World Media 2007: Sweden

Faced with one of the most-regulated and notoriously puritanical TV advertising markets in the world, Sweden's advertising creatives are turning to the internet to find creative expression.

Every political union that contains the likes of Italy probably needs a Sweden to provide counterbalance. The Italian economy is chaotic, no-one pays their taxes and, though it's in the euro zone, almost every single economic indicator is outside acceptable parameters.

Sweden has declined to join the euro, but it boasts a well-ordered economy that comfortably meets all the criteria for inclusion. The country is a paragon of all that is open, honest and rational; everyone pays their outrageously high taxes and in return they get the world's most sophisticated (and generous) cradle-to-grave welfare system.

What this means, of course, is that it has become one of the dullest places to live on the planet.

Or at least it used to be. For, in 2006, something stirred. For all but a handful of years since the early 30s, the country has been governed by the Social Democrats, led for the past decade by the prime minister, Goran Persson.

Back in September, though, the unthinkable happened - he lost the general election to a centre-right alliance headed by Fredrik Reinfeldt who, at 41, became the country's youngest prime minister in nearly a century.

Since then, Sweden's grey political scene has burst into surreal technicolour. Reinfeldt appointed the world's first pony-tailed finance minister and drafted in a controversial science journalist, Maria Borelius, as trade minister - and she walked straight into a scandal when tax irregularities were discovered. Almost as embarrassing was the admission by the new culture minister, Cecilia Stego Chilo, whose remit covers the country's state-owned broadcasters, that she had forgotten to pay her TV licence fee for the past 16 years.

It's unlikely, though, that the new regime will change Sweden's media and advertising cultures overnight. Sweden is the most puritanical country in Europe when it comes to TV advertising and, although multichannel penetration is high, its TV ad market remains relatively underdeveloped.

So its commercial media owners tend to be more celebrated abroad than at home - for instance, Pelle Tornberg, the chief executive of Metro International, which has launched morning commuter freesheets in most of the major cities around the world.

Now, however, Swedish creative talent is finding an outlet beyond the reach of government controls: three of the world's most renowned digital agencies (regularly recognised at Cannes, for instance) are Swedish - Farfar, Forsman & Bodenfors and Daddy.

USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1 =
SKr 7.47 *Estimated
Total News- Maga- TV Radio Cinema Out- Online
papers zines door
2000 2,471 1,250 350 530 79 10 113 139
2001 2,201 1,114 320 470 68 11 99 120
2002 2,115 1,034 297 461 63 11 107 143
2003 2,119 1,040 275 471 60 9 111 152
2004 2,216 1,051 289 502 66 8 124 177
2005 2,409 1,110 303 558 69 9 132 228
2006 2,629 1,172 326 598 77 10 146 299
2007* 2,807 1,220 338 632 83 12 156 367
2008* 2,966 1,256 349 660 87 13 165 435
2009* 3,124 1,291 365 681 94 14 181 498

Adspend notes 1) After discounts. 2) Includes classified. 3) Excludes
agency commission. 4) Excludes production costs.

Newspaper: Aftonbladet (daily, 429,000 copies)
Business magazine: Privat Affarer (11 issues per year, 90,000 copies)
Consumer magazine: Vi i Villa (monthly, 1,994,000 copies)
Most-watched TV programme: Kalle Anka Och Hans Vanner
Best new TV format: Deal Or No Deal
Press: Orvesto Konsument
TV viewing: MMS
Newspapers: Aftonbladet, Expressen
Magazines: Bonnier
TV: Modern Times Group, Bonnier/Alma Media


- Media topic du jour

How best to commercialise user-generated internet content.

- Reigning media guru and why

Cecilia Stego Chilo, head of the Timbro free market thinktank (also recently appointed as culture minister), who has been urging Swedish media owners to step out of their comfort zone.

- Media mogul to be seen dining with and why

Christina Stenbeck, president of Kinnevik, one of Sweden's most powerful conglomerates. It has stakes in a range of media companies, including Modern Times Group and Metro International.

- Car to drive: Saab 9-5, now that production is being switched to Germany.

- Phone to carry: Anything as long as it's Sony Ericsson.

- Whatever you do, don't say: The TV licence fee? I heard it was optional.


Farfar's online Stockholm The Musical campaign won a gold Lion at Cannes last year - confirming the ability of Swedish agencies to inhabit the leading edge of digital advertising.