A ‘Stuff Monster’ Prowls the Streets in Ikea’s New Commercial

It’s a CGI metaphor for sustainability.

A ‘Stuff Monster’ Prowls the Streets in Ikea’s New Commercial

It’s a CGI metaphor for sustainability.
09 - 29 2020

What’s over 20 feet tall, lumbers like a vexed T-Rex down the streets of Toronto, and made entirely of products from Ikea?

Hint: It’s in the headline, people!

That’s right, we’re talking about the Stuff Monster. It’s got chairs for feet, a moving-box mouth—plus sofas, storage units and kid’s play items cram-jammed on its fantastical frame.

As for the eyes … they’re lamps, naturally.

Thing is, the branded beastie keeps losing pieces of itself all over town, shrinking every second. But as you’ll see in the cute clip below, that’s really not so bad:

So, the monster was really just a CGI-animated metaphor for sustainability, illustrating how we can help Planet Earth by giving away old stuff we don’t want to folks who could use it. Hippie-era Cat Stevens on the soundtrack was a clue that no kaiju-style mayhem would ensue. (Random aside: Stuffy would kick the crap out of Old Spice’s rubbery ruffians. If the Ikea creature could keep it together long enough, that is.)

“We were talking about how it can sometimes feel like you’re walking around carrying the weight of all your stuff with you, like a monster made of stuff, and there it was,” explains Dhaval Bhatt, creative director at Rethink, about the inspiration for the work, which his agency developed for Ikea Canada.

“It was really important for us to create a character that the viewer could empathize and connect with,” he says, in order to convey “the feeling of being weighed down, and then the simple joy of seeing the very things weighing you down bringing happiness to someone else.”

Breaking today, the spot “not only aims to inspire people to let go responsibly, but also to de-stigmatize used furniture by showing the beautiful possibilities when old things are given a new life, instead of being sent to a landfill,” adds client director of marketing Lena Dukic.

Thematically, “Stuff Monster” picks up where last year’s “Lamp 2” left off, reinforcing Ikea’s “circular vision” for a more sustainable world.

Director Mark Zibert—who also shot “Lamp 2,” the sequel to Ikea’s iconic “Lamp” spot from 2002—employs a deft touch in “Stuff Monster.” While the action’s whimsical, the creature, at first, seems ever-so-slightly scary—giving the minute-long ad just enough edge to engage viewers and drive home its message.

“We spent months developing the Stuff Monster,” says Rethink partner and creative director Joel Holtby. “The biggest challenge was finding a way to communicate emotion through inanimate objects. Pixar makes it look easier than it is.”

While shooting for three days on location, “we used props fabricated from the parts of the Stuff Monster, puppeteered by the crew, as well as suited stand-ins—guys in tight green leotards dropping furniture—that were digitally replaced in post,” Holtby says. “This allowed us to get great real responses from the actors.”

As for Cat Stevens, “we tried over 50 songs, everything from the Beatles to Bowie, but as soon as we heard ‘Tea for the Tillerman,’ we knew it was the one,” says Bhatt.

“The song just has a great arc that matches the feeling of the Stuff Monster perfectly,” he says. “The original song is literally just 60 seconds, so we didn’t have to change a single note. Also, the song is from 1970, so in a way speaks to the idea of giving old things a new life.”