My initial thoughts about the campaign were very positive — IKEA decided to use the store space to promote awareness and raise money to a crisis that is happening in a different part of the world. Rather than seeing it and reading about it in the media, visitors got a close, tangible look at a real war-zone home.
Spending some time thinking about it and sharing it with close friends, though, I began having second thoughts about the good intentions of the campaign. Does IKEA actually care about the life and wellbeing of the Syrian people or is it just using the crisis as a cynical publicity stunt? After all, IKEA hired a marketing company to produce this installation. The immense difference between the bare concrete Syrian home and the shiny IKEA displays feels almost uncomfortable, making the divide between ‘their’ world and ‘ours’ almost impossible to bridge.
The main 3 concerns the campaign brings to my mind are:
1. Normalisation of crisis– by placing a Syrian house in the middle of ‘clinical’ IKEA are we actually turning the war, pain and suffering into something normal? Something we shouldn’t be shocked by?
2. Harmful call to action — the main call to action of the installation is to donate money to the Red Cross. Donating money is very important, especially for organisation like the Red Cross however, I’m wondering whether we shouldn’t also be encouraged to take more proactive action? Understand why this crisis started in the first place? Who is in charge of resolving it? How can we make sure something similar doesn’t happen again?
3. Mass media item— I’m wondering whether the campaign and it’s coverage in the media encourages healthy conversation around the topic or whether it is just turning it into ‘another click bate’ in our feed?
To summarise, I think this campaign is very creative and it will be wrong to label it ‘unethical’ however, it is important to question campaigns coming from huge corporations. We must ask ourselves: what is their real purpose and motive, who is benefiting from it, and what is the social impact it has on the public?