How to Build an Ad (Out of Cheap IKEA Furniture)

Unless you live in a post-WWII zombie apocalypse bunker somewhere deep in the northern region of South Dakota, you’ve probably heard of IKEA. It’s that cheap furniture store that the Swede’s randomly gifted North America back in the mid-2000s. And if you’ve visited IKEA, then you’ve bought something that required spiritually-draining assembly. We know because we’ve outfitted 16 different offices in the last year (don’t ask).

By being part of the team that creates so much amazing work at Adjective & Co., I realized that building great advertising isn’t so different from building cheap Swedish furniture. Here’s a helpful guide to successfully constructing your most recent furniture purchase while not losing your mind, and the lessons you can take away to help make compelling advertising.

Step 1: Underestimate your own strength & slam the IKEA box on the ground thus scaring the hell out of the entire office. It’s all flat-packed, so who cares. 
(Lesson: Kick off the project with a bang with the whole team, and have fun.)

Step 2: Unpack—867 pieces.
(Lesson: Look at everything: brief, previous work, competition, etc.)

Step 3: Screw the instructions. Trust me, you don’t want to know how many steps there are. Begin assembly.
(Lesson: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are usually the best ideas.)

Step 4: Disassemble everything. Read Instructions.
(Lesson: Go back, break down and edit your work, and refer back to the creative brief.)

Step 5: Offer a co-worker the opportunity to use the power drill (it will make him/her feel important).
(Lesson: Get people outside the creative team involved. Ask questions. Everyone is a consumer and has valid feedback.)

Step 6: Immediately take the power drill away from your co-worker.
(Lesson: Listen to their opinions as just that: opinions.)

Step 7: Conjoin some things, flip ’em around, flip ’em around again. You’re getting the hang of this.
(Lesson: Look at your idea from every angle and every media.)

Step 8: Throw away the pieces you did not use. They will only cause confusion.
(Lesson: Get rid of anything you don’t love, or won’t move the needle.)

Step 9: Three hours later, step back and bathe in the glory of building something yourself.
(Lesson: Once you’re finished, take a step back and with fresh eyes, and make sure you like it—and most importantly, get it. )

Step 10: Go to the nearest bar and drink four shots of tequila.
(Lesson: Go to the nearest bar and drink four shots of tequila.)

So you can see how creating work at a millennial advertising agency and putting IKEA furniture together really aren’t that different after all: both require painfully tedious attention to detail. Both require at least two people and as many as 18. Both give you the satisfaction of having built something yourself—and as a team.

…And both inevitably end in tequila shots.