Northern lights

Posted on 19/12/2011

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Sweden, home of moderately priced furniture and famed for its 70s pop group. And now also for the country’s digital industry.

Hyper Island was set up in 1995 as a school for digital and interactive media. Using the “experience learning” teaching method, the school offers full and part time courses on everything digital. Given how the industry’s developed, many older and more senior people are sometimes out of their depth when it comes to the Internet. Hyper Island offers cutting edge courses for them and the young upstarts who are shaping the industry.

As well as mysterious sounding schools, the country is home to several major communications agencies. There are the digital giants North Kingdom, Fantasy Interactive and the advertising agency Forsman and Bodenfors. They might not be household names (to be fair, not many agencies are), but their work is. There’s something unique about their work – between them they’ve built FWA winning sites and won several Cannes Lions.

Here’s why I think there’s something special about Swedish agencies:

The Facebook Showroom – Forsman & Bodenfors, 2009

The idea was ingenious set up a Facebook profile for the store manager, upload photos of the room designs and whoever tags the furniture with their name first wins the furniture! A beautifully simple way of using the pre-existing web functionality in a new and exciting way.

It’s difficult to come up with an idea so simple that it appears completely obvious. Time after time I’ve noticed similar fresh thinking coming out of Sweden in the form of advertising.

Stockholm homeless campaign – Garbergs, 2011

The brief: raise awareness of homelessness in Sweden and generate donations.
The idea: homeless banners that advocates could include on their blogs, websites and profiles. the more places they were hosted and the more clicks they received, the brighter they got. A social and highly visual way to share the message.

The Love Making Profile App – Ester, 2011

Seeding their sex profiling app by handing out free condoms with a QR code on, and a website that allows you to compare how different profiles perform in bed. Great on the awareness side, odd use of an app.

Blog-up shop – Prime, 2011

Surely ten shops are better than one? This idea, created for the Swedish interior design brand Lagerhaus, set up temporary “blog-up” shops on popular interior design blogs, and took the bloggers’ recommendations in store. When a visitor went to any of these blogs then also visited the Lagerhaus store.

Like F&B’s social media campaign, both of these are wonderful ideas because they make use of the platforms and connections that make up the internet. Why have just one online presence when through social advocacy and blogger outreach you can have tens, hundreds?

For a small country of 9.4 million people, Sweden is developing some of the freshest advertising campaigns around. Why? I really couldn’t say. The “Swedish model” has been talked about in all kinds of contexts: economics, taxation, social care. There just seems to be something different in the way they do things up there. Perhaps a higher latitude provides the distance and perspective needed for fresh thinking.

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