I was having a skim though the D&AD winners this afternoon. One of the big successes in the TV section is this fantastic piece of work from Mother and Tom Kuntz:
It’s funny, original, charming… and utterly depressing.
I get it: the point of advertising is to sell stuff, but IKEA, a company that proudly displays its sustainability credentials and initiatives on its website, is shaming people into feeling so bad about anything that’s a bit tatty, messy or ‘outdated’ that they replace it, at a further cost to the environment.
First, lots of people have imperfect furniture, scratches in their wallpaper (does IKEA even sell wallpaper?) and messy homes, and that’s OK. Do we really have to make an expensive piece of mass communication that says these things are supposed to make you feel bad/guilty/like a failure? That’s a pretty shitty thing to do, especially when people are busy trying to make ends meet and bring up their kids and keep their relationships going. So they’re also supposed to feel shit about their ageing, but perfectly serviceable table? Or the mess that exists around their children? Or their mirror that’s 90% fine?
How about we ease back on the expensive, beautifully-made guilt trip? It’s just corporate bullying, the equivalent of the nasty guy at school who takes the piss out of your ‘not-quite-cool-enough’ T-shirt: “Come on, you sad bastard, get a new one! I know the other one works fine, and maybe you even like it, but really, your T-shirt, and by extension you, are just not good enough”.
And ‘This place is small; it’s barely a house‘? Really? Really? Shaming people for living in a small house? Imagine a human being doing that. You’d think they were a right arsehole, and you’d be right. Hey, IKEA and Mother, some people have to live in small house (or – shudder – a flat) because that’s what they can afford. Fuck off for calling them out for it, no matter how cool your grime track might be.
Second, the environmental side of this is really depressing. Sure, patch up the wallpaper and tidy up the mess, but encouraging people to spend their money swapping out perfectly functional stuff for new, resource-sapping replacements? That’s the message for the bling-bling era, or back in the old days of Chuck Out Your Chintz. But it’s now 2020, and we really don’t need explicit messages of pointless consumption, especially from a company that supposedly stands against the further exploitation of the environment.
I haven’t been paying much attention to this year’s advertising awards, but the idea that a responsible, intelligent jury would hold this up as what we should aspire to is truly sad. It’s a great ad for a bad thing, and that actually means it’s a terrible ad.
Could we all grow up a bit, take a bit of notice of the chaos that’s going on around us, and be more responsible about what we put out into the world? And if we can’t manage to clear that fairly low bar, how about not giving the bad stuff shiny prizes?
(And I only wrote about this very subject last week, FFS.)