Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards
Behind the Work: Creating a TV Series to Celebrate 25 Years of IKEA in Spain
Advertising Agency
Madrid, Spain
The chief creative officer of McCann, Emiliano Gonzalez De Pietri speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani to explain the process behind creating a Spanish TV series inspired by Love Island

IKEA Spain celebrates 25 years of its innovative design and functionality. To commemorate the milestone, McCann Spain created an entire TV series showcasing what life would have been like for Spaniards without the global giant. 

The premise of the campaign was a TV show which director Emiliano Gonzalez De Pietri says was inspired by the likes of Love Island and Big Brother. An unusual concept for an ad, the response to it has warranted responses that requested extended and more episodes.

In the collaboration between McCann and IKEA, the TV series takes Gen-Z contestants back to a time where IKEA did not exist. That meant rotary phones, drawers without cutlery organisers and very itchy blankets. The reaction of the contestants is hilarious and evokes nostalgia to a time where IKEA couldn’t furnish your house in a one-stop shop.

Emiliano speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about how they created the 40-second campaign that ‘struck gold’ with reality TV.

LBB> What did you draw inspiration for the TV series from? Obviously, Big Brother was a big touchstone considering you worked with Santy García.


Emiliano> Personally, I’m a fan of Love Island. I got hooked when I was living in New York last year. I started obsessing over the genius editing and use of overly dramatic music to underscore romance, conflict… Reality shows are often looked down on, but if you take the time to examine them a bit closer, sometimes you discover remarkable storytelling. Santy was great at capturing all that nuance. 

Then there was my move from Madrid to Lima in 2013. It was the first time I had to furnish an apartment from scratch without the possibility of going to IKEA, simply because there isn’t one in Peru. Imagine buying your mattress in one store and then having to cross a city with a population of 10 million to get the linen from another store. If you’ve never been to IKEA, I guess you just accept the ordeal as a fact of life. But If you have… that was a great place for the team to start thinking.

LBB> How involved were IKEA in the ideation process?


Emiliano> Ikea’s role was pivotal. They embraced the idea from the very first check-in and were incredibly adamant that this had to be an actual reality show, not an ad that looked like a reality show. Their unwavering support and vision made this entire craziness possible.

LBB> Creating an entire show as an ad for a brand is quite a task. Why was it important to go the extra mile for IKEA’s 25th anniversary?


Emiliano> It’s such a big milestone. When you think about how IKEA has changed Spanish homes over the last 25 years, you realise this was something that deserved a special celebration. Just another ad wouldn’t have done it. We absolutely knew we had to lock up a bunch of innocent strangers in a house from hell in the name of branded content.

LBB> You use Gen Z contestants in the TV series within this campaign. Does this mean you wanted to specifically target this demographic?


Emiliano> Not really. Of course in the house, we needed what we call the “IKEA natives”— those 25-year-olds or younger who have never had to spend an entire night under an itchy, smelly blanket—but we knew the show had the potential to attract any demographic. No matter if you’re a baby boomer or a teenager, the spectacle of a Gen Z trying to dial a rotary phone is simply mesmerizing. 

LBB> Did you plan on filming the ad separately or was it an off-shoot of the footage from the TV show episodes? If so, how did you propose choosing the specific clips to include?


Emiliano> The actual TV ad that was aired is a 40-second trailer of the show. The entire footage came from the episodes, which can only be found online and on social media. The script wasn’t really a script—it read something like, “this piece will be a trailer full of funny clips from the house”. We had no idea what would actually happen. Of course, reality TV showrunners have very specific techniques to try to spark certain situations and dynamics among the contestants, but still the level of uncertainty we and Ikea had to live with during production definitely qualifies as a leap of faith.

LBB> The contrast between the ‘90s inspired set and the IKEA furnishing is stark. How did you go about choosing pieces of furniture, lighting and amenities to include within the campaign?


Emiliano> Maxi Blanco’s team took care of the art direction of ‘90s side of the set, which had to look hellish but plausible. We didn’t want to overdo it. The house had to be real enough to trigger PTSD in certain segments of the audience. A team of IKEA decorators worked with Maxi to design the IKEA part of the house. Looking at both sides of the set during the shoot was quite a revelatory experience. It was an awesome visual representation of how IKEA has changed the world in the last two decades.  

LBB> Were there any moments from the creation of the campaign that you won’t forget?


Emiliano> When ‘Huesito’ appeared on screen for the first time during one of the casting sessions. The moment we saw her—with all her charm, sense of humour and made up expressions—we knew we struck gold. 

LBB> What has the reception to the ad and TV show been?

Emiliano> Laura Durán, the CMO of IKEA, called me 48 hours after the launch. When I saw her name flashing on the screen I thought, “this is either great news or really bad news”. Thankfully, it was good news: the campaign has been one of IKEA’s biggest hits. The metrics were off the charts. TV networks even reached out to IKEA to ask if they could air the show. And people are still complaining that there’re not enough episodes. They want more. That’s what tells me that we should’ve left the contestants locked up in that house so much longer.