IKEA Man Now Tells Us We Are Not Crazy, Reusing Things Is Much Better

Video screen capture. IKEA commercial

IKEA Canada remakes Spike Jonze's classic commercial with a modern message.

We have talked about Spike Jonze's 2002 IKEA ad with the red lamp for years, and the un-TreeHugger message it delivered.

The one with the woman who takes her old lamp out and puts it on the street, leaving it in the rain. We griped about how one should reuse, recycle or just avoid replacing because it was just fine. We were not alone; Rob Walker wrote in Slate at the time:

The one questionable element of the ad is the amount of attention focused on the red lamp being discarded. The lamp works just fine and looks like a perfectly decent lamp. Trashing it is an act of pure and conspicuous waste, which we are prodded to laugh off as we embrace the idea that waste is not just OK but flat-out cool if the new thing is "better." Period. You could argue that IKEA thus associates itself not just with the useless cluttering of landfill, but with a certain slavery to trend-following.

But we couldn't help laughing at the Swedish guy at the end saying:

Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you're crazy. It has no feelings! And the new one is much better.

Now IKEA Canada has remade the commercial and the new is no longer better. According to Susan Krashinsky Robertson in the Globe and Mail, it represents a strategic shift towards recognizing that recycling and reuse is a good thing.

The retailer now sees an untapped opportunity in consumers' growing willingness to reuse products: people are more inclined to visit product-swap groups on social media, or buy-and-sell websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji, to get rid of unneeded items without contributing to the landfill....It is also exploring a buy-back program that has been implemented in 14 other countries, allowing people to exchange lightly used items for IKEA gift cards; the company will either recycle many of the item’s materials or sell it to someone else.

Indeed, their Beautiful Possibilities site lists a number of initiatives aimed at recycling, reuse and even resale.

The new commercial, from ad agency Rethink, is "meticulous in its homage". The creative director of Rethink tells the Globe that they were nervous about treading on such a classic. “There’s a lot of pressure to nail it... We must have watched the original a thousand times.”

Both commercials also feature a shot from the lamp’s point of view over a person’s shoulder. In the first ad, it showed the living room receding as the lamp was carried out of its owner’s apartment, and the second is a view of the street as the lamp is carried into the girl’s house. And of course, the Swedish man is back, to tell you it’s not crazy to feel happy for the lamp.

Jonas Fornander looks a bit older, but is wearing the same coat and sounds the same. The message is much more TreeHugger correct: “Reusing things is much better.”