Ju: You’re responsible for many IKEA campaigns featured in Luerzer's Archive, such as Feel alive again, Bully a plant, Go furniture-crazy, End of family drama, and recently, The Real Life Series, that went viral and was Print Ad of the Week on this site a few weeks ago. Which of your campaigns are you most proud of and why?
Carla: I am proud of all our campaigns. The reason is that all these ideas have been done with different budgets and for different channels. I’m also proud the work was relevant to many markets.
Ju: These campaigns were done for the Middle East; but some of them, like Bully a plant and The Real Life Series, generated so much PR that it felt like a Global idea. How do you feel about that? Were you expecting that?
Carla: Every time I approve an idea, I always hope it goes viral. The equation is simple: great ideas generate PR, which consequently drives sales, increases brand love, etc. So yes, we can say PR is something we have aimed for since the beginning. It also makes me happy to know that the world is seeing that creative work can also come from small countries like the UAE, that we can also make a big impact, and make the news on a global level. It proves that a brand can do great work everywhere, it doesn’t matter where you are. I’m very happy that these ideas went viral globally. It’s good for the brand IKEA to have more and more awareness in all different markets, and it's good for us. Everyone wins.
Ju: How did a Dutch girl get involved with IKEA in the first place? How was your career trajectory and how did you get to Dubai?
Carla: I studied design and later got my Marketing degree. I started my career working for several Dutch companies but at a certain point I wanted to work in a more international environment, so I joined IKEA in the Netherlands, which was the place to be. It’s a global brand and it gives employees a lot of opportunities to work in different countries. After Holland, I moved to Spain where I led IKEA Iberica – Spain and Portugal – both countries at the same time. Due to IKEA’s ambitious expansion plans in the Middle East, I moved to Dubai at the end of 2011, where I have been ever since, leading IKEA UAE, Egypt, Qatar, and Oman from my hub in Dubai. I believe there’s a lot of potential and creativity in the Middle East and my goal is to show that to the world.
Ju: What was the most challenging country you worked in so far? How challenging is it to work in the Middle East?
Carla: I think no country was specifically challenging, but to adapt to each of them is the greatest challenge. The tone of voice changes and IKEA does a great job in understanding how unique each market is. I think there are two relevant points worth mentioning: family dynamics and humor. We use loads of humor in our campaigns and humor changes a lot from one place to the other. Family is key in our communication and a core value in all the MENA markets. Some people might think it is challenging, but I think it’s fun. You start to look at old problems in new ways and come up with new creative solutions. I love it. It keeps me sharp to make it local.
Ju: If you could give any advice for people who are starting in the client area, what would it be?
Carla: 1. Learn and watch what the industry is doing. Good and bad work. This will help you judge ideas better. 2. Share your ideas with a lot of people – people you trust. Feedback makes you stronger, whether it is positive or negative. 3. Look at what creatives are looking at. Go to art shows and ad festivals to understand what is happening with the market. Have a dialogue with creatives in agencies. Make sure you don't just talk with account directors, but with creatives too.