Can experience and passion spark a new, creative revolution

About a week ago I saw a short note in Bob Hoffman’s newsletter about “London’s newest and oldest agency”. Ancient & Modern is both completely new and at the same time the oldest agency in town, since the average age of the three founders is 64 years. Something they do not conceal, even though ageism in the UK is as widespread as in Sweden.

But, this is however not a group of senior rookies, but three extremely well-qualified gentlemen.

Adrian Holmes, copywriter, who was, among other things, CCO at Lowe and Partners Worldvide and chairman of D&AD.

John O’Driscoll, art director and founding partner at Lowe Howard-Spinks and once commercial director at Paul Weiland Film Company.

Sam O’Farrell, a strategist with a background from AMV BBDO and BBH with extensive experience in behavioral strategy.

When I posted a note about the agency on my social platforms, I received many comments and praise about the three founders.

So, I was curious and contacted them to find out more about the agency and their views on advertising and creativity.

Adrian Holmes responded quickly, telling me that he used to come to Sweden quite often during the Lowe era and loved the Swedes’ way of saying “yes” on an inhalation.

We have had a mail-dialogue, which I am happy to share, and I will just reproduce his answers to my questions:

What made you decide to start an agency together right now? 

The fact is, John, Seamus and I have already been together as a team for nearly two years. The partnership is working really well, we’re having a lot of fun, so we thought we’d formalise the arrangement by launching ourselves as Ancient & Modern. 

(That’s the title you’ll find on most hymn books in English churches by the way: ‘Hymns Ancient & Modern’. So now you know where our name comes from.)The three of us bring very different skills to the table (copy, art direction, strategy), yet we all share the same strong sense of mission: to start a company that creates the kind of advertising that we believe in, using only the traditional media of TV, print and radio. 

In essence, what we’re trying to return to is ‘proper ads’ – by which we mean ads that are well-crafted, have a degree of wit and charm, and credit our audience with some intelligence.

We’re convinced there’s a pent-up demand for the return of this ‘classic’ advertising. Certainly we’ve had an amazingly supportive reaction to our own launch ad for Ancient & Modern. So many emails from all over the world saying ‘At last, a nicely laid-out and decently written ad. Thank you!’  Even Tony Brignull, arguably the greatest living copywriter in the UK, emailed us last week to say ‘You’ve restored my faith in advertising’.

The point is, the three of us have been watching with despair as our beloved industry has gradually slipped from being a joyful art to a dreary science. Now it’s a grey world of data, analytics, algorithms, ‘performance marketing’ and all the rest of it. In our own small way we hope to fight back and regain control of the creative territory we once proudly owned.

It’s worth remembering this: advertising in the 1950s was terrible and was saved by the ‘creative revolution’ of the 1960s. Well, we think advertising right now is pretty terrible again, and it’s about time a second creative revolution came along.

In your ad and on your website,  you use your age as an argument (and USP?). I interpret it as an argument for the value of experience. Am I right or is it more of just a humorous twist?

What would you say are the major arguments for age and experience in this business?

Of course we made play of our advancing years in Ancient & Modern’s launch ad, if only to prove we had sense of humour. 

But in doing so, we also wanted to make a serious point. That when you’ve been in the business as long as we have, you have something that young people don’t possess: what you might call ‘the perspective of years’. 

We’ve learnt from all our mistakes, we know what works and what doesn’t, and how to avoid the blind alleys. I happen to think all this sharpens our creativity. As we say in our launch ad, “we might not get to the top of the stairs as fast as our younger rivals, but we like to think we’ll arrive at a great advertising idea before they do”.

Remember that story about Picasso doodling with a pencil on a restaurant table cloth. 

His dining companion is so amazed by the drawing, he asks if he can buy it. 

Picasso replies “sure, you can have it for 50,000 francs”. 

“But Pablo, that only took you five minutes!” 

“Correction”, says Picasso. “It took me 65 years, and five minutes”.

Is there, generally, a problem with ageism in Britain as well as in Sweden? Especially in the marketing and advertising business? Here we focus on young both in the agencies (the creatives) and outside (the target groups – even millennials are soon getting too old).

Yes, no doubt that there’s ageism in the UK ad industry. If you’re 30, you’re already considered by many to be over the hill, which is just ridiculous. 

I blame agency managements. To cut costs (otherwise known as ‘the race to the bottom’), they seem to have got rid of a lot of the people who knew what they were doing, and have left the new generation to figure things out for themselves. And looking at today’s creative output, I’m not sure how good a job they’re doing of it.

“Ah,” the average 25-year-old will say, “but back then, your generation had weeks to work on briefs. Today, everything’s so much faster – we’re only given days, sometimes hours to turn things round. And you had much bigger budgets to play with, too.” 

Yes, I have to admit, we did have it easier, much easier. What’s more, we had our own office to work in. With a door.

Even so, I feel a lot of love has gone out of the creative process, and it would be great to see young writers and art directors re-discover the sheer fun that can be had making ads.

As you’ve been around a while, you have obviously seen the changes that have affected both creativity, advertising and effectivity in a negative way – I’m thinking about the increased focus on short term activation and personalization of advertising, the change from a balance between the right and the left side of the brain to a unilateral focus on the left hemisphere etc. 

Do you have any comments to that?

Ah, yes, the left hand side of the brain – the side that secretly wants to be an accountant. There’s a very good new book on that subject which has just been published by the IPA, one of the professional advertising bodies in the UK. It’s called ‘Lemon’, written by a very clever guy called Orlando Wood (full disclosure: we wrote and designed the cover for it). 

It’s a very interesting read: using examples of art down the ages, it describes how the left brain has gained supremacy over the right, to the huge detriment of advertising creativity. It’s already become the IPA’s fastest-ever selling publication, and I hope this is another sign that the creative tide may be turning.

But for a real change to occur, it’s the client community we have to convince –  because they’re the ones who have seemingly fallen in love with the world of data and analytics, and what they see as its instant measurability and cheapness. The only thing that will convince them is to prove that ‘right brain’ work will actually do a far better job of building their brand for them. And that won’t happen until agencies start creating amazingly good right-brain work for them to buy. It’s down to us, in other words.

/Your can read more about Lemon here/

Do you have any recommendations for the agencies – or for the clients (or both) – on how to regain effectiveness in creative advertising?

There are many answers to that question – but my favourite one is to bring back the long-running campaign.

