UK's most creative partnerships: Ikea & Mother

Ikea and Mother, from the outside, at least, look like a client and agency that enjoy each other.

When Ikea hired Mother in 2010, the retailer had already won close to 50 Lions at Cannes and was on its way to receiving Advertiser of the Year in 2011.

Yet Mother has found a way to add to that record by creating a body of work that matched St Luke’s gutsy work for the brand in the early 2000s in terms of creativity, while creating a sustainable brand identity: "The wonderful everyday".

Kemi Anthony 

UK advertising manager, Ikea

What impact has Mother had on Ikea?
Mother has helped us to uncover the best way to tell our real brand story, by starting with our core beliefs and values. This is what led to the development of "The wonderful everyday", a creative platform that packaged those beliefs and values for the public in a relevant and emotionally engaging way.  

Did you have any inkling of how successful the relationship would be when it began?
We have always loved Mother’s creative approach to solving problems, so we entered the relationship with high hopes that we would get to great work with our advertising. Ikea has a personality all of its own, but what Mother has done a great job of is making us very distinctive in the market as a furniture retailer.

What is the dynamic of your relationship with the Mother team? 
When everything is going right, we work as one team trying to achieve the same thing: great work. We all come at this goal from different disciplines and respect each other’s opinions as experts at what we do. We trust each other’s input, but challenge each other too. 

I deal with creative disagreements head-on – it’s the best way for me. We are a collaborative mix of strong, passionate people, and there will always be flare-ups. But the subtext is always: is this the best we can do? Can we make this work even better? Knowing that we all want the same thing means we can always talk it through and move forward. That’s the key – honesty and a collective ambition to do the best work we possibly can.

(l-r) Katie Mackay, Tim McNaughton, Freddy Mandy, Kemi Anthony

Katie Mackay, Tim McNaughton and Freddy Mandy 

Joint head of strategy and creative directors, respectively, Mother 

What do you like about working with Kemi?
We love her brutal honesty. She says what she feels and doesn’t dress it up. We find this incredibly refreshing. When she hates something she tells us straight, and it helps us get quickly to something else that we all love. It works better and faster than the hinting and horse-trading that so many clients favour. And her desire for honesty is a two-way street. So we talk straight to her, with no punches pulled, and avoid the agency "fluffing" that seems de rigueur in so many client relationships. 

She has great creative instincts and – all importantly – acts on them. If she loves something that we show her, she will go back and do the due diligence to make sure that it ticks all the boxes that need ticking. But only after she has been moved by it.

The last thing to mention is her creative ambition. She is not a woman who settles. Even if the deadline is looming – or has passed. Even if the copy will be seen only by three pensioners in Nuneaton. She keeps pushing us to deliver the high-grade shit. When someone wants only the best it inspires us to go that extra mile to deliver it. 

What’s the dynamic of the relationship? Do you have freedom to suggest anything? How hard can you push an idea you believe in? 
We have a relationship that’s based on respect and honesty that has been built up over years. (Our first project with Kemi was the "Cats" film in 2010.) So we can definitely present anything we love and if she doesn’t like it, she tells us. Likewise, if we really believe in something she can’t see the good in, she trusts our judgment enough to take another look at it with an open mind. 

What’s been your favourite campaign to work on for Ikea?
Developing "The wonderful everyday" has been the highlight for us. It is the summation of everything we have learned about Ikea over the past six years. We feel like we have finally created a campaign together that can express the depth of the Ikea way of thinking about the world.