The thinking behind Ikea’s ‘Bookbook’ iPhone parody viral

Ikea viral videoIkea’s parody video of the iPhone to promote its 2015 catalogue for Singapore and Malaysia has been viewed by the equivalent of double Singapore’s population in the week since it was uploaded to YouTube on 3 September.

In this interview, the recently promoted head of strategy for the agency behind the film, James Sowden of BBH Asia-Pacific, talks to Mumbrella about the thinking that went into making the video as it approaches its 10 millionth view on YouTube, from the idea, to the distribution.

Where did the creative idea come from?

The context for the idea was set by the task on the brief: ‘engage people with the physical catalogue’. The inspiration came from a conversation that the creative teams had about how people’s emotional relationship with, and pervasive usage of, technology that has affected many ‘traditional’ media formats.

Why do you think the idea touched a nerve with the internet and went viral?

BBH head of strategy James Sowden

BBH’s James Sowden

I think that there are a number of reasons why it resonated so well. At first glance viewers assume it is a technology ad, but then discover that the film is for a physical product. Of itself this makes people smile. The fact that everyone knows the Ikea catalogue, and may not have thought about it, or read it, for a while, helps the relevance and nudges the joke along.

On a deeper level the film pokes fun at the fact that we have moved so far away from physical content in our daily lives, and maybe prompts the question ‘have we moved too far?’ Personally every time I pick up the Ikea catalogue I am inspired by it and enjoy imagining how these beautiful products would work in my home (although I accept that I may be a bit biased.)

Watch the film:

Some Mumbrella readers have suggested in the comment thread beneath our story on the launch that the idea is not original. Here is a link to an idea for Britain’s The Sun newspaper in the UK, which uses the same concept, from five years ago.

What do you say to these detractors, and does originality matter if content is successful?

In parodying a category there are obviously a finite number of codes that can be lifted and turned into comedic moments. So there are undoubtedly executional similarities between our Ikea film and other films that set out to do a similar thing.

The huge number of views suggests that the excellence in craft and execution is recognised and appreciated. It also suggests that this is a great joke and that people are enjoying it. In fact people’s familiarity with this kind of format may have actually aided their enjoyment of the work as they spend less time decoding the construct.

To this end, it is interesting to see that a number of executional elements are gaining significant traction and have started to push their way into popular culture. The term ‘bookbook’ is being shared very widely on social, as are pictures of people interacting with the ‘touch interface’. Buzzfeed has even turned Jorgen’s “Amazing” into a gif … which I think is pretty ‘amazing’.

What sort of media spend did you put behind the video, and which media did you use to promote it?

The traction that the film has gained was delivered by a deliberately orchestrated seeding strategy with a focus on technology sites and a humorous PR push to editors, who received a personalised ‘boxed’ bookbook.

The actual media spend launched in Singapore on Monday, four days after the online launch of the film, and will launch in Malaysia later this week.

How are you calculating the media value of the video?

As far as the film is concerned we will do a calculation that looks at investment versus perceived media value, that we will calculate from standard media buying costs and will likely have a superb ROI for the client.

Have you or the client noticed any impact of the video in the real world – the physical uptake of Ikea 2015 catalogues in Singapore or Malaysia?

The most important metric for this campaign will be an understanding of how many more people read the catalogue this year vs last year and what changes we see in store visitation. At this point in time it is a little too early to tell.


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