I think advertisers and agencies have largely lost the art of creating consistent, long-term campaigns based around one central thought. ‘Stella Artois. Reassuringly Expensive.’ ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’. ‘Persil. Dirt is good’ (I’ll own up to that last one). 

A proper campaign is by far the best way to build up a brand in the consumer’s mind. Find one thing to say, and keep saying it – inventively, unexpectedly, charmingly – and the audience will begin to realise what you stand for. Once you’ve got yourself a strong campaign idea, you are the proud possessor of gold dust – and what’s more, you don’t have to keep worrying what next year’s advertising will be about. 

I think part of the reason campaigns have fallen out of favour is that CMOs now switch jobs every 18 months and don’t give a damn about brand consistency. Their main concern is last quarter’s sales figures.

And do you have any advice on how to find the big, crucial idea?

In my experience, big ideas always start in the same place: with a really great creative brief. At all the good agencies I’ve worked at, we believed the same thing: ‘The brief is the most important piece of paper in the building’. Get the brief right – make it insightful, unexpected, and above all focussed on just one thing – and something really good will invariably follow.

The other sure-fire technique is to keep saying to yourself, ‘No, not good enough’.

At Lowe, we used to say ‘the good is the enemy of great’.  Once you’ve got a good idea, it’s tempting to stop there and pat yourself on the back. But you only get to something really breakthrough if you have the courage to put all that ‘good’ stuff in the bin and press on, with gritted teeth, until you get to something great.

I had a creative director once who said “Excellent. But it will do”.

Are you better creatives than 20 years ago?

Definitely yes. John and I now work quicker than we ever did, and we’re just as creatively adventurous. And our partner Seamus O’Farrell is about as smart a strategic thinker as you’ll find. He’s our secret weapon, in fact. 

Oh, and we also have the advantage of remembering that lunch is a key component in the creative process. 

When I was CCO at Lowe, somebody there wrote a terrific film for HSBC, at a time when the campaign was all about cultural insights – this particular insight being that old age is something that’s revered in Japan. It was set in a Japanese office, and it showed a 70 year old executive gathering up his things from his desk and putting them into a Lehman Brothers-style box. He goes to the lift lobby holding his box of stuff, and a much younger executive offers to push the lift call button for him. The old executive nods graciously, but then shakes his head as the younger guy is about to press the Down button. ‘No’, he indicates, eyes glancing upwards. ‘Up button’.

The Up button. We like to think that’s us.

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Time to wake up!

It is really about time for marketers and advertising consultants to think carefully about what they are doing. Otherwise there is a great risk that adverting is losing the ability of creating increased profitability and that creativity will be considered unnecessary.

Earlier this summer, IPA – the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (“British Comm”) published an alarming report by Peter Field called “The crisis in creative effectiveness”. He points out how the effects of creatively rewarded campaigns have greatly deteriorated in recent years and today is less effective than they have ever been in the entire 24-year run of data.

Last autumn Peter Field visited Stockholm together with Les Binet, to speak at the SprintAd-Day. I hade the opportunity to discuss the decline in advertising effectiveness with them before the seminar.

If anyone knows what creativity can accomplish, it’s Peter Field. He has, often together with Les Binet, studied the IPA’s Advertising Effectiveness Awards combined it with studies of The Gun Report, which follow up the results of 46 different creative competitions around the world (and which is currently included in the WARC Rankings).

The picture has been very clear.

Until 2010 the picture was very clear. Award winning creativity produced 12 times as much effect in terms of market growth as non-rewarded advertising.

But the first major setbacks came with the financial crisis, which had very serious consequences for the ability of creativity to create effects. Much depending on the fact that more and more focus turned to short-term activation and the budgets shrank sharply.

In the fall of 2016, Peter Field and Les Binet described the problem in a report and a seminar on the theme “Selling Creativity Short” (I have written more about their conclusions in an earlier post on my blog).

At that time, they also found that there was a great risk that that it would soon not be possible say that creative advertising was really that much more effective. And now Peter Field has written a “report he hoped he would never have to write”, pointing out that we are already there.

Over the past ten years, Peter Field notes, creatively rewarded campaigns have lost more and more of its effect are now no more effective than non-awarded campaigns.

What is the reason for this development? Advertising Fatigue? After all, people are getting more and more tired and annoyed at advertising. We know this from many reports.

And, of course, there is reason to get annoyed at advertising, but that is not because there is too much creative advertising. On the contrary. It’s just too little of that kind.

Great advertising doesn’t get rejectet. It is not only tolerated, but also popular. Even longed for and sought after. The professors Sara Rosengrenand Micael Dahlénat the Stockholm School of Economics, have shown this in their research, where they established the concept of “advertising capital”.

Advertising with high advertising capital creates both more value for businesses and added value for consumers. This means that the consumers will want more advertising from these companies and the advertising can do their job (You can read more about that here).

The main explanation for the development is instead, according to Peter Field, that more and more of the advertising today is short-term activation-focused and it has also promoted the trends in strategy and media development that we see.

But for many years Peter Field and Les Binet – and many others – have shown that creativity delivers very little of its full potential in the short term, yet the trend towards short-term and ultimately ineffective creativity continues.

Shrinking budgets, impatience, short-termism and a focus on social platforms have affected advertising opportunities. This also applies to advertising that has been rewarded in various competitions.

Already last year, for example, one could see a very disturbing development in the Creative Effectiveness competition in Cannes.

In order to participate there one must previously have been at least nominated for a creative lion. After that you can participate in the Creative competition and prove that the rewarded campaign also had measurable effects. In itself, a great idea.

But among the campaigns nominated for Creative Effectiveness in Cannes last year, the long-term perspective had dropped significantly.

The majority of the nominated campaigns ran three months or less. Only 6 percent ran for 6 to 12 months. Only the year before, that share was 15 percent.

None of the 2018 nominated campaigns lasted for more than a year, compared with 15 percent of the 2017 nominee campaigns lasting for 1 – 3 years.

Peter Field is of course very concerned about this development. Not just because short-term campaigns generally produce less impact than long-term ones, but also because it applies even more clearly to creatively rewarded campaigns. Short-term, creatively rewarded campaigns are about half as effective as long-term, rewarded and even less effective than those not even rewarded.

“Creativity does not produce a short-term effect. So the increasing willingness of juries to favor short-term results inevitably results in worse effects for rewarded advertising,” Peter Field notes in his report, adding that it is unclear why juries are also becoming increasingly focused on short-term campaigns.

