SAS And the Culture War: Why is business being politicised?On February 20, 2020 by Raul Dinwiddie
Thank you very much for watching this video. Is SAS latest commercial victim of an internationell conspiracy or is it just a tone deaf fiasco created by an incompetent organisation? The opinions differ depending on who you ask. My name is Henrik Jönsson, and I´m an independent, libertarian, entrepreneur and social commentator. Last Tuesday the Scandinavian airline “SAS” launched a new video commercial with the message that a domestic Scandinavian culture does not exist. The film was so heavily criticized that it was taken down just a few hours after being published online. Why does a company choose this as a marketing message in the first place? Why was the commercial ill received? and what does this tell us about the state of Swedish companies? These are the questions I will discuss in this week’s video. If you appreciate my videos, please support me using one of the payment options on the left. This channel is completely self-financed, and would not be possible without your support. If you want to see more in-depth videos on Sweden, you can check out my Swedish channel here all my videos have english subtitles for your viewing pleasure. Also do not forget to hit the subscribe button down below, and make sure to hit the bell-icon so you just might get notified when I release new material which I do every Sunday evening at 7pm central european time. Today, I talk about advertising, adversaries and attacks! Stay tuned! “Forward, the Light Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew – someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. Thus reads the second verse of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s classic poem about the Light Brigade’s disastrous attack during the Crimean war of 1854 which relates one of the most baneful military decisions in modern time. Tennyson’s poem is a suitable framing for the recent and much-ridiculed SAS commercial which likely is one of the biggest marketing fiascos in modern time. The film was produced by the Danish advertising agency AndCo and directed by Swedish film producer Gustav Johansson. The central message of the commercial is that there is no such thing as a domestic Scandinavian culture, and that everything is copied. “What is truly Scandinavian? Absolutely nothing. “There is no such thing, everything is copied.” Just a few hours after its launch, the video was taken down.
“There is no such thing, everything is copied.” Just a few hours after its launch, the video was taken down. At this time it had received 274 likes and over 13600 dislikes and the company had been flooded by critical messages. The marketing fiasco is more interesting than the insipid message of the film itself as it says something about our zeitgeist, the current sentiment concerning the role of culture in society but also about the state of modern corporate management and communication. So, with Tennyson’s poem as a framework I now present the tragedy of the SAS commercial in 4 verses: The ambition behind the statement that no Scandinavian or Swedish culture exists has its roots in the desire to combat nationalistic and conservative social movments by emphasizing that openness and diversity is creating and upholding Scandinavian culture. This ambition is generally expressed through efforts to find the roots of perceived Swedish phenomenons in foreign cultures. “Rumor has it that the oh-so-Swedish meatballs might not be as Swedish as you think” “…but Turkish!”
“Rumor has it that the oh-so-Swedish meatballs might not be as Swedish as you think” “…but Turkish!” The purpose of this is to rob nationalistic and isolationist movements of their cultural fellowship. An example of this is when superintendent Ingrid Lomfors at the government run authority ”Forum for Living history” in 2015 gave a lecture where one of the key points was the claim that ”There is no native Swedish culture”. Lomfors later stated that she had been quoted out of context. What she meant to say was that there was no such thing as “a uniform Swedish culture that goes back beyond the ages.” Lomfors is correct when claiming that there is no such thing as a “uniform Swedish culture that goes back to times immemorial” but a statement like that makes the entire concept of “culture” meaningless since it applies to all cultures and societies in the whole world. If you will – you could just as well argue that there is nothing native to Earth whatsoever, as the planet originally was formed by gases and particles from other places in the Milky way. There is no such thing as a culture which has existed in isolation since the dawn of time but this in no way contradicts the fact that there exists both a Danish, Swedish and a Norwegian culture. Even so, one’s native culture can be difficult to perceive, as it is often so deeply embedded in the identity of each citizen that it is taken for granted and thus becomes largely transparent. This is the reason that the then minister of integration, Mona Sahlin, in 2002 mused that she “could not think of ” what Swedish culture might be. This is a display of grave ignorance, where her native culture was taken for granted to a degree where it was not perceived to exist at all. Another example of this cultural expropriation was demonstrated by the textile archeologist Annika Larsson of the University of Uppsala 2017 when she claimed that viking runes