The Refreshing Lunacy Of Nordic Advertising

Lately, brands and agencies are talking a lot about wanting to be “brave” with their advertising. Lots of talking, not much bravery.

What’ is “brave” advertising? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s pushing the creative from “bland” and “expected” to “holy shit”. To “that’s bloody brilliant”. To ads that make you a little nervous. “Unexpected” creative doesn’t show up much these days. But when it does, it’s often via Nordic countries.

You’re probably familiar with the Klarna “Smoooth” campaign from 2017 because of the “Mermaid Dog” spot (I preferred the “Fish” ad.). Klarna had a simple message: “smooth payments”. DDB Stockholm and The Perlorian Brothers delivered the craziest coolest “smooth” visuals you’ve ever seen.


Late last year— quite possibly borrowing the Klarna vibe (same agency network) — DDB Copenhagen launched a new campaign for Moove, a fixed-priced taxi app. The message is simply: Relaaax (no worries about price gouging, etc.)

The gentle caress of raw steaks

Not so simple: the very strange relaxation scenes: a woman being gently caressed by a raw meat fan (Still, above); a fat man feeding Cheetos to his belly button; and my favorite, the below scene of another strange topless man using a Newton’s Cradle to receive a gentle steel ball nipple nudge. Using a device, already know as a mental stress reducer, as a physical stress reducer? Brilliant — as is placing a smooth jazz saxophonist in the background of the spots.

I don’t think these spots work as well as the Klarna ads, but I greatly appreciate how far these visuals were pushed. Bravo, Moove. I wish all clients were as brave as you. I won’t forget these ads anytime soon.

Vinge Law Firm

Lawyer advertising has been some of the very worst in the history of advertising — which makes this bizarre new recruitment video (“The Seat”) via Vinge, one of Europe’s 100 largest law firms, stand out.

The firm wants to make an exquisite new chair, so they hire a snooty French designer — who instructs the firm to make the chair themselves. The video is about 2:45 long, which breaks my rule of never watching an ad over 2:00. But the spot held my attention because of the mystery chair and excellent direction and editing. Remarkably, ANR BBDO Stockholm used all actual Vinge employees in the video. If I was a lawyer, I’d do anything to get my foot in the door at Vinge.

Volvo Excavators

Forsman & Bodenfors, the agency that created the Jean-Claude Van Damme “Epic Split” spot for Volvo trucks, recently released another bombastic ad for Volvo excavators, “Pump It Up” — this time featuring Dolph Lundgren as a hard-ass workout instructor (He calls the machines “maggots”.). In my opinion, it’s better than the Van Damme ad. It’s funnier and a lot more fun and an excellent reminder that product demo ads need not be boring as piss.

Though not represented here, Norway (see this wonderfully weird Gilde salami spot by Bates) and Finland (see 358 Helsinki’s perfect 10-second ads for Foster’s beer) also consistently produce brave creative.

You want to make “sticky” ads, brands? Then follow the lead of Nordic agencies. Go (strategically) crazy! But make sure the idea is pushed hard towards lunacy. Consumers will remember your ads — and your product — forever. Trust me.

SOURCE: This article was first published in the December issue of Resume magazine (site link).



Copywriter/Copyranter. My hockey wrist shot is better than yours.

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Mark Duffy

Copywriter/Copyranter. My hockey wrist shot is better than yours.