“Perhaps judges just prefer digitally focused campaigns or data-driven creativity?”, he wonders and points at the fact that these short-term awarded campaigns on average allocated 2.5 times more of their budget to online media than the long-term creatively awarded campaigns that they are increasingly replacing.

Or, I wonder, could it be that the juries feel compelled to follow the trends, are afraid to act as a counter-backward striker if they highlight advertising that goes heavy in “traditional” media? Or do they have too few examples of great, long-term advertising to judge?

In any case, I can imagine that no Cannes jury would have the same courage as the Swedish jury at Guldägget in 1991. They completely rejected the advertising year of 1990 and did not distribute a single Golden Egg.

In any case, I can imagine that no Cannes jury would have the same courage as the Swedish Guldäggs jury in 1991. It completely rejected the 1990 advertising year and did not distribute a single Gold Egg. Ofcourse the jurors from all over the world, who were given the prestige assignment to hand out the Lion in Cannes, wouldn’t dare to make such a statement.

So instead of pushing the development in the right direction and helping to give the highly creative advertising the space and importance it deserves, the Cannes juries are contributing to the negative trends and this is probably not where we will see the initiatives for change.

Peter Field believes that we must learn from the high-performing, creative campaigns. They provide eight times more power than the low-performing ones when it comes to creating business and provide close to 16 times greater opportunities for increased profitability.

Peter Field defines the high-performing, creatively rewarded campaigns in this way:

• A more balanced approach to short and long-term objectives

• The maintenance of the campaign in market long enough to embed behavioural change: at least six months typically

• Broader, earlier targeting of consumers rather than data-driven real-time communications linked to purchase intent

• Greater use of broad-reach brand building media, especially TV but also online video and OOH

• A balanced allocation of media expenditure between brand building and sales activation in line with latest best practice guidelines

For, just as usual, Peter Field emphasizes the need to build the brand in the long term and to create fame in broad consumer groups.

The foundation for development and profitability in companies is always the brand. The more brand-oriented a company, the more profitable it is. While the most brand-oriented companies, on average, reach an operating margin of 14 percent, the least brand-oriented companies have to be satisfied with an average of eight percent.

This was stated in the survey Brand Orientation Index, which was addressed to Sweden’s 500 largest companies and was conducted by PhD Frans Melin at the University of Lund and doctoral student Johan Gromark.

Their original study was done some years back, but it has been followed up and supplemented a number of times. Both in Sweden and abroad. And it is equally valid today. Perhaps even more relevant, Johan Gromark said, when I talked to him him earlier this week.

Brands are built on long-term. Preferably with highly creative, emotional, advertising.

“This over focus on the short term would damage the long-term effectiveness of any campaign, but it especially erodes the effectiveness of creatively awarded campaigns, because creativity is first and foremost a brand building tool whose impact on business success takes place over the long term.

So, if you constrain highly creative advertising to work in the short term or to simply deliver short-term results, you do even more damage to its effectiveness than you would to less creative campaigns in general.

As a result, we have witnessed a catastrophic decline in the typical efficiency multiplier achieved by creatively awarded campaigns. For many years, before the shift to short-term activation-focused creativity began, creatively awarded campaigns were around 12 times as efficient as non-awarded ones. As short-termism took hold, this multiplier fell to around 10 and, in the most recent period, has fallen to below four!”, Peter Field writes.

And this development has taken place during a strong and long-lasting economic boom! But what will happen when the business cycle turns? Sooner or later, business cycles always do and the National Institute of Economic Research is already talking about a slowdown. Brexit, trade wars and other dark shadows do not contribute to increased optimism.

The risk, of course, is that the companies will do as they usually do. They slow down and cut their budgets, pull back their brand-building efforts and control what little they have left for short-term activation. Or why not price activities!?

It is not very difficult to figure out what the effects will be.

This is something that all marketers and communications consultants should keep in mind, as they now start to work on next year’s budget.

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When crisis strikes


Sooner or later every company or organization faces situations that can develop into a crisis. Regardless of the background to the situation, it is important to act quickly, correctly and consistently.

The worst thing you can do is to stay away and avoid answering questions with the hope that everything will pass by itself. It is just as bad to go to counter-attack or lye, trying to beautify reality and reduce the problems.

The best thing you can do is to do right from the start and prepare yourself and the company. Analyze risks, exercise possible scenarios and educate senior management to meet the press.

Hampus Knutsson, who is a senior consultant at Prime Weber Shadwick in Stockholm and specializes in crisis management, gives his best advices in this post.


Most companies occasionally find themselves in situations that can develop to a crisis wich can affect the confidence in the company and its brands. It can be more or less self-inflicted, through carelessness, lethargy or ignorance. Or occur entirely without the company’s fault, for example due to accidents or natural disasters.

But few companies have properly insured themselves against severe damage of the intangibles, by preparing and exercising various crisis scenarios.

However, there is much to be done to stand ready when – not if – the crisis comes.

If you do it right, it doesn’t just mean that you can get through the crisis relatively unharmed. There are examples showing that a well-managed crisis can even lift the brand.

On the other hand, unmanaged crises can have a devastating effect on the image of a company or its brands. Today, people are very much aware, have access to more information and can spread it further. Rapidly. This makes companies more vulnerable.

Communication vacuum is an effective breeding ground for rumors, and they have a tendency to grow and spread quickly.

In a survey, conducted a number of years ago, it was found that it took 22 minutes for a rumor, which started at the coffee machine on the ground floor, to reach up to the fifth floor of a company.

Rumors are often more interesting than the truth and people believe in what’s being said. In order to fight the rumors, it is important that the company speaks with one voice and that everyone gives the same version of what happened.

Some ways to be better prepared when the problems come are to:

* Plan for the worst possible scenario

* Analyze existing risks and threats

* Develop a crisis management plan where communication is integrated

* Media-train senior executives. 

And when the crisis happens, you have to see the broad perspective and not just look at the present.

“Crises don’t happen very often. But when they do, you should have a devil’s lawyer by your side. That’s my role”, says Hampus Knutsson, who is a senior consultant at Prime Weber Shadwick in Stockholm and specializes in crisis management. Something that he also exercises for prevention with many of his clients.

He has also been operationally responsible (as communications manager) for the crisis management at the big media company Stampen, in connection with its corporate restructuring, which was the second largest in the history of Swedish business.

