"I don't have much money, but, boy, if I did. I'd buy a big house where we both could live."
Rising artist AHI performs a passionate cover of Elton John's "Your Song," wringing fresh nuances from each familiar line as Ikea Canada launches a revamped brand platform themed "Bring Home to Life."
This husky, expansive version drives the short film below. It tells the tale of an immigrant family's arrival in Toronto, opening with a young father's first glimpse inside their new apartment.
He's greeted by an odd tableau: In otherwise empty rooms—with no furniture, carpets or even pictures on the walls—about a dozen people wait, frozen in space and time. The action mainly transpires in the father's imagination as he contemplates a joyous future in this place, surrounded by family and new friends, with items from Ikea completing the scene.
Directed OPC's Gary Freedman, a minute-long edit of the dreamy, cinematic narrative launched during last night's Emmy Awards.
"We've been working on a new Ikea brand platform for more than a year, and this spot is the anchor of that new platform," says Michelle Spivak, creative director at Rethink, which crafted the campaign. "We looked to tell a story that demonstrated how Ikea helped bring a home to life in a heartwarming way. We loved the idea of that moment when you walk into a new home for the first time, and all you can see is potential."
The work feels like an extension of recent brand efforts focused on reimagining what home can be. These include introducing a cheeky Ikea collection to ease the transition of returning to the office, and transforming actual Toronto-area houses into showroom displays. "Bring Home to Life" expands on such notions. The push explores many vibrant physical, emotional and social aspects of home, with the retailer's products and services adding special significance.
In the launch film, "you see the bare space and think of the people who will fill the room," Spivak says. "The people who will sit at the table. The friends who will gather on the sofa. Ultimately, a house can be filled with a number of items, but it's the moments and memories we create around those pieces that give them significance. We took that thought and added a bit of magic by having everything frozen until Ikea is added to the home. As our main character arrives to his empty apartment, he's met with the vision of the housewarming celebration he'll throw the day his wife and young daughter finally join him."
That's a lofty, poetic conceit, well-realized and visually striking, if a tad difficult to fully grasp without repeat viewings. Still, the heartfelt remake of "Your Song" and those intriguing images should enchant ears and eyes, even if the storyline feels elusive at first.
The team shot footage over four days in Parkdale, one of Toronto's most diverse neighborhoods. "The bodega is real. The bike shop is real. It's a very authentic place for a newcomer to start their life in Canada," Spivak says. "The interiors were matched to the exterior of the building but were actually captured in a custom-built set."
And yes, those actors had to hold their positions, like statues, often for several achy minutes per take.
"As part of the casting, we asked people to freeze in place," Spivak recalls. "We needed people who could translate emotion without words, but also without moving. That's when it became apparent how difficult being frozen—while looking natural at the same time—would be. We did as much in camera as possible, with some of our talent propped up on apple boxes and stools we removed in post."
As for the song choice, "we cast a wide net across genres, but always knowing we wanted the performance to be intimate and personal," says Johanna Andrén, head of marketing at Ikea Canada. "The lyrics needed to punctuate the story. The voice needed to feel authentic. Our music director found this amazing singer, AHI, a local, Juno-nominated artist with a voice we loved—emotive and warm. He had a young family of his own, and you could feel his tribute to them in his performance."
"Your Song" mentions home fleetingly, but the vibe's just right. And you really can't go wrong with Elton John. Kudos for passing over more obvious choices, like "Our House," a very very very fine track, to be sure, but too on the nose.
Ultimately, "while there is Ikea furniture in almost every scene in the spot, the aim was to inspire a feeling bigger than the collection of products," Andrén says. "There is real magic in how every individual home comes to life in its own unique way, and we want to celebrate that idea with this platform for years to come."
Along with TV, online video and social, the campaign will include traditional billboards and 3-D OOH activations.
CCO: Aaron Starkman
CSO: Sean McDonald
ECD: Mike Dubrick
Creative Director: Michelle Spavin
ACD: Brendan Scullion, Max Bingham
Art Director: Max Bingham
Writer: Brendan Scullion
Strategy Director: Jay Fleming
Director of Broadcast Production: Shelby Spigelman/Nadya MacNeil
Broadcast Producer: Mark Pan
Senior Print Producer: Agnes Gilchrist
Print Producer: Jenna Fullerton
TV Production Company: OPC Production
Director: Gary Freedman
Line Producer: Max Brook
Post Production House: Nimiopere
Editor: Graham Chisholm
Executive Producer (Nimiopere): Julie Axell
VFX House: The Vanity
VFX Supervisor: Naveen Srivastava
Colourist: Andrew Axworth
Senior Producer (The Vanity): Katie Methot
Photography Production Company: Fuze Reps
Photographer: Chris Robinson
Director of photography: Zach Koski
Executive Producer (Fuze Reps) : Nicole Gomez
Associate Producer: Alexa Dimitruk
Audio House: Vapor Music
Executive Producer (Audio House): Kailee Nowosad
Creative Director (Audio House): Ted Rosnick
Engineer: Ryan Chalmers
Group Account Director: Kiara Wilson
Account Director: Sheldon Abreu
Account Director: Catherine Blouin-Mainville
Account Supervisor: Melissa Luk
Account Manager: Gabrielle Bergeron
Head of Marketing, IKEA Canada: Johanna Andrén
Director of Brand Marketing, IKEA Canada: Claudia Mayne
Country Marketing Campaign Leader: Jordan Sequeira
Marketing Communications Specialist: Carolyn Thrasher
Marketing Specialist: Noah Keefe
Media Agency: Carat Canada
Vice President: Karen Hrstic
Account Director: Tracey Cronin
Media Supervisor: Christine Ma
CRM: Wunderman Thompson
Account Director: Maryam Asad
Account Executive: Hannes Danielsson