People Can't Stop Watching These Objectively Boring IKEA Ads

by James Hale

I may not get the famous tingles from autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos, but that doesn't stop me from regularly falling asleep to the relaxing sounds of floral foam being sliced or soap shavings being crunched. There's all manner of strange and wild ASMR videos on the internet, but IKEA's new ads may be the strangest and wildest yet, simply because, well, they exist. IKEA's newest ads are really long & boring, but totally bonkers in almost every conceivable way — including the ridiculous number of people watching them all the way through.

We all know things can go drastically wrong when brands try to be cool by hopping on the latest hashtag or co-opting a meme for advertising purposes. And honestly, IKEA's apparent desire to trap people inside their mazelike stores and feed them delicious Swedish meatballs is the opposite of relaxing for me. But when it comes to excellent advertising content, IKEA has got it goin' on.

The brand posted "Oddly IKEA," an ASMR video set in a dorm room, on its official YouTube account back in August 2017. A soft voiceover describes various (IKEA-made, of course) items while someone — you mostly see hands — strokes, taps, squeezes, and moves various objects, creating, as one commenter put it, "some fly ASMR."

The new videos are part of IKEA's "Where Life Happens" ad run, which, as Adweek points out, "given us heart-wrenching ads about divorce, single parenting, adoption and even the slow dissolution of father-daughter bonds." This batch of ads isn't heart-wrenching, though; it's profoundly mundane. As in, these pre-roll (aka, ads that play before content you actually want to watch) videos are extremely long — think, four minutes, five minutes, nine minutes — and feature people doing boring things like washing dishes and arm-wrestling. They're also ASMR gold.

And the numbers reflect people's satisfaction with them: According to Adweek, a shocking 39 percent of people stick with the ads till the end. Even those who didn't stay for the whole video stayed longer than usual: "According to agency Åkestam Holst, the average viewing rate among targeted users was three minutes — far and above what most brands can hope for in their breathier efforts to pack worthy content into the tense five seconds allotted them before the Click of Death," Adweek reported. Which makes these vids advertising gold, too, albeit not a type that will be easily replicated — though after this, other brands are likely to try to piggyback on IKEA's success.

If you're savvy when it comes to ASMR content, you'll know why IKEA's new ads are so engaging within a few seconds. If you're new to ASMR, though, here's a breakdown of one of the vids and why it's so excellent. The dishwashing video is a little over four and a half minutes long, and is mostly dialogue-free. ASMR is primarily triggered by sound, and this video is filled with the running and splashing of water, the soft scrubbing of a brush over dishes, the clink of silverware and glasses, and the gentle background noise of a TV.

According to The ASMR Lab, top ASMR triggers include whispering, scratching, and tapping noises, so this video hits on all three of those. The other two videos posted by Adweek also feature mixed soundscapes with consistent levels of repetitive sounds — pretty much guaranteed to spark ASMR reactions in those who have them.

Whether IKEA intended for these ads to be follow-ups to its August ASMR ad isn't certain, but literally whatever the brand's intent was, it succeeded. Making quality ASMR videos? Check. Getting people's eyes on IKEA products? Check. Getting random YouTube viewers not to click away during the first five seconds of the ad? Check. Getting press for doing all the above? Check.

IMO, there's some risk that ASMR-triggering ads will become the fidget spinners of the advertising world as marketing firms try to unlock IKEA's secrets, but hopefully folks learned from Balenciaga's mistakes and will let IKEA keep its genius to its labyrinthine, meatball-loving self.