Hampus Knutsson has a very long experience in crisis management. His definite advice to all companies is that they should act as they teach (Lev som du lär).

Hampus Knutsson emphasizes that the best advice he can still give is to make sure that no crises arise.

“All individuals, organizations, brands or companies have a ‘trust capital’. The more you live as you learn, the higher your capital”, he explains, suggesting that you should look at your organization in the same way as a person.

In daily life, you look out for cars – in both directions – before you cross the street, take care of yourself and your health, try to eat well, exercise and sleep enough. An enterprise must reason in a similar way. Don’t take any unnecessary risks in everyday life, even if you believe it’ll give you short-term profits.

People make mistakes. Errors always occur, sooner or later. But you have to deal with it so that it does not grow into a crisis.

“The best crisis management is to do right from the start. Then the risks are minimized, and you can avoid problems that are your responsibility”, he notes.

When you take responsibility for a mistake made right away, you can stop the crisis on an early stage.

“It is not the crisis in itself that determines if your trust capital disappears. It is the management of the crisis that determines it. Almost anything can happen. But if you handle it right, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. “

Hampus Knutsson explains that all crises are about a story. There is always some kind of a drama and you have to find out which this drama is.

The actors of media drama are basically always the same: the evil, the good, the victim and the expert.

And every time you are approached by media, you have to address some questions:

What is the drama?

Which role do I play?

If you realize that you have the role of the evil one, then you should act, professional and empathetic. Then the drama is reduced.

Common (and natural) reactions are to try to escape, go to counter attack or put the lid on. None of these options is recommended. They only lead to an increase in the drama.

Of course, one can feel that the press coverage is both unfair and exaggerated at times. And news stories are usually not completely neutral. They rarely also contain the whole truth.

“When working with crisis management, you can not only work with reality, but you also have to work with the image of reality”, Hampus Knutsson emphasizes, and adds that you have to have to concentrate on what you can influence. And as long as the media reports, you have to continue working.

“It is not the critical issues that overthrow a CEO or break an organization. It’s the lack of answers”, he emphasizes, listing four important points to cope with a media storm:

1. Act with decisiveness. This means that you always have to respond to the criticism, whether it is right or wrong. It is important to get to the stage where you direct the drama yourself.

2. Show professionalism and take responsibility. Think about the situation and figure out its roots.

“Am I hated for the right reason? In that case, the problem is connected to the organization. But, if I am hated for the wrong reason, it can be a communication problem”, explains Hampus Knutsson.

3. Show transparency. The faster you handle the problem, the less of the trust capital is lost. Openness means that everything you say must be true. However, you do not have to tell the whole truth.

4. Keep your target groups and stakeholders informed. And the information has to start internally.

Employees should always have information first.

“You should always peel an onion from the inside”, Hampus Knutsson explains, emphasizing that all stakeholders should receive the same information. But it should of course be adapted to the recipient. Not all information is of interest to everyone.

An early, concrete action is to formulate a document. Not more than one page. In this document you should note: your image of the problem, what you feel about it, what you do about it and what you think about the future.

Hampus Knutsson advises companies to produce three central documents as a basis for a crisis communication scheme.

These documents are: a list of the target groups, a message/press release that also includes the actions you take, and a communication schedule.

The workflow for the concrete work then looks like this:

1. Set the message

2. Produce

3. Delegate

4. Distribute

5. Follow up

“The same principles apply, whether it is a major national crisis, or a minor storm on an individual company,” Hampus Knutsson points out.

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Is your brand strong, just well known or generic?


The fact that a brand is well known is not the same as a strong brand. In the worst case, it can be quite the opposite. It can even be so bad that it is about to become degenerate and then the brand owner has lost financial opportunities the brand could have or even once had. It has become public property.

There are many such examples. “Thermos” and “Windsurfer” are forever lost to their former owners. But others have seen and understood – and been able to save their brand.

Tetra Pak is one such example and they care for their brand very carefully today.

Jeep was so degenerated, that it was impossible to register the brand in Sweden for many years. The then owner, DaimlerChrysler, had had to fight for a long time to establish the term SUV. When SUV finally was included in the Swedish dictionary, the brand could be registred.

Some brands, however, are so strong that they become icons. 

And really strong brands can create a fortune for the owner who sells it. Like when Vin & Sprit (the Swedish alcohol company) sold Absolut to Pernod Ricard.


In a Facebook-group which I follow, there was recently a discussion about brands ”which are so well established that their name becomes the name of all products in the industry”.

But that description is based on a misunderstanding. If a brand becomes the name of all products in the industry, then it is about to become generic. Not well established.

Letting one’s brand become a part of the language is fatal.

Maybe the brand was first in its category, maybe it was really strong once. But the company failed to care for, develop and monitor it. The risk, then, is that it has degenerated and over time become public goods, without any real economic value to its owner. There are many such, sad examples over the years.

Words such as windsurfer, vespa, nylon and thermos were once trademarks but are now part of the general language. They have lost their distinctive meaning and become generic.

Ultimately, it is about protecting one’s own identity, explained Mats Urde, when I interviewed him a couple of years ago. He is a Doctor in Economics and associate professor at the University of Lund, as well as researcher and consultant in brand strategy.

Mats Urde has studied degeneration of brands for many years.

The exclusive right to trademarks registered in the general language may be terminated. Then anyone can use them as any word and the risk of losing it is great.

According to Mats Urde, Tetra Pak was the first Swedish company that worked consciously to counteract degeneration. The company’s various brand names started to become general terms and in several dictionaries there are ”tetrapak” or ”tetra” with the designation for a certain type of cardboard packaging. Similarly, the ”jeep” became a ”small, off-road, four-wheel-drive vehicle” and ”vespa” briefly and well represents the category of scooters in the dictionaries.

But talking about generic brands is really a paradox, Mats Urde said. A strong brand is clear, unique and differentiated. A generic, on the other hand, describes a category. Then the specific characteristics that distinguish the brand are dissolved.

“If a brand is generic, it is no longer a brand. As a marketer, we want to create something that differentiates and positions a number of clear values ​​and a clear identity. It is not a degree difference but a species difference,” said Mats Urde.

But not everyone sees generic brands as a problem. Many even think that it is an advantage if and when a brand becomes so famous that it becomes part of the language and appears in the dictionaries. Mats Urde doesn’t agree with that. He believes that this is rooted in a misconception about what a brand really is and what characterizes it strongly.

