‘No one predicted a fish-headed man’: In Made.com’s quirky ad

Brand Director Jude Whyte talks to us about the make-to-order retailer’s new big-ticket campaign.

Made.com unveiled a major publicity pivot with a new original campaign film as part of its new brand mantra to “get a little weirder”.

In February, brand director Jude Whyte told The Drum she was overhauling the Made brand after admitting competition from other online furniture retailers was eating away at its market share. At the time, she said she needed to reclaim the “exceptional energy” she was launched with and “prove” to her clients that she had “more extraordinary things to show them”.

Tired of the pastel color palette it had become synonymous with, Whyte’s team went back to the drawing board and created an entirely new design manifesto and brand book.

As she tells The Drum when we reunite, she wants Made to represent “never ordinary”, a “touch of the unexpected” and a “meaningful collaboration”. The first ad to come out of its new direction is a wacky 30-second spot with a fish head and a Stanley Kubrick-esque hallway.

The “Never Ordinary” campaign film was produced by Wonderhood and directed by Fabrice Le Nezet, with campaign photography by Joe Jackson. The spot sees protagonist Daniel take a trip down a surreal hallway, opening up rooms to interiors designed by Made. The final piece transports Daniel into an underwater-inspired aesthetic and ends with his head being replaced with a pink fish head.

The partnership with Wonderhood is a major departure from Made’s traditional in-house creative model. Aside from brief alliances with The Grid and Above + Beyond for television project work, Made has existed almost entirely without a partner agency since its launch in 2011.

Traditionally, its in-house creative team has handled everything from social media creation and production, copywriting and PR to visual merchandising and outdoor advertising (OOH).

Let’s go back to this fish head. Whyte says the fish is a “nod to the sense of curiosity” he wants his customers to feel when exploring his products. “Fish Head is memorable, playful and 100% never ordinary. I mean, no one predicted that a fish-faced man would come in the next Made ad, did they?

“Ultimately, we wanted to create something bold, daring and memorable.”

The hallway’s use was to “showcase the breadth of Made’s offering.” “No house is the same, and even within a house there are so often different looks and concepts, as well as uses,” adds Whyte.

Whyte explains that the furniture seen in the film represents different aspects of the brand, including the Bobo chair, which Whyte calls a “sculptural statement”; the Topeka bed, which “adds a touch of sophistication while being modern”; and the Kasiani linen blend sofa, which puts “sustainability first”.

Wonderhood’s record was deliberately left wide, she says. “Opening the brief allowed us and Wonderhood to explore creative concepts without the usual parameters, which is really what Never Ordinary is,” she says.

“Early creative developments explored everything from unusual locations and artistic sculptural installations to television and film references,” adds Whyte.

The campaign will be rolled out in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The media plan was phased, with the film first being distributed digitally before launching on television in the coming months and supported by print and later OOH.

The costly campaign comes as the make-to-order retailer posted a loss of £314m for 2021 and saw its market value fall from £755m to £285m. The retailer has previously cited global supply chain issues and transportation costs for its troubling financial results.

The effect of the cost-of-living crisis is another kick in the teeth for the high-end millennial housewares brand. In its latest earnings report, Made said its transactions in the first half had been affected by “deteriorating consumer sentiment”.

“Clearly things are tough for consumers right now. Naturally, we have seen a deterioration in consumer confidence since May, and that has had an impact on performance in this period,” its chief executive Nicola Thompson said in July.

Competing with cheaper housewares e-commerce companies such as Wayfair and Habitat, Made.com may need to invest heavily in advertising. Could this latest spot be the first sign of a deep commitment to advertising?

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