Tom Wrigglesworth on the power of advertising

PUBLISHED: 10:29 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:29 15 June 2017

Tom Wrigglesworth

Tom Wrigglesworth


From global campaigns to home made signs, adverts are everywhere. But they don’t always tell the full story.

I have yet to meet anyone who admits to being seduced or persuaded by adverts. We can be alerted to new products, or reminded of old ones. We can even seek out the John Lewis Christmas ad to keep us in the pub-chat loop. But everyone I know will stand firm in their Adidas trainers, and swear resolutely, through swigs of Diet Coke, that advertising simply does not work on them.

My dad has managed to take this concept of denial to the next level, announcing recently that he awoke from a dream with an unrelenting desire for roast turkey. In April. The fact that, just up the road, a farm shop had put up a sign declaring whole turkeys were being almost given away, was never really acknowledged.

These farm shop ads come in two distinct waves, an original offer of turkey which obviously hits around December, is followed by a second campaign in April when the legal length of time for deep freezing poultry expires. They have also bagged a prime spot for advertising such giveaways – right on a four way junction, where the traffic priority scheme is just confusing enough to ensure a constant trickle of minor road traffic accidents. This gives the farm shop advert an almost round the clock captive audience of rubber-neckers, witnesses, or despairing people swapping insurance details and shouting into mobiles.

I presume word of mouth is the holy grail of advertisers. After all, a product endorsed by the most famous person in the world would still come second place to a competing product bought by Keith and Diane up the road who say it’s ‘alright’.

This manner of percolating into our consciousness must be written on the boardroom wall at Ikea, who never seem to aggressively advertise, yet are on the tip of our tongues when a new bed, wardrobe, or just something to do on a bank holiday is needed. And contrary to pretty much every other comedian who’ll happily take pot shots at Ikea, I will confess that I love the place.

Putting aside the huge crowds if you miss-time your visit, or the murky corporate structure that sits at odds with its socialist principles, the place is fantastic. Where else allows any numpty with a screwdriver to feel like some sort of carpentry Gandalf, transforming a flat box of planks and a pile of screws into a bedside table that Keith and Diane would definitely class as ‘alright’.

I recently had a rollercoaster of emotions with Ikea, my first visit was to the Leeds branch to get a chest of drawers, a purchase that went swimmingly save for the fact I was offered jam on my meatballs! Jam! On meatballs. Now, I can handle the galling crowds, I can turn a blind eye to the Escher-style layering of company ownership in the name of tax efficiency, but what sort of post-Blumenthal nonsense is meatballs and jam? My bewilderment at this food pairing lasted until the afternoon, when it was replaced with anger at the fact that half the drawers didn’t come with a base, resulting in a chest of four working drawers, and four novelty pull out empty frames.

So back I went, this time to Nottingham, armed with the receipt for the incomplete drawers. On the way I drove past the farm shop who were now offering seasonal lamb at a price I couldn’t make out because I had to swerve to avoid another motorist who had either become transfixed with the sign, or just fallen foul of the cryptic traffic priority system.

But once I made it to Ikea, the response I got was like a text book lesson in customer service. An immediate, unquestioning offer of four new drawer bases, their unreserved apologies, and free meatballs. Plus, in some sort of mind-reading exercise that would have delighted Derren Brown, they offered me lingonberry sauce on the meatballs. Sauce! That’s more like it. It’s only when they dolloped it on the plate I realised it was the same as the jam and I’d simply over-reacted on my previous visit. Still, my love for Ikea was back to somewhere between dedicated and obsessive.

I should have known this was too good to be true as when I got home to complete the chest of drawers, I found I’d been given the wrong size bases. Surely I don’t have to make another two hour round trip, I thought, I’m simply never going to finish these drawers. I had just delivered a volley of abuse (something about Abba, as I remember) at my half-made furniture when my Dad arrived with a plate of left over lamb, announcing that he’d had another of his food craving dreams. ‘Oh’, he said, eyeing up the chest of drawers, ‘that reminds me, I saw an advert the other day, Sheffield is going to get its own Ikea in November.’

Well, I said, taking the plate of lamb. At lease I have a completion date for these drawers.

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