Product/ServiceSOFA BUILD TOOL
Category C01. Use of Social/ Digital Platforms
Name Company Position
John Treacy Proximity London Executive Creative Director
Jay Packham Proximity London Senior Art Director
Ian Cochran Proximity London Senior Copywriter
James Bartram Proximity London Strategy Director
Aaron Breuer-Weil Proximity London Junior Planner
Zoe Jones Proximity London Business Director
Francesca Kendle Proximity London Account Director
Alice Kenyon Proximity London Account Manager
Sam Lewis Proximity London Data Planner
Kirsty Ireton Proximity London Designer
Brian Eagle Proximity London Head of Design
Gemma Zhang Proximity London Designer
Lucy Aird Proximity London Designer
James Norton Proximity London Designer
Mat Poscha Proximity London Artworker
Alex Thorpe Proximity London Animator
Tom Hughes Proximity London Copywriter
Fleur Hollett Proximity London Senior Project Manager
Mike Creevy IKEA UK Social Media Specialist
Jason Black Proximity London Web Communications Manager
Starr Cottrell Proximity London Junior Press Officer
Rhianna Higham Proximity London Social Media Specialist

Why is this work relevant for Direct?

Tasked with getting ‘the many’ to engage with IKEA’s hidden creativity and usefulness through the Sofa Planning tool, we needed people to play with it for themselves - just showing people one of IKEA’s smart solutions wouldn’t be enough to prove our point. Joining and adding to a conversation, interacting directly with consumers and co-creating, we encouraged a direct response to our campaign (with people sharing their creations and requiring significant interaction with the tool). This was especially critical given our lack of media budget!


Everything IKEA does has hidden creativity that solves problems, often problems people don’t really notice, like water pooling in upturned cups in the dishwasher so they never dry properly. IKEA cups have a groove that drains the water out. It is part of their design philosophy that creates THE WONDERFUL EVERYDAY. There is of course an inherent problem with hidden creativity, it’s hard to get people to see it, never mind talk about it. Our task was to do just that, using a Sofa Planning tool - not very exciting unless you have the specific problem of planning your sofa. Only 50 of the 250,000 visits a day were to use it to do just that, so it didn’t feel like we had a naturally viral meme just waiting to be unleashed on the world – which would be a natural direction given that we were without media budget.

Describe the creative idea (30% of vote)

The (very) few people who ever found their way to the sofa planning tool were using it to create pictures of aliens, mazes and, well, ‘tools’. Some were even using it to create whole messages. This was our inspiration. In under 24hrs we designed, created and launched IKEA SOFFA SANS - a real, downloadable, usable font, built from 38 different sofa configurations on the sofa planning tool in multiple colours, 3D and 2D. Each character was created in the planning tool itself then exported into fontographer to ensure it was as authentic as possible. The launch went so well that we decided to ask fans to help us complete the character set. Punctuation marks, hashtags and symbols were all co-created by the public - extending the conversation, driving traffic to the tool and encouraging the sharing of designs. The best ones even won an actual sofa.

Describe the strategy (20% of vote)

We couldn’t afford to start a conversation, so our strategy was to be patient, to social-listen until something, anything, conversation-worthy about the Sofa Planning Tool cropped up, then jump on it and put it in front of a bigger audience who’d help us amplify the message. Given our lack of media budget, we needed to focus on maximising PR and social reach. We had to find an audience who’d be willing to listen and share. With an idea that would interest and intersect an audience of design geeks and those with tech interests, we could be confident that design blogs, tech blogs and mainstream nerdist types would take up the story. We listened and we found a small group of techsters subverting the tool for their own amusement, drawing spiral sofas, labyrinthian sofas, creating words or letters – this gave rise to our creative thought.

Describe the execution (20% of vote)

Conversations on the topic of branded sofa planning tools don’t happen often and when they do, they don’t typically hang around for long. Having spotted people’s playful creations on Twitter, we hatched the idea and had a fully functioning, downloadable font on social and on IKEA’s UK website within 24 hours, whilst the conversation was still active. As social mentions and references started to decline, we then offered people the opportunity to create the remaining components of the font with us, to maintain the traction we’d achieved. We acknowledged each victor on IKEA’s own social channels to allow people to share their creations and their joy of winning. We promoted the font via integrating with the pre-existing social threads (with the phallus sofas), supported across owned social platforms, and a PR push targeting design publications to maximise coverage.

List the results (30% of vote)

Two weeks after noticing a few fleeting mentions of our tool, Soffa Sans had gathered 84.2m impressions, over 13,000 references across social and become a UK Twitter moment. In total we’d earned £358k of free media. We were picked up by Mashable, The FT, Verge, CNET, FAST Company, Hypebeast, Ad Age, Trend Hunter, The Drum, Marketing Week and many, many more. Thousands of people began pro-actively searching the tool – we saw an increase in organic search traffic to the tool of 6,695% (2 weeks either side of the campaign). And overall, we generated an increase in traffic to the sofa planning tool of 4,247%, seeing an average of 7,000 hits per day, and average hours spent within the planning tool increased by 1,023% - helping us to show the hidden creativity in everything IKEA does. We made the Sofa Planning tool famous with no budget, just 5 IKEA sofas.