“If you think that the brand is strong when it becomes part of the general language, you will spend the entire marketing budget on cutting the branch you are sitting on. You undermine your own brand by promoting a category. ”

But he can see some benefits with degeneration. One is if one does not want to be known by their brand. He cited Freon, formerly a DuPont brand, as an example.

“Given the damage that Freon has done to the environment, it might be good not to be associated with such a product. But it is a unique case”.

Mats Urde believes that the risk of degenerate brands is greater in markets that sell everyday products, such as tape or plaster, or among different types of materials, such as Gore-Tex, nylon, teflon, Freon. When you are first, with a new product type or with products that pave the way for a new market, there is also a greater risk of the brand degenerating. If a new category designation for the product type is missing, it is likely that the particular brand name is used. Windsurfer was one such example. Unless otherwise noted, the product name was used to designate the category and eventually Windsurfer lost the exclusive right to its trademark.

“It would have been best to drop the brand and choose another one. It is probably easy to be gripped by the feeling that this is our market, that we have created it. But you can’t own the language. ”

In the case of Windsurfer, the company used a brand name that was just too descriptive, Mats Urde considered. It increases the risk the brand name becomes the general pitch. Companies that launch new products should therefore be careful to also find a generic product designation that works in all languages. Not just a new brand name. One must understand that a brand is a characteristic, he says. A simple typing rule is not to change the brand when using it in text, to not conjugate it and to always write it in uppercase letters.

“A few years ago, it was a trend to write brand names in lowercase. For brands that were becoming generic, it was unfortunate as they then merged into the text as any word and did not become distinctive as their own name.”

Tetra Pak was about to become a thermos

Tetra Pak did learn the lesson well. In the 1980s, the brand was about to become generic. But through intensive and conscious work, they were able to reverse development.

10-15 years ago I wrote an article, which also contained a brief reference to a product from Tetra Pak. Unfortunately there was a small a proofreading error in the text. Shortly thereafter, we received a letter with the headline ”Help us take care of our brand”. Kindly, but firmly, it was pointed out that the Tetra Pak mark had been treated incorrectly in our text. In addition, a brief description of how well spread the brand is, as well as information on how careful the company is to best care for its brand.

It can be described as a textbook example of brand care down to the smallest detail. It hasn’t always been that way, though. Not even for Tetra Pak. However, since the company realized the importance of its brands, they have worked intensively and consciously with their care.

Tetra Pak, originated in the early 1950s when Ruben Rausing developed a disposable liquid food packaging. The packaging quickly gained great success, both within and outside Sweden. But the risks came quickly. The company name was sometimes called ”Tetra” and Tetra Pak (packaging) slipped over to become ”Tetra Pack”, ”Tetra Packet” or ”Tetran” (the Tetra).

But not until the 1980s did they realize that it was a real danger. Then the competition became clearer and the plagiarism as well.

The company made a comprehensive inventory of brand use, both within the company and outside. It could then be stated that this was an international phenomenon and that the names of the two types of packaging, Tetra Pak and Tetra Bric, were becoming part of an international language.

The deep seriousness was evident when the 1987 edition of the Swedish Esselte dictionary was published. There, the brand was listed ”generic and in addition in an unflattering context: tet’rapak subst. = A tetrahedron (cardboard) beverage packaging (original brand): milk in *; many * was littered in the wild. ”

It became a real alarm clock and the company started hard work to regain its brand. But it still took about 20 years before you realized that this was not primarily a matter for the patent department, but that it should start a regular brand department.

Tetra Pak’s products are present in 175 countries and a total of 23,000 employees are active in 85 countries. Everyone is informed about the importance of Tetra Pak’s strong brand. And everyone has a pronounced responsibility to ensure that it is not abused. A number of years ago, a brand day was also held for all the Group’s employees. There, among other things, they received the (now digital) brochure ”Trademark – a user’s guide”. It provides all the information about what applies. And what, for example, is the difference between Tetra Pak’s trademark and its brand.

Everyone knows that Tetra Pak’s brand promise stands for ”Protect the good” – in the sense of ”food, people and future.”

In this way, everyone in the company is constantly informed about branding issues. Internal branding is carried out continuously under the slogan ”Trademarks means business, protect our trademarks”.

Tetra Pak will not risk degenerating its brand again.

Jeep had lost its grip from the start

Another company that was bad looking was Chrysler. Their brand, Jeep, had become generic before even being registered in Sweden.

These are examples of a brand that was first in its segment and became part of the language. It has a long history of degeneration and the worst has been in Sweden. For many years the word was included in the Swedish Dictionary as a general term for an ”off-road car”. The road to trademark registration was thus blocked. Any other company was free to call their products ”jeep”.

The then owner, DaimlerChrysler, was constantly fighting for the right to use their own brand as they wished and could not differentiate themselves from competitors and make customers understand why they should buy their car. They even had trouble registering the domain name

Until the turn of the millennium, Jeep was represented in the Swedish market by a general agent, but in January 2000 DaimlerChrysler took over the business itself. They then started an intensive effort to recapture the brand, among other things by constantly mentioning that there is only one Jeep. The advertisement stated that the Jeep was the original. The payoff “There’s only one” and the ® sign together with the brand name were visible reminders. With promotional efforts of various kinds, Jeep tried to persuade motor journalists to use the concept SUV for other off-road vehicles.

Finally, when SUV entered the Swedish Dictionary, it became possible to register trademark Jeep.

And famous is not the same as strong!

It is also a common misconception that a well-known brand would be the same as a strong one. It is not obvious.

Strong is the brand that creates direct and clear associations in the consumer’s head and heart.

Say Harley Davidson and dream of the ultimate freedom awakens in most. Whether you like motorcycles, or even imagine getting up on one at all.

And you can wake anyone in the middle of the night and get a definition of Volvo’s core values. 9 out of 10 answer ”security”.

But not even the most vigilant will find any direct associations around Opel, although most people are very familiar with the brand. It is a very well-known brand on the Swedish market, but not a strong one. That is one reason why Opel is losing market. In 2018, it reached a market share of 1.6 percent, and keeps falling. While Volvo remains as market leader at around 20 percent.

There are a small number of brands that are so strong that they have transitioned to icon status.

The concept was launched by American researcher Douglas B. Holt of Harvard Business School. He has mentioned brands like Harley-Davidson, Absolut, Nike and Apple as just icons. They manage to maintain a stable and strong position over the years.