could be traced to Arabic roots if you first cut the runes up, then rotated the pieces and finally read them in a mirror! Her theory was quickly dismissed by scientists but not before it had been enthusiastically communicated by Public Service media. As it increasingly became perceived as modern, progressive and ”woke” to question and to dismiss domestic cultural traits, more and more advertising and communication agencies adopted this stance as the basis for their campaigns. An example of this is when the high-street retail chain Åhléns embarrassed themselves by advertising a Christmas tapestry as “busting the myth of a Swedish Christmas” and among other things claimed Santa Claus to be of Turkish origin. Those of you who know the history of the Christian faith will remember that Santa Claus – that is Saint Nicholaus of Myra – lived and worked in a part of the world that at the time was Greek. After heavy ridicule, the retailer changed the wording of the campaign into “Celebrating All Sorts of Christmasses and their Diversity!” A few months later, global razor blade manufacturer Gillette attempted to capitalize on feminist identity politics which is sometimes referred to as ”pink-washing”. This basically means attempting to become popular though virtue-signalling by superficially repackaging your brand identity with popular moral posturing. The campaign led to massive criticism of Gillette, with loss of revenue and consumer boycotts as a result. Gilette and Åhléns are not alone in trying to make money though virtue-signalling. The Danish shoe firm ”Bianco” and the German car manufacturer Audi have also both tried their hand at woke-marketing – both with negative results. “Equal pay is not enough!”
have also both tried their hand at woke-marketing – both with negative results. “Equal pay is not enough!” In fact, the Bianco commercial was produced by the very same agency that produced the ill-fated commercial for SAS. As demonstrated, several warning precedents existed against woke marketing campaigns, when SAS decided to enter the ring. If you want to capitalize on aligning your company with trending moral stances, it requires exceptional fingerspitzengefuhl for both timing, content and in terms of delivery. Even considering these challenges, it is remarkable that they failed so thoroughly by choosing a completely outdated and wildly unpopular message. The commercial instead wildly misses the mark as an upstanding progressive stance and instead becomes more reminiscent of an embarrassing “Mama dancing after having three glasses of Chardonnay”-moment. Or, to quote writer Susanna Birgersson: “This is the kind of poppycock people – and myself – wrote in 2008: The Christmas tree is from Germany, meatballs are Turkish and democracy is Greek!” Producing and launching an extremely expensive commercial film like this one means you have numerous meetings, milestones and approval processes in place. It is likely that dozens of people have been involved in the project even at the concept stage. Storyboards have been drawn up and pitched to the SAS marketing executives. Schematic pre-cuts have been screened. Background music score and voice over talents have been screened. Colour grading has been adapted to fit the brand guidelines of the company. Finessing. Polish. Packaging. And NOT ONCE did anyone put the brakes on, to ask the question: “Will our customers appreciate this message?” How is this even POSSIBLE? There are two plausible explanations to this trainwreck of a commercial: ONE: It is possible that the whole film crew, the advertising bureau and the responsible marketing executives at the airline all belong to such an isolated and homogeneous social clique that they are completely out of touch as to what is going on in western society at large. …most likely several of them must also have been in a coma since somewhere around early 2015. TWO: the second and more plausible explanation is that the communication and advertising agencies that advise companies like these have become caught up in ideological posturing for so long that they no longer represent business interests but instead now engage in ideological PROPAGANDA rather than sales-driving ADVERTISING. From this ideological horizon it doesn’t matter if the company’s customers are antagonized the overall purpose is to CHANGE SOCIETY so that society fits the ideological message rather than creating a message that is attractive to society as it is. An accelerating trend within the western market economy is to demand that large corporations should take responsibility for solving societal, sustainability and economic problems in society. During 2019 nearly 200 global, publicly traded companies declared that their primary purpose no longer was to serve their shareholders interest but instead their staff and the community at large. This is partly a strategic defense hoping to pre-empt attacks on big business from ambitious left-wing politicians that want to regulate them and meddle with their board compositions. But it is also a response to the fact that younger staff want to work for firms that take a stand on the moral and political questions of the day. However well-meaning this may be, this new form of ”Collective capitalism” is likely to do more harm than good. It risks entrenching unaccountable managers without business experience in vital roles within companies. That’s why my professionalism is only as important as my… humanism.”
