with anything
advertising can throw at you,’ says Pepler, with the ready assurance of
someone who has deflected questions about her career progression once or
Her mission now is to persuade us Brits to be less stuffy about our
furnishings. Apparently, Ikea’s stock is 95 per cent the same the world
over. That 5 per cent contains those idiosyncrasies that make up a
national culture: the Norwegian reindeer racks, the Fat Boy E-Z Recliner
that wows corpulent America. Unfortunately, 5 per cent is not enough for
us Brits, who remain hopelessly devoted to doilies and many gloomy non-
Ikea lines besides. This is what Pepler aims to change with a pounds 4.5
million ad push, the first through St Luke’s (Campaign, last week).
‘We decided to review our account after eight years at Abbott Mead
Vickers BBDO precisely because we needed our advertising to take this
new direction,’ she explains. ‘We are targeting women because they still
have a fussy doll’s house aesthetic and because they tend to influence
the furniture that is chosen.’
Cue pictures of women freeing themselves of their old-fashioned
furniture and embracing bright ’n’ breezy Ikea styles to the backing of
an annoyingly catchy tune.
It’s certainly perky, and, as you might expect of a former stewardess,
Pepler can still find plenty to smile about.