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Creative Director’s Choice gives creative directors a chance to highlight the current work they think is the best out in the ad world – the ads and campaigns they believe are making a difference.

This week, Critical Mass creative director Simona Ternblom discusses Ikea's ‘Where life happens’ campaign by Swedish agency Åkestam Holst.

Simona Ternblom
Simona Ternblom, creative director at Critical Mass

Where home décor is concerned, most ads, blogs, and social posts present us with an edited, art-directed vision of domestic life – not life itself. So, there’s a bit of friction between reality and the manufactured lifestyle that most brands are trying to sell. That’s why it was so refreshing to see Ikea’s 'Where life happens' campaign by Åkestam Holst. 

Full disclosure: I’m Swedish, and I’ve always had a love for Ikea. They’ve carved out a strong niche with their down-to-earth products and accessible style. But the Åkestam Holst work develops the realness at the core of the Ikea brand into something deeper. Their video spots feature things that are almost guaranteed to be absent from other brand campaigns: divorce, adoption, single motherhood, angst-ridden teens. Home is the center of all those things. Home is where life happens, and life is messy. 

As a human being (not just as a Swede), I love the moving idea at the core of the campaign. And as a designer, I’m impressed by how well Åkestam Holst executed a compelling, authentic story through an unpretentious campaign. To do that, and to do it successfully, meant swimming directly against the prevailing currents of the marketing landscape, which takes courage.

In a world of loud, manicured, aspirational content, Ikea gave us something quiet, compassionate, and real. They’ve proven that a brand can stand out by winning their customer’s heart, rather than their customer’s eyes. Humanism over consumerism.

Simona Ternblom is group creative director at Critical Mass, working out of the agency's New York office.

To view the videos, click on the Creative Works box below.

To see the latest creative ads and campaigns, visit The Drum’s Creative Works section. If you or your creative director would like to feature in our Creative Director’s Choice, please contact Kyle O’Brien at

Åkestam Holst: IKEA 'Where Life Happens'

Agency: Åkestam Holst
Client: IKEA
Date: April 2018
The ongoing 'Where Life Happens' by Åkestam Holst highlights the more mundane, and often uncomfortable, points in real life. Instead of showing shiny, happy people, the Swedish company instead shows how people cope in tough situations.
In 'Every Other Week' a divorced dad tries to make life more comfortable for his son by decorating his room to look exactly like his room at his mother's house. In 'Enough' an overworked mother comes home to a messy house full of teens and goes outside because she is too sad and tired to deal with it - though the teens see her frustration and help to clean up. In 'Coming Home' an adopting mother brings home her new child from Asia.
Another print ad in the series offers discounts for expectant mothers and even has a home pregnancy test on the paper the ad is printed on.
The series isn't a hard sell for Ikea products. Instead, it shows and mentions a few of the items in the ads, focusing on the emotions and the people.
Agency: Åkestam Holst
Client: Ikea
Tags: Europe