In 1994, Ikea made national news when it began airing a groundbreaking television commercial: a gay couple shopping for a dining room table. At the time, no national mainstream commercial had ever done it.
What also set the commercial apart was the frank matter in which the couple’s relationship was depicted. They were given a backstory, portrayed as committed to each other, and it was implied that they were considering having a family: “We’ve got another leaf waiting for when we REALLY start getting along.”
The commercial was part of a larger campaign that dealt with nontraditional families, which also included a mixed-race couple and a single mom with an adopted child.
The spot was meet with enthusiasm and support. Ellen Carton, then-executive director of the New York chapter of GLAAD, told the Los Angeles Times that the ad depicted “an aspect of gay life that people never see: our daily lives. Instead of showing gays and lesbians marching at gay rights rallies or suffering from AIDS, the Ikea ad humanizes us. The importance of that cannot be overstated.”
But the spot the also had its detractors, which included angry letters and calls for a boycott from conservative groups — and a bomb threat at store in Hicksville, New York.
After the bomb threat, Ikea quietly pulled the ad from the airwaves.
Ikea would revisit a gay-themed commercial 12 years later, in an ad featuring a couple and their two kids shopping for a couch; that time, no call for boycotts or bomb threats were reported.