Holt explained that the strategic focus is on what the brand stands for, not what it does and they have succeeded in building a value based on myths, which provides ideals we can live by.

Apple (like Harley-Davidson) has become strongly associated with freedom. The Apple-launch in the early 1980s was brilliant. Apple was the rebel who revolutionized information technology and made computers human. The fact that much focus was on humanistic applications such as text, image and music further strengthened the profile.

Today, rumors and speculation are buzzing wildly, with every launch of a new Apple product and the entire world press in place, as soon as Apple tells about a new detail.

Another very concrete example of the value of a strong brand is understood when Pernod Ricard paid SEK 55 billion to the Swedish state for the purchase of Vin & Sprit (Wine and Spirit Company). It was to get the Absolut icon, they were prepared to pay that sum. Everything else was just included.

Companies that have failed to build strong brands easily fall into the trap of lowering their prices, as that is the only real competitive advantage they find themselves seeing. Something that risks leading to a downward spiral, where market activities focus on price and product development to cut costs. But, over time, no price can be low enough.

A strong brand, on the other hand, can take market share and maintain or increase its price level and profit. It is also much better equipped when times get tough.

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Experience is not a handicap


Ageism has been a problem for a long time. The attitude that people have a “best-before”-date and that competence and employability are declining by the number of birthdays.

Ageism has been a problem for a long time. The attitude that people have a “best-before”-date and that competence and employability are declining by the number of birthdays.

This is especially problematic for the marketing industry, in three ways: 

First, the industry loses skills and experience. 

The whole industry becomes too homogeneous which also affects the possibility of understanding and communicating with all age groups.

There is also the problem with the constant focusing on younger target groups. This despite the fact that older audiences are larger, have more money to spend and willing to do that. The Mc Kinsey & Co-report “Urban World: The global consumer to watch” stated that future pensioners and the elderly, will be extremely important for global consumption during the period up to 2030.

Luckily things are slowly starting to happen. The debate on ageism is getting lively. And increasingly constructive. Even in Sweden. I would say that it is very much because of John Mellkvist. He is a PR consultant and futurist at Mindmakers PR in Stockholm and lit a spark a couple of years ago and has been feeding the fire ever since. From a heated stream of social media posts on the subject, he has become increasingly prominent in the growing debate.  

John Mellkvist has had a great impact on the discussion of ageism and was recently named “Swedish super communicator of 2019” by the trade journal Resumé.

Today John Mellkvist is also part of the government’s ”Delegation for Senior Workforce”. 

The issue is becoming more and more prominent. And we can se changes coming. Still small and slow, of course, but they are coming.


“At the same time as the Swedish parliament has been presented with a proposal to raise the retirement age, employers are already beginning to hesitate before 35-year-olds!”, John Mellkvist noted in a Morning News-show on TV some time ago.

Of course, ageism is not just a problem for all those who are considered to be finished at the age of 40-50. It is also a gigantic problem for society in whole – financially as well as socially.

For the marketing sector, this is especially problematic in three ways.

First, of course, through lost skills and experience. Just like in all other industries.

For anyone who thinks that the brain is shrinking soon after the 40th anniversary, it can be a good idea to listen to the Professor Emerita and author Bodil Jönsson. She has said that the brain continues to evolve, throughout life. In addition, the contact between the right and left hemispheres gets better and better over the years. Something that makes it easier for us to see patterns and contexts.

Another problem with age discrimination in the marketing sector is that it becomes more difficult to communicate with mature consumers if all creatives are in their 30s.

Already in 1996, PhD Lorentz Lyttken called for intelligent advertising for adults.

“The problem is the attitude and prejudices of young advertising guys. If advertising were made by 40-50-year-old women, it would probably look completely different. Those who produce much of the advertising today belong to a young metropolitan elite who generalize from their own experiences and their own generation,” he said in an interview in Quo Vadis, in August 1996.

But not much has really happened in the last 23 years.

A third, negative factor with marketers with age bracket, is the focus on young target groups. The companies strive to ”rejuvenate the target groups” and they want to reach millennials.

But, just about a year ago, Mc Kinsey & Co presented the report “Urban World: The global consumer to watch”. There, nine consumer groups were identified, which will account for 75 per cent of consumption growth in the coming decades.

The largest group is the 60-plus group in well-developed economies. They account for 19 percent of consumption increases. McKinsey believed that this category of consumers – future pensioners and the elderly, will be extremely important for global consumption during the period up to 2030.

Only this age group will grow in Western Europe and Northeast Asia. In North America and Canada, the 60s account for 60% of consumption increases.

It is a category that is more urban, ethnically mixed and well educated. And it is definitely much more technically savvy than previous generations.

In Sweden, 3.9 million people are 50 years or older (December 31, 2018). If we stick to the 50-75 group, they are 3 million people. Nearly 1.9 million are between 15 and 29. However, given the youth focus we have, one would think the relationship is the opposite.

This constant focus on ”young and hungry”, ”rejuvenation of the target group” and ”anti age”! It’s so tiering. And it’s so wrong.

But maybe we should blame ourselves a little, we who were young in the 60s and 70s?

We may have succeeded just too well when we carried out a more extensive, widespread and peaceful cultural revolution than the world has ever seen. It spread from London to California, to Stockholm, Berlin, Tokyo and Paris.

It created the teenage generation.

Certainly, the age group had existed at all times. But not the target group, to speak marketing lingo.

My older sister and her girlfriends most closely resembled younger copies of their mothers, with the same permanent hair and the same clothes. The boys became “men” directly after the confirmation.

But then we came, we who were born in the late 1940s and early 1950s. And with us teenage fashion and pop music.

New fashion stores just for young people were established, the music industry exploded, youth magazines flourished, and a series of new radio and TV programs started to entertain the large, young audience.

It was an exciting time.

But it was never intended that we, the teenagers, would become as prevailing as we did and the youth fixation grows firmly in all contexts and camps.

From previously scarcely to be expected at all, youth became the model for the normal and the desirable.

Along the way, the importance of experience and maturity faded.

But we who are peers with Bruce Springsteen or Madonna are just the same. In any case, inside.

Today’s ”seniors” are more to the number, healthier and can expect to live longer than their parents and grandparents.

And development continues.

The author Ludvig Rasmussonhas summed it all up in his book ”The Age Uprising”: ”The 40s generation is the one who helped create society as it is today and they are used to decide. They will not accept being treated like their parents”.

