Ikea’s first foray into Christmas TV advertising has brought home the Thinkboxes Award for TV ad creativity.
Creatives and other TV luminaries voted ‘Silence the critics’ by Mother London the best TV ad of all those that launched in November and December.
Joining the Christmas TV advertising throng with a much smaller production budget than many retailers, the challenge was both to stand out and be festive in a true-to-the-IKEA-brand kind of way.
In the commercial, Ikea and grime collide when a family, fearful their home isn’t stylish enough for guests, find their internal self-criticisms voiced by the ornaments they’ve let take over their lives and the horrible things they say humorously brought to life by grime music legend D Double E.
"Safe doesn’t really do it for me," Kemi Anthony, marketing & communications manager for Ikea UK & Ireland, said. She’s not joking. "Mother know I’m never comfortable when I’m totally comfortable with an idea.
"I tend to gravitate towards ideas that have an element of the unknown about them in the early stages of development. Add to that a grime track - the least Christmassy genre of music - in a Christmas ad, and: sold!"
Work began on the TV commercial nine months before its November launch. And as it was the chain’s first Christmas ad, the pressure was on to make an impact that did the brand justice.
This meant deploying playfulness to stand out from what creative director Danielle Outhwaite-Noel calls "the typical sea of Christmas schmaltz".
"We landed on a strong insight about people’s homes over the holidays - how we all think in our heads that they’re not quite good enough for our guests," she said. "That’s where the idea came from."
In fact, ‘Silence the critics’ was one of three final scripts whittled down from a handful, fellow creative director Thom Whitaker revealed.
"It actually didn’t research as well as the others," he admitted. "But it was our firm favourite. Luckily, we have a wonderful client who goes on gut reaction rather than scorecards. She also happens to be a big fan of grime."
Authenticity was essential in effectively bringing the idea from page to screen, however. Anthony describes walking "that fine line between Ikea brand relevance and grime" as the "key challenge".
As soon as the script was approved, the team began listening to different grime artists to find someone who could bring the right level of humour and authenticity to the performance.
"D Double E quickly rose to the top of our list," Outhwaite-Noel said. "He’s a grime legend. When he agreed to demo for us, we couldn’t believe our luck."
Hearing him in the booth, bringing Mother’s lyrics to life and adding his own ad libs was "a moment of pure joy", Whittaker said. "The beat was composed by Star One and they stayed involved throughout the whole process. Everyone poured a lot of love into it – it was a real team effort."
Stylistically, D Double E is very distinctive with a great personality, Anthony points out. "That’s one of the reasons I wanted to go with him," she explained. "He was the perfect choice to imbue our on-screen characters."
With his eye for detail and sense of humour – and a history of having worked with the team a number of times – Tom Kuntz at MJZ was a natural choice for director, Outhwaite-Noel said, describing his treatment as "typically hilarious".
A wide and eclectic array of objects to bring to life was initially suggested for the ad. The final characters to feature were only chosen later into the production process, however – the aim being to achieve the most unexpected and comedic line-up.
Each object was then 3D scanned and animated by Electric Theatre Collective, with photorealistic textures applied. "From there, they were all rigged and animated to behave in a way that mimicked characters in a grime video," Whittaker said.
Realistic human qualities were then added to each object in post-production to ensure each embodied both an element of cuteness and the characteristics of a grime artist.
"Going into this, I was comfortably a little nervous because it really needed to be great. But I knew it was the right decision," Anthony said.
"There were a number of points where we made iterative leaps in the development of the film that we all knew meant it was moving in the right direction – especially when we saw the animation tests of the characters and when the track was laid down."
Looking back, she adds: "What really makes me smile from ear to ear is the fact we managed to create something that worked so well in positively engaging the masses while also staying true to the music genre without watering it down."
Reaction to the ad has been great on many levels, all involved agree.
"The grime community reaction was, at first, one of bewilderment which quickly morphed into respect – both for D and Ikea and that felt good," Anthony notes.
"Viewers have been appreciating the lyrics – many seeing it as more entertainment than advertising, which is something you should never overlook – especially at a time of year where it is particularly challenging to be seen, heard and appreciated."
Due to the positive response, a full-length version of the track was then cut and premiered on Radio 1.
Second place in the latest Thinkboxes winners’ line-up went to ‘Excitable Edgar’ for John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners by Adam&Eve/DDB. ‘The Book of Dreams’ by The&Partnership for Argos was third.
Also shortlisted were 'Go jumpers' for Marks and Spencer by ODD London and 'All Mariah Carey wants this Christmas' for Walkers by AMV BBDO.
The Thinkboxes, in association with Campaign, are the only bi-monthly awards that celebrate the UK’s world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms. They are judged by the Thinkbox Academy – 200 advertising and marketing luminaries who have been involved in award-winning creative work for TV.
Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media and UKTV. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.