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All ads are eventually edited down to TV-slot length, so here is the 45-second version of the SAS ad "What is Scandinavian? Nothing". Yes, the ad that was initially removed, and the one that Norwegian airlines responded to.
This version leaves out a lot of the loveley scenic shots of Scandinavian landscapes. The open cold seas, lapporten in Abisko, the vast quiet spaces. It also leaves out one of the most controversial shots that a lot of people on social media reacted to. It was an unflattering close-up of a young man in Denmark saying "we are no different than our Viking ancestors" as he tucked into a bright red Danish pølse. The advertising world may steal 90% of their ideas from Reddit, but in this case, they somehow didn't see the obvious "We wuz kangz" meme that would come from that casting choice.
The ad caused so much controversy that it was written up in pretty much every paper in Scandinavia, that's earned media for you new folks here. Some of this earned media was negative, but a lot of it spent time figuring out what the truth of the ad's claims was... Effectively making it part of the SAS campaign.
SAS put out a statement saying that the campaign has somehow been "kidnapped", the negative reactions had come in such a pattern to be suspect. They stated "We do not want to risk becoming a platform for someone else's values, which we do not stand for", which explains why they shut down the comments but not why they initially removed the ad. This garnered even more media attention. For example, from Peter Karaszi, who wrote an opinion piece in Expressen, declaring that "the culture war is why SAS removed the film".
SAS commercials have written communicative history, but not in the way the company thought. To avoid future failures, why not strive for the diversity you advocate in your advertising, both internally and with your partners - not just twentysomethings in Stockholm's inner city who all think and care more about their egos than about customers and businesses?
I agree! Somewhat ironically, perhaps, is that I made that exact same point in Sweden's leading advertising news back in 2016. "Våga anställa annorlunda, på riktigt", as a response to an article about the need to "hire people named something other than Anders."
It's obvious to me that "diversity" must also mean diversity of opinion, and it's quite bizarre that advertising that used to be on the forefront of thinking differently (ad-pun intended), and always pushing the envelope now fears to step outside of a box when it comes to the basics of hiring. Or even listening to what is happening outside of the media bubbles. Ad and media people need to fraternize with people who work in slaughterhouses, factories and banking offices to be able to keep their finger on the pulse of what "man on the street" is actually thinking. With all the tools available to advertisers to see who is talking about an ad on social media, to claim an ad was "kidnapped", simply because people didn't like it is not the smartest PR move. In my opinion, the strategy of the SAS ad is not wrong, but the tone and execution of it is. And to add insult to injury, the ads VO is in English. (And there is Finnish spoken in the original cut, which is Nordic, not Scandinavian, but again, I digress)
Agency: & Co.
Creative Director: Robert Cerkez
Account Director: Morten Fabricius
Account Manager: Mette Kruse
Head of Brand Activation and Social: Morten Saxnæs
Media Strategist: Rasmus Philip
Art Director: Lea Flodgaard, Katrine Winblad
Copywriter: Mathias Trads, Kristel Krøier, Joachim Juel Ulrich
Agency Producer: Filippa Borg
Graphic Designer: Anders Martin Jensen
Interactive Producer: Palle Aufeldt
Production Company: New Land
Director: Gustav Johansson
Executive Producer: Sara Samsøe
Producer: Adam Holmström
DOP: Jasper Spanning
Focus Puller: Peter Topsøe, Henrik Lyngbo, Stickan Olsson
Editor: Sam Ostrove
Editor Assistant: Martin Zaar
Colourist/Grader: Nicke Johansson
VFX & Online: Kalle Lundberg
VFX Animation: Per Helin
Music Composer: Pierre Riddez
Sound Design: Anton Ahlberg
VO: Elisabeth Garden