Scandinavia: Special report

It's difficult not to be slightly envious of the Scandinavians. OK, so they spend half the year in darkness (with a high suicide rate to show for it), it's a touch colder in winter and they're cut off from the rest of Europe. But it's not surprising that Scandinavia is a magnet for immigrants from all over Europe.

Its cities are spotless, its countryside spectacular, its countries rich (Norway boasts the third-highest GDP per head in the world). Its people are beautiful (think Freddie Ljungberg and Helena Christensen) intellectuals (newspaper readerships here are the highest in the world) and its governments take pretty good care of them, providing (in the case of Sweden) a welfare system that keeps the wolves from the door in even the poorest of homes. Not only that, but Scandinavians tend to have impressive heads for business. No fewer than 12 Nordic companies featured in the Fortune 500 last month. Not bad for a region with only 0.4 per cent of the world's population.

However, Scandinavia probably isn't the place for the more rebellious ad folk. While its advertising product is not always without adventure, it is forced to manifest itself within the world's most unforgiving boundaries. The feature on this page was intended to reveal the methods used to circumvent, or at least bend, the various rules that exist to curb advertising in the Nordics. But, we discovered, the mentality typical of the region is not generally of the rule-breaking kind. Which doesn't help explain what lies behind Nordic agencies' (again, enviable) ability to innovate. Their digital advertising (page 27), produced with a meticulous attention to detail and a classy simplicity that is the region's trademark, is yet more evidence of the region's assured inventiveness.