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How Ikea broke the traditional Christmas narrative

by Marina McManaway

In 2019, IKEA broke the traditional mould of tear-jerking holiday narratives (famously exemplified by John Lewis), with their debut UK Christmas ad, "Silence the Critics."

Departing from the sentimental norm, IKEA presented a fresh approach to Christmas advertising, wielding contemporary culture as its canvas while championing diversity and individuality in a stand against the concept of “home shame.”

At the core of the ad’s narrative lies a family grappling with the mockery of their home’s decor by the kitsch objects inhabiting their space. This tale unfolds against the backdrop of grime music, where D Double E, lent his voice to these animated objects, weaving a catchy track that dissed the family’s interior choices.

The brilliance of “Silence the Critics” lay in its departure from the typical holiday cliches. Rather than tugging at heartstrings, the ad employed a blend of humour and cultural relevance, creating a welcome seasonal niche. Judges and industry experts praised the ad for its innovative approach and cultural insight, acknowledging its bold departure from the norm while embracing and showcasing new cultural truths.

Effectiveness wasn’t just through the ad’s ability to entertain—it reinforced IKEA’s ability to think outside of the box. Through clever storytelling, the ad brought everyday household objects to life, playfully criticising the family’s lack of readiness for the holiday season, only to be swiftly upgraded by IKEA solutions. This fusion of humour with Grime music created a lasting impact on me that extended far beyond the typical holiday advertising life-span. 

“Silence the Critics” is a great example of how brands can break away from the anticipated sentimental route during the festive season. By embracing cultural relevance and infusing humour into their narrative, IKEA connected authentically with audiences, and created advertising that celebrates diversity, individuality, and the joy of home and family without conforming to the usual norms.

In essence, IKEA’s “Silence the Critics” was not only an engaging ad but serves as an example for brands looking to redefine their approach to Christmas advertising and step outside of the predictable.

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Marina McManaway

→ With over a decade of experience in CX, service design and digital transformation, Marina has honed her skills working with clients such as Revenue NSW, ANZ and Samsung. Marina has also worked client side driving new ventures at a leading health organisation. Skilled in leading multi-disciplinary teams and driving innovation, Marina unlocks growth potential while ensuring a human-centered approach.

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