Op Ed: Look at Sweden, Right Now

By Matt Van Hoven 

This OpEd is written by our yet-to-be-named digital thinker, Shape78.

It’s been quite a while since my last transmission, but a refreshing hibernation works wonders for the soul. Anyhow, as indicated in the previous post, it’s time to pack the bags and set sail across the globe to take a closer look at digital creative sprouting up beyond our borders.


Let’s begin across the pond in Europe, more specifically in what is arguably the epicenter for eye-catching work in said continent: Sweden. While London and Amsterdam might host the branches of large agencies like W+K, Fallon and 180, it’s Stockholm that’s proven itself as a leading locale when it comes to digital innovation.

But what exactly separates this Scandinavian capital from the pack? From a statistical standpoint, we can refer way back to a 2007 Gunn Report, which listed that four out of the ten best web advertising firms were Swedish. Two years later, it seems that data hasn’t fluctuated much&#151in fact it’s likely improved&#151with outfits like Forsman & Bodenfors, B-Reel, Farfar, Perfect Fools, Akestam.Holst and North Kingdom continuing to push out quality work that can be both aesthetically pleasing and provocative.

One such example, which also proves why Europe is much more sexually liberated than the U.S., is Akestam.Holst’s “Miss Fiffi” project for RFSU. We couldn’t dare get away with a site called “Shave Your Pussy” here in the States, but beyond the initial shock factor there lay a humorous, substantial discourse on proper female grooming that tied into RFSU’s sexual education initiative.

Along with the more controversial material, some of the more notable Swedish output has placed equal value on the audio and visual elements. F&B’s IKEA web efforts&#151″Dream Kitchen,” “You Need a Quiet Space” and “Come into the Closet”&#151are shining examples, with the last item featuring a seamless, genre-shifting soundtrack from Dead Mono that ties perfectly into the five floors of exploration. The agency’s recent work for Wasa completely flips the script on sound design, though, with various early morning effects fluttering about that help highlight the site’s simple message of eating a healthy breakfast.

It’s this sonic subtlety that definitely benefitted DDB, Stockholm and Acne Digital’s two rounds of online recruitment for Swedish Armed Forces, which required headphone use to not only hear the instructor’s monotone orders, but basically immerse yourself in the claustrophobic environment that tests your mental prowess.

From a truly visual standpoint, FarFar has unleashed several engaging web efforts for Nokia and Bjorn Borg, while B-Reel has worked the agency circuit from Paris to San Francisco, giving us stunning destinations for Frito-Lay, Sharp and Nike in the process. And on the gaming tip, North Kingdom followed up 2007’s breakthrough “Get the Glass” challenge for Goodby with a Coke Zero advergame and Mentos “Kiss Fight“. Add to that the “Plug into the Smart Grid” site for GE and David Ericsson’s company has shown us how user interaction can be propelled by an alluring storyline.

Of course, all of these various digital creative strategies are not necessarily groundbreaking in the ad industry these days. But within a market that’s comparably small to other European metropolises, it’s pretty intriguing to see so much steady innovation for such a prolonged period of time from so many different companies. While it’s doubtful that there’s a massive mindshare amongst these various creative types, there’s undoubtedly a community that seems to thrive on the competition they’ve all created. It is this competition that in turn has spawned digital efforts that can entice the user, initiate interactivity and sell a product…all with an attractive facade on top. Now let’s see how the rest of Europe fares.


Op Ed: Digital Done Right and Three Companies That Seem to Get It (Part 1)