It risks entrenching unaccountable managers without business experience in vital roles within companies. That’s why my professionalism is only as important as my… humanism.” This threatens profitability – which is the core prerequisite for the success of capitalism. The current situation can be compared to the managerial capitalism of the 1960s, where top level board-members, together with union bosses and politicians made decisions over the heads of both shareholders and consumers. This structure is military. The chain of command is clear. Subordinated bosses report to the upper ones. The upper ones send orders down the pyramid. This model of governance is based on ideological loyalty. You don’t question your orders openly. You follow orders in accordance with the overall ideological plan. This is the governance model that brought General Motors to its knees. This is the governance model that made the Swedish manufacturing industry unprofitable during the 1970s. This is the governance model that fuelled hyper-inflation, and made the then newly appointed SAS-CEO Jan Carlsson write the revolutionary management classic ”Demolish the pyramids” in 1985. These were the vertical pyramids of power that ironically are now being resurrected under the slogan of “social responsibility” where ideologists are hired and installed in key positions all while sheltered from financial responsibility through the excuse of defending “socially important values.” “I belive he is a good man!” The whole thing reads like a horror story by Ayn Rand. The market economy requires a business-mindset in order to provide growth and prosperity. This means that OWNERS and shareholders ought to be the ones calling the shots concerning the direction of their companies. Not social justice warriors. The problem with collectivist capitalism is that it makes corporations, just like the public sector, lose their dynamism by replacing it with bureaucratic aversion to anything outside the ideological plan. There is a word for this: STAGNATION. You don’t have to be Don Draper to realise that the film SAS made would be a disaster. “The issue here isn’t why should people smoke” “It is: why should people smoke Lucky Strike?”
“The issue here isn’t why should people smoke” “It is: why should people smoke Lucky Strike?” suggesting that our customers have a… what did you call it? A death wish? I just don’t see that at a billboard.
suggesting that our customers have a… what did you call it? A death wish? I just don’t see that at a billboard. It’s enough to have a pulse, and sometimes to move outside the fair trade baristas soy milk-refill stations for this to be totally obvious. Nonetheless, the commercial was released. And reached close to 14,000 thumbs down in a few short hours. First they closed the comments section. A few hours later the commercial was pulled offline altogether. The following morning SAS puts out a press release claiming the commercial to have been withdrawn due to a suspected malevolent “attack” and that their campaign was suspected of having been “kidnapped”. “If you let my commercial go now, that will be the end of it.”
and that their campaign was suspected of having been “kidnapped”. “If you let my commercial go now, that will be the end of it.” “I will not look for you, and will not pursue you.” “But if you don’t, I will look for you. I will find you.” “And I will kill you.” What is this attack supposed to be? That the viewers did not give it enough thumbs up? That it got widely shared around the globe? Welcome to the internet. “Its called the Innernette, and its a fresh new way to check out sites, buy clothing and surf music – and it is all located on this tiny CD-ROM!” This is how digital communication works. This is not an attack. It is the sound of ideological ambitions colliding with reality. The only undue influence concerning this campaign is the polarization it is generating as it is REJECTED by people who do not appreciate being LECTURED by their airline. They want a good experience when they fly – not a lesson in diversity policy. To deny the existence of Scandinavian culture is reckless and harmful because it antagonises not only nationalists, but even the man on the street. To deny culture in the way that the SAS commercial does is – knowingly or unknowingly – playing into the hands of the destructive side of nationalism and movements that feed off of feelings of instability and insecurity. It is easy to mock those upset by something as trivial as a commercial, but this is not only tone deaf – it is also arrogant and counterproductive as it is needlessly further polarizes society. Ultimately the issue is not about a commercial, but rather about what happens when wokeness, ideology and social engineering is allowed to increasingly penetrate every corner of society from politics to culture and the marketplace. If you trivialize this ideological politicization with the excuse that the ideas that are being touted are just and right then you need to realize that whatever tools of propaganda and indoctrination you tolerate now very likely and very soon might be in the hands of people whose opinions you do not agree with at all. Because this is not about the quality of the message. This is about whether the culture should be politicized or not. To summarize all this, I would again like to quote Tennyson’s poem: Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wondered. Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre stroke Shattered and sundered. Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred. Do you feel that an ideologically free society is preferable to a society that aspires to school its citizens ideologically? If you do, please share this video with your friends and why not subscribe to my YouTube channel! Do you have your own examples of the politicization of society? Please share your experiences in the comments section down below. I appreciate all respectful communication. My name is Henrik Jönsson, and I choose liberty before politicization.