Known for Swedish meatballs, Billy bookcases, and making you assemble your furniture with an allen key, IKEA has been a leading affordable retailer for decades. But why do they have a German, yellow VW Beetle as their mascot of sorts? Because it’s one of their colours? Compact, good on fuel, and kinda put together like Lego, without an allen key?
As shared in an earlier post, Jackson Yellowe the Wonderbug was discovered at roadside by a talent scout. He debuted in an IKEA Christmas ad created by a Vancouver, Canada production team for a Seattle ad agency. Although I have yet to see the final cut, I spent the day on set, nibbling Swedish berry candies and trying to stay out of the way.
It began when the car wrangler for Supernatural was near the beach, filming an episode of Sam and Dean’s strange adventures. In a parallel life, the wrangler also scouted cars for IKEA TV ads and was in a bind for not finding the yellow Bug used in two previous spots. The popular one of the overloaded Beetle puffing and putt-putting up a steep hill, and another, with too many roof-stacked boxes to fit under an overpass, had used the AWOL car.
And then Jackson appeared as if by divine intervention! (Castiel, was that you?) My apartment figured prominently in the Supernatural episode, so I guess Jackson made a cameo, too, and the frantic message to call ASAP was planted on the windshield.
Now here’s the really weird part; follow me on this. After confirming working together on the ad, the wrangler and his pal visited me at work to take photos of Jackson for ad prep. The next door neighbour, who used to be my doctor before I worked in this location, asked why the guys were photographing the car.
“My car’s going to be in an IKEA commercial!” I exclaimed.
Surprised, she said, “I used to have a yellow Bug and IT was used in an IKEA commercial, too! Two of them, actually. How neat is that? What year is your car?”
“Jackson’s a ’71 SuperBeetle,” I replied.
She smiled. “Mine was a ’71 SuperBeetle.”
I said, “Well, I think they’ve been looking for you.” Turned out she had sold it and – for a flash – we thought I had bought her car from a middleman. It wasn’t the same one, but it explained the AWOL Bug and gave Jackson an exciting opportunity. Given that we are in Canada’s third largest city, the synchronicity at play here was sort of eerie.
On production day I promptly drove Jackson to the studio, all clean and shiny. But apparently the hubcaps were too shiny, because the corrective can of hairspray came out and was diffused to dull the glare. Someone peeled off our West End parking permit with a paring knife, and glanced around for a place to put it.
STAGE MOTHER ENTERS BRISKLY FROM STAGE LEFT, HANDS OUTSTRETCHED.
Those permits are like gold.
Everyone walked on the white-sheeted floor with little blue plastic bag slippers to keep it spotless. I winced, hoping Jackson didn’t drip too much oil, and scooted away to explore elsewhere.
Ingmar, bearer of that familiar voice of IKEA, was busily getting elf ears installed when I sauntered into the green room and delved into the Swedish berries.
“Who ARE you?” he asked quizzically (and with a genuinely Swedish accent). Clearly, I had no obvious purpose on set, besides wandering aimlessly and eating candy. I introduced myself and said I was the proud Stage Mother of the car he was about to drive. He was a friendly fellow. I pocketed more candy and left him to his ears.
Back out on the white set, the car and sleigh were being prepped for motion. Running the motor was too loud and would gas everyone, but the car had to actively pull the sleigh somehow. Team One, offscreen, would quickly yank a rope to pull the car a short distance. Ingmar, as elf driver, would brake before hitting the wall. The red sleigh was heaped with boxes and a live Santa, and was tied to the back of the car. Team Two, hidden on the far side, would bound forward to halt the sleigh, so it wouldn’t slam into the stopped car. Unseen by the camera angle, foam padding was later secured to the rear bumper to avoid Jackson getting sleighed, just in case the team didn’t make it on time. Again.
STAGE MOTHER: TWO THUMBS UP FOR THE FOAM PADDING
Santa would beckon to his elf, “Can’t this thing go any faster? We’ve only got one night!” And Ingmar would turn to the camera and say, “What Santa doesn’t know is that IKEA is open late on Christmas Eve…”
After the studio work was complete, a small crew followed me outside as I drove Jackson to the parking lot. They gathered near and ran after us for audio recordings of the unmistakable beep-beep and muffler roar (the latter setting off car alarms on other occasions).
In the final edit, Santa, Ingmar the elf and Jackson are flying across the midnight sky, delivering Lack tables, Poang chairs, and Malm bed frame kits to all the little people of the world. And if someone had been good all year, they also got an allen key in their stocking.