Wes Anderson’s Ikea Commercials (2002)

With the 2001 release of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, director Wes Anderson established himself as a uniquely independent voice in the cinematic conversation.  But just like anything that’s fresh, cool, and hip, it was only a matter of time until the world of advertising co-opted Anderson’s style to schill product.  In 2002, Anderson teamed with Swedish furniture giant Ikea to produce a duo of spots entitled “KITCHEN” and “LIVING ROOM”.  While they weren’t Anderson’s first attempts at commercial production (that honor belongs to his 1999 Sony spot), this pair of spots mark the beginning of the advertising field’s long-love affair with his signature aesthetic.  

Owing to their purpose as advertisements, both spots are fairly anonymous in execution– but they do exhibit some vestiges of their maker’s hand.  “KITCHEN” portrays a domestic squabble between a man and wife, while “LIVING ROOM” presents a teenage girl confessing her unplanned pregnancy to her infuriated parents.  Framing in the standard 4:3 broadcast aspect ratio, Anderson captures these tableaus with handheld verite camerawork as if we were there besides the characters.  When the rug is pulled out from under us and the spots reveal that both families are actually just playacting in staged Ikea showroom spaces, Anderson then switches out to the locked-off dolly work he’s well-known for.  Anyone who’s ever visited Ikea can attest to the meticulousness with which each showroom is furnished and dressed; any one of their tableaus could pass for a working film set.  In revealing the artifice of the “proscenium” that surrounds these detailed mockups, Anderson’s execution of the idea dovetails quite nicely with his own artistic conceits.

Thematically, the spots also touch on several of Anderson’s core narrative preoccupations.  The spots hinge heavily on broken family dynamics like marital discord and teen pregnancy, but he subverts these melancholy topics with a comedic sensibility to lighten the burden of their presence.  If these spots teach us anything about Anderson as an artist, it’s that his sensibilities can’t be restrained in service to corporate interests.  Indeed, they seek him out because of it.  In their attempts to co-opt Anderson’s particular worldview, advertising agencies have (perhaps unwittingly) boosted his profile within pop culture and fueled his rise to prominence as one of our most recognizable directors.

“KITCHEN” and “LIVING ROOM” are available on Youtube via the embeds above.