The reactions to the SAS "What is Scandinavian? Nothing" ad have now reached hysteria, and a bomb threat was made to the ad agency who created it. On Thursday afternoon Copenhagen Police tweeted that they had completed a search of the office and were allowing the ad agency employees to return to their offices. It must feel odd to join the "bomb-threat" evacuation club that Jyllandsposten began years ago when they published a cartoon of Mohammed.
“This morning we investigated a building in Adelgade in the Inner City following a bomb threat to a company. We did not find anything of interest to police and are concluding work at the location.”
Vi har i formiddag undersøgt en bygning i Adelgade i Indre By efter en bombetrussel mod en virksomhed. Vi fandt ikke noget af politimæssig interesse og er nu færdige på stedet. Afspærringen er ophævet, og folk er ved at blive lukket ind i bygningen igen #politidk
— Københavns Politi (@KobenhavnPoliti) February 13, 2020
Meanwhile, the ad itself has spurred many Scandinavian opinion pieces and chatter from politicians, and global earned media. Aside from our articles, with the original ad, the 45 second edit, and the notice that the ad was momentarily removed, you can read about this campaign everywhere from the NYT to the BBC. Even competing airline Norwegian joined in by posting a timely social media response.
In Denmark, Soeren Espersen, a senior member of the populist Danish People’s Party, said the three-nation carrier was “spitting on all that is truly Norwegian, truly Swedish and truly Danish with its disgusting commercial” and stated that he was in shock after having seen it. In Sweden, secretary of the Sweden Democrats party, Richard Jomshof wrote on Facebook: "What nonsense and self-hatred. Always tried to fly with SAS, but never again. That's a promise."
Paula Neudig writes in an oped at SvD that SAS should apologise. "SAS's new commercial offend their audience when they claim that there is nothing Scandinavian. And it is hardly Russian robotic armies or Nazis behind the criticism, but quite ordinary people." Nina Solomin adds in another oped: "SAS's criticized commercial is reminiscent of a drunken tactless waiter trying to pick you up with lewd insults." In Denmark meanwhile , Morten Uhrskov Jensen chairman of "Dansk Samling" opines a thank you to SAS, as the reactions to the ad showed him which conservative politicians are actually globalists.
Tabloid newspapers in Sweden advanced the idea that SAS suggested when they used the terms "attack" and "kidnapped", that the campaign was targeted by botnets, specifically Russian botnets. Aftonbladet ran an article titled "This is how right-wing populist networks hijacked SAS's new commercials", with screen dumps from Hoaxy and quotes from the expert Mathias Cederholm, a researcher at Allefonti. The article suggests that this Sputniknews article is what set the twitter bot-hoards off.
Early Wednesday morning, the Russian propaganda site Sputnik reported on the commercial. The article is pictured with a screenshot where a dark-skinned man smiles at the camera.
The text describes how the "open multicultural" video claims that "all Scandinavian culture is copied".
- Sputnik links directly to a number of Twitter accounts, so it becomes a very effective dynamic, says Mathias Cederholm.
- It is a pattern that we recognize before. No major coordination is really needed. These actors are very used to identifying controversial things and they know exactly how to do it to maximize dissemination.
However, they fail to note that the Sputnik news article was published after SAS first removed the ad, and they also sneakily cut out the right-hand side information from the Hoaxly screen dumps. The important part that shows it wasn't bots but humans that were discussing this on Twitter. Compare screenshots below.
Aftonbladet then follows up that article with an Op-ed, "the troll wars are here", and state that "real friends of Sweden do not run errands for Putin." But again, Sputnik reported on this ad only after it was removed, same as the BBC and the New York Times. From the Aftonbladet op-ed:
"Scandinavia was brought here bit by bit", the SAS advertisement states. Only an idiot would object to it. But the useful idiots are many and there are anti-Swedish interests in Russia. A Russia that, according to Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, wants to have a greater influence in its immediate area and be able to "exert pressure on the countries around to adapt to Russian positions of various kinds".
The fact that there are Swedish actors running cases for foreign power is very worrying. Equally worrying is the Swedes' naivety for how our own actions in social media play a role in impact campaigns against Sweden.
One known method is precisely to create divisions in a country by inciting groups against each other and pushing on aggressions that already exist.
Like the one between nationalists and progressive voices.
The op-ed ends with the resolution that all Swedes must resist the freshly invented "troll army", that seems right out of Orwell's 1984:
Who benefits from sharing this?"
Way back in the 1990s, Qantas ran an advert seen by an estimated 31.7 million viewers around the world that also showed travel as a source of inspiration. The tone of that one is completely different, as it feels really patriotic, using an Australian hit sung by the Australian Girls Choir and National Boys Choir.
More recently, Momondo ran a commercial called "a DNA journey" where a group of people got DNA tests and learned they were actually from countries that they didn't expect. In Journalisten magazine, Anna Ebbesen believes this campaign worked better, despite the basic strategy being the same, due to the perspective.
“In the Momondo movie, some people think they are something special until they realize that the world is something else. As a viewer, you muse a little and accept that they are a little stupid, that they're saying prejudice things about those whom they turn out themselves to be related back to.”
In 2016, when the Momondo ad aired, it wasn't widely seen, and a lot of the world's zeitgeist shifted after 2016. I agree more with Katrine Emme Thielke in the same article, as she speaks about the tone of the SAS ad failing:
"After all, they have a nice message that we are not only Scandinavians, we are global citizens of the world. But it takes up very, very little and comes only at the very end, so you get too many seconds with a negative message at first."
This is accurate, and the negative message lays claims no Scandinavian believes - nobody thinks that we invented democracy. The Danes claim to have the first-ever country flag, the Swedes, like the Danes, are immensely proud of our early legal constitutions, and the Norwegians love their independence from us both.
I also don't think it helped at all to have the ad VO speaking English, but as I joked on Twitter that may have been the only option.
If the ad had been in Swedish, the Danes and Norwegians would have been offended. If the ad had been in Danish, the Norwegians and Swedes would not understand it, and if the ad had been in Norwegian, the Swedes and the Danes wouldn't be able to take it seriously.
Just kidding Norwegians, you know we love you guys.
The SAS ad did, however, manage to stir up Scandinavian patriotic feelings, and a new eagerness to deep dive into what exactly is Scandinavian, and discussions about dying traditions which we usually have around Lucia and Christmas every year (yes, this is now a tradition, ironically). Trust me, kids, it's only us Scandinavians who will invent liquorice cheese, banana caviar in a tube, and put potatoes on bread for extra carbs, because we're a little kooky in a delightful way. Do come and visit the land of the midnight fun sometime, it's really beautiful from the fjords in the west to Stockholm, the Venice of the north, to the adorable Tivoli in the south and it is full of beautiful people who are just a little odd.