Ad agency "hijacks" national alarm system to signal time for coffee break. Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency is upset.

Last week in Sweden, Åkestam & Holst and their client Pressbyrån "hijacked" the alarm signal system, "Viktigt meddelande till allmänheten" (VMA) known affectionately as "Hesa Fredrik". Now they are criticized by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB, who considers it highly inappropriate to use the system to sell coffee. Killjoys.

For non-Swedes out there, "Hesa Fredrik" is an alarm system that is tested four times a year. It's on a Monday (when not a bank holiday) in March, June, September and December at three o'clock exactly. It tests the tones for two minutes, and after a 90-second silence, it will send the "all clear" tone. The signal used in these tests is the standard 7-second tone VMA - which at other times could be alerting you to gas emissions, toxic smoke and to stay inside and turn on the radio. The same alarm system has different tones for active air raids or mobilisation. 

So, knowing now that all Swedes have heard this all their lives and are really good at ignoring it if it happens on a Monday at three o'clock, Åkestam and Holst and their client Pressbyrån decided to hijack the alarm to make it a signal for a coffee break. All convenience shops Pressbyrån had posters announcing half price during the alarm, and now the signal means "have a fika" instead. (fika = coffee break with something sweet)

The case study below shows how supporting media reminded everyone about the "alarmingly" low price of coffee, and a digital banner even had a countdown. Brilliant.

Now, since the alarm system actually has an important function, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB, believes that Pressbyrån and Åkestam Holst acted incorrectly. They mad.

The authority has been in contact with Pressbyrån's marketing manager Amanda Mompalao de Piro about how this was highly inappropriate. "It was unsuitable using such an important tool for Swedish emergency preparedness, just to sell coffee."

MSB believes that campaign ideas of this kind, risk watering down a system that exists to alert the public. MSB also criticize that Pressbyrån did not contact them before the campaign was released, and urges other actors not to abuse "Hesa Fredrik" for commercial purposes.

Don't worry MSB, nobody will, because after this on Mondays at three o'clock the sound of "Hesa Fredrik" will always mean coffee-time. 

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