It would also be a terrible waste of energy, power and creativity.

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How psychology can be a tool for marketers


The interest in behavioral economics has grown over the years, ever since the psychologist Daniel Kahneman was rewarded Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science.

Understanding the human psyche, how and why people react as they do, is of great value for brand owners and marketers, as it is possible to design services, products and processes to make it easierfor the consumer to make the desired decisions. The concept has been named “Behavioural Design”, by the Swedes Niklas Laninge (who is a psychologist and lecturer) and Arvid Janson (designer and civil engineer). In this context, design means not only the visual expression, more the process that leads to the outcome.

Niklas Laninge and Arvid Janson have studied how services, products and processes can improve by using psychology.

Behavioral design can be described as the applied version of behavioral economics. With psychological research as a starting point, it creates a systematic approach to finding solutions to both small and big problems. 

The goals of behavioural design are to change behaviours, not attitudes. 

And this is not made by increasing the consumer’s motivation, but about lowering their resistance.


Understanding why people act as they do in different situations also makes it possible to influence their actions. This is the very essence of the concept Behavioral Design.

“The advertising and marketing business have, for a very long time, worked with some kind of pseudo-science in combination with art. The industry is standing on one business leg and one artistic leg”, Niklas Laninge told me when I interviewed him earlier.

In the book “Behavioral Design”, he and Arvid Janson have gathered a large number of insights from research and empirical data on behavioral economics and decision making. They have built a framework for how everything is connected and named the building blocks used. As well as the stumbling blocks in the form of logic errors, which can overturn many opportunities.

“We have created the framework around fairly old, psychological findings. It’s much easier when you name things. When we have the pattern, we can also see how we make people make the right decision”, said Niklas Laninge.

With behavioral design it’s possible to influence behaviors of various kinds which is of course of importance to marketers.

“In marketing communication, marketers far too often talk about changing attitudes. We mean that you have to work with concrete goals”, said Niklas Laninge, who emphasizes that it is behaviors, not attitudes, which are the concrete goals.

And these behaviours should be Specific, Measurable, Accepted, Realistic and Timed – in short: SMART.

And when formulating the desired behaviour, you must ask yourself: who should perform it, when should they do it, where should they do it and how often should they do it.

It’s necessary to find out who are motivated to change their behaviour and who are less motivated. The question then is what can be done with those who are less motivated.

“You should not engage in motivation-enhancing efforts in any case. Activities like coupons, discounts and arguments are blunt instruments and work poorly. Instead, it is important to lower the thresholds for a changed behaviour”, said Niklas Laninge.

There are a number of measures that can be taken, in different areas and with different methods, to make it easier for the consumer to make the right decisions. 

1. Reduce the number of choices

A wide selection is not always the best. One way to make decisions easier can be to not offer too many choices. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he reduced the number of products and left more or less four alternatives; a desktop and laptop for professional users, as well as a desktop and a portable for private users.

And the American professor, Sheena Iyengar at Columbia University, has studied the negative effects of increased freedom of choice more closely.

Some of her students performed an experiment in a large American grocery store by selling jam. They had a selection of six varieties of jam which they offered customers to taste. After one day, about 30 percent of the customers who tasted also bought a jar of jam.

Want a jar of honey? But which one should you choose? Are there too many choices, you might just forget about it.

But a few weeks later, the number of jams was increased to 24 varieties, and the result was completely different. Less than three percent of the tasters bought something.

2. Set the desired options as default. 

In Sweden, for example, too few citizens have registered to be an organ donor. It is probably not because they are negative to organ donation, but because it requires an active action – to register oneself. In countries where the situation is the opposite, that is, the citizens are automatically enrolled in the donor register until they explicitly say they do not want to, a very small percentage choose to leave.

In Germany an attempt was made to increase the proportion of green electricity. In a test, consumers were given two choices of energy sources, one of which came from renewable sources. This would mean a modest additional cost of approximately EUR 10 per year. Only seven percent chose that option. But, when green electricity was instead stated as the default option on the form, nearly 70 percent also chose to keep that option.

3. Use the context right

Behavioral design is not necessarily about making major changes or invent exciting new digital solutions. Sometimes it can be very simple means and perhaps just a matter of expressing the choices properly.

Niklas Laninge describes how his grocer in Stockholm wanted more people to buy organic bananas. But instead of highlighting all the advantages of choosing organic, the grocer did the opposite. In the Fruit and Vegetable Department, he indicated “Organic bananas” and “Bananas sprayed with pesticides”, respectively.

If he choice is “organic” or “not organic”, the price might be the answer. But if the choice is “bananas sprayed with pesticides” and “not sprayed bananas”, the reaction will be totally different.

It turned out to be so effective that he soon did not have to sell anything else than organic bananas.

4. Zoom out to the whole picture

Behavioral design can often be about doing the opposite, from what you might think. Like at the airport in Huston where travelers were complaining about long waiting times at the baggage belt. The airport management hired even more luggage loaders and could thus significantly reduce waiting time. But even though the bags were on the band within eight minutes, the complaints stayed at a high level. When studying the problem in a larger perspective, the fact that passengers only needed a minute to get from the plane to the luggage belt was noticed. There they then had to wait for seven minutes.

The problem was solved by moving the gates further out in the terminal, so the passengers had to walk a bit longer to get to the luggage belt. When they arrived, it only took a few minutes before the bags began to roll.

5. Find the trigger

A trigger reminds us that some behavior can lead to a reward of some kind. There are many such examples in marketing. An interesting variant is that limitations can mean that we put a higher value on a product. It can therefore be very effective to spur on a lack. Already in the 1970s, a simple study was made at the University of North Carolina, where a group of people was offered cookies from two different jars. In one jar were ten cookies and in the other two. They did not know that al the cookies came from the same package. And even though it was exactly the same type of cookies, those which came from the jar with only two cookies were considered to taste better.

We rather walk, than wait.

6. Rewards can be very small, but effective

Small rewards are often used to achieve desired behavior from people. A movie ticket, a discount coupon or a lottery ticket are common tricks in the context.

