Busy-ness has become a badge of honor in today's world of work. We rarely take all our vacation days. We strive to be as productive as possible with the 168 hours we have each week. We think if we could train our bodies to survive on just four hours of sleep a night, we could get so much more done.

We shouldn't be living to work. Self-induced burnout is no way to live. It turns us into automated robots, just going through the motions. Wake up. Go to work. Work late. Go home. Sleep. Wake up. Go to work....

Ikea thinks it's time for a wake-up call. With its new commercial, it's encouraging us to snap out of it and think about what really matters.

If you've ever considered pulling an Elon Musk and sleeping at work, this is for you. 

Juxtaposing work and home

Advertising agency Ogilvy Dubai produced the commercial for Ikea in the United Arab Emirates.

The commercial opens with a virtual reality office worker moving robotically through the end of his workday. Briefcase in hand, he walks through a modern office building, past two colleagues meeting face-to-face but one wearing EarPods (nice jab, Ikea) and drives home.

As soon as he opens his front door, a warm light washes over him. The mood begins to change. He drops his keys, sits on the couch, and closes his eyes. The scene transitions from virtual reality to humans and real objects. The real man opens his eyes as a child runs to greet him and pounces on him on the couch.

The commercial closes with father, mother, and two children gathered on the couch with the words: "Home is where you feel alive again." Everyone's very clearly in their happy place.

A perfect play for Ikea

As we become ever-more obsessed with work, this is the perfect time for Ikea to jump in. It's one of the biggest furniture retailers in the world. From the start, Ikea has always been about the home.

Ikea's here to remind all of us that we can be happy. But maybe we need to take a breather and remember what exactly we're living for. This is a natural play for Ikea because it wants you to spend more time at home -- and buy more of the company's furniture to make it feel cozier and homier.

Of course, we all have to work. Making your home a warm, welcoming happy place and filling it with furniture costs money. If you shop at Ikea though, that furniture isn't so costly. The commercial brings focus to family time more than anything.

Not without its criticisms

When Ogilvy shared the commercial on LinkedIn, most comments were positive. There were criticisms though.

"Beautiful work, but would LOVE to see more ads challenging traditional gender roles," wrote Lacey Firestone, a global technology services client executive at IBM. Others pointed out that the commercial was created for United Arab Emirates, which has different cultural norms that the United States market.

Though the focus of the commercial is the father leaving work and "coming alive" when he comes home, pay close attention to the mother. She's in the background, but she's still a key character in this one-minute vignette.

She's professionally dressed. When we first see her, she's working on a laptop while children sit scribbling on either side of her. She joins the kids in greeting dad, but she doesn't shut it. Leaving the laptop open means she's probably coming back to it later.

With these subtle details, Ikea acknowledges that, for many, home is also a workplace. Mom's story is more open to interpretation, but there are enough clues to leave you curious. Did she just come home from work, too? Does she work from home? Run her own business? Maybe, just maybe, when mom goes back to working on her laptop, dad's going to get dinner started and get the kids ready for bed.

One of the most-read "books" of our time

Ikea released the commercial to promote the arrival of its 2019 catalog, which has just started arriving in mailboxes. Fun fact: Ikea prints over 200 million copies of its catalog a year, making it one of the most printed "books" in the world. (Only the Bible, the Koran, and Harry Potter have more copies in print.)

Ikea takes great care to localize its catalog for different countries and cultures. This includes subtle changes, like swapping out the food pictured to match popular local dishes. Sometimes the changes are more drastic and controversial. Ikea was criticized for removing women from photos for the Saudi Arabian market, Quartz reports.

This year's catalog was produced in 38 editions in 17 languages for 28 countries. You're likely to start seeing commercials to promote the 2019 catalog rollout. Like the catalog itself, the commercials vary by region and culture. The Ikea USA commercial, for example, is a bit more playful, showing that your home can be a haven for both personal space and time with loved ones.

Published on: Aug 22, 2018