But, it’s possible to get quite far with nothing too. Niklas Laninge and Arvid Janson collaborated for several years with the product developers at an insurance company, which among other things offered car insurance. Each year, a large number of customers left the company when they were asked to renew their insurance. For several years, the company had used discount coupons to make their customers extend the insurance. But Laninge and Janson thought it would be interesting to compare the offer of discount coupons with nothing. So, for a month, four different alternatives were tested for different groups of customers:

20 Euro discounts if the insurance was extended.

20 Euro discounts on another insurance if the car insurance was extended.

No discount at all, only the offer to extend the insurance.

No discount, but a nice thank you card with the text: “Thank you for being a customer with us for the past year. We just want you to know that we appreciate having you as a customer and would be proud to keep you for another year.”

The result was not what was expected. The option with no discount at all worked the worst. But the other three alternatives were equivalent. It is not that difficult to figure out which model the insurance company has used since then.

Be ethical and think outside the box!

Niklas Laninge emphasizes that behavioral design should be used in an ethical manner. It can be abused but should always be about nudging people in the right direction.

“It makes them do what they probably wanted to do anyway, but didn’t because they lacked time or knowledge, or they were maybe just too lazy”, he summarizes.

And it can apply to most areas. In the book, Laninge and Janson describe a somewhat odd example of how behavioral design solved a difficult problem at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. There, the cleaners had a lot of extra job keeping the urinals clean. It was simply necessary to make the visitors stop splashing outside. Signs with sharp requests to aim right, or the alternative of replacing the existing urinals with new ones with some other design were some thoughts. The final solution was as simple as brilliant. A fly was painted, right at the drain of the urinal. It was realized that many would try to tickle the fly. Which of course was true and a few weeks later, the cleaning workload of the cleaning staff had decreased by 60 percent.

So, with the knowledge of human nature and how to influence and shape decision-making processes, it’s possible to come a long way. Sometimes a little extra long with a visual marker, even if it’s just a fly.

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After femvertising, the next step is humvertising


Studies have shown that femvertising works very well, in all types of media, in pictures and on film. The resistance to advertising decreases and it instead raises curiosity.

In a recent post I published an interview with Nina Åkestam, a PhD from the Stockholm School of Economics, who’s thesis was named “Understanding Advertising Stereotypes” and studied what happens when creative communication violates social norms and stereotypes.

Christina Knight, a Swedish copywriter, creative director, author and lecturer has been discussing gender equality in advertising and in the advertising business for decades.

Christina Knight thinks it’s time for more humvertising.

She thinks it may now be time to take an even broader look at the role and possibilities of advertising. It’s time for advertising that encourages and provide power. Regardless of gender, skin color or culture. 


Christina Knight is one of the very few female creative directors in Sweden and has over 30 years of experience as a CD and copywriter. She is also an avid lecturer and author of “Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising” and “Not Buying it – A Guide to a New Era of Advertising”. Two books which have contributed greatly to the debate about the advertising industry’s lack of equality and diversity. Both in Sweden and internationally.

Christina Knight notes that femvertising has been a winner for some time.

“It is politically correct and opportune. Obviously, you can win advertising prices with femvertising. But it is too early to say if it is the sign of a break in trends”, she says.

One brand that woke up early is Dove. They launched their campaign “Real beauty” in 2004. The origins were market surveys that, among other things, gave the depressing answer that 98 percent of women didn’t think they were looking good enough. Dove then began to consciously show normal women of all ages, sizes and with varying looks in their advertising. With the goal of contributing to more normal beauty ideals.

Among the first examples was the film Evolution, which shows how much retouching and manipulation is needed to make the models in the cosmetics ads just as beautiful as the pictures.

“Dove not only works with femvertising in communication and advertising, but has, for example, also started his Self-Esteem Project”, says Christina Knight.

The project has been going on for more than 10 years and aims to counteract negative body fixation. By training teachers, parents and other adults, they want to help young girls. According to Dove’s own data, this has reached over 20 million young people so far.

And this has not only applied to young women. Ten years ago, the Dove Pro Age hygiene and skincare series was also launched. Instead of talking about anti-age and that women must look young, like the other skincare brands, they celebrate the mature woman.

“Of course, all this is very good. But there is a limit, I think. Dove has dwelled women’s poor self-esteem long enough. ‘OK, you made your point’, I would say. Now we know. Now we move on and focus on something that strengthens women rather than almost cement their poor self-esteem”, she says. 

She thinks there have been far enough campaigns such as “The Doors” (where more women choose to enter the door for “average” rather than the “beautiful”) or “Sketches” which show how much more beautiful the outside world describes a woman than she does herself.

“I long for advertising that is encouraging and provide power. That shows women as great, strong, role models”, says Christina Knight, pointing at Chevrolet’s Silverado film “Her horse” or H&M’s “She’s a lady” as good examples.

“There are films that are dedicated to empowering women. I would like to see much more of that. But most of all I would like to see some more inclusive advertising. Advertising has an extreme focus on being a woman. I want to see more humvertising – human advertising, advertising that focuses on what it means to be human, regardless of gender, skin color or culture!”

Advertising reflects the view of society, but it also has great opportunities to influence the view of society itself.

Christina Knight often talks about advertising history in her lectures for example. Advertising has always told us what it means to be a woman.

During World War II, women were portrayed as strong and independent. By then the men had gone to war, so society needed women in industry and they needed role models. But, then the war ended and the men returned to their jobs. So the dream of “The American Housewife” was born.

Christina Knight recalls that advertising takes up such a large part of the public space and it is therefore also important to remember the joint responsibility that rests on marketers and communicators.

A strong reason why advertising looks the way it does is, of course, the structure of the industry itself. In general, an isolated reserve for barely middle-aged, well-paid metropolitan residents, preferably men, all of Swedish descent domiciled in the same residential areas where they spend time with like-minded people.

“This cannot be changed in the short term. However, we need to break the structures much more. It will be so much more fun when that’s done! But the development is painfully slow”, thinks Christina Knight.

When she was creative director at Ingo, the function was shared between her and Björn Ståhl, which she thinks was a good way to create balance and enable different perspectives.

“Each agency would benefit from a shared CD creation, male and female, just as diversity promotes the agency.”

Christina Knight calls for more collegiate feminism, to support and promote balance and diversity. She points out that awareness is increasing, but still needs to increase, among companies, their marketing managers and their consultants.“If you can’t talk to half the population, you can’t expect to be profitable. If you don’t buy the message of justice or equality, you should in any case be able to relate commercially. 

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Great advertising makes consumers want more advertising


Great advertising has a value in itself. Sara Rosengren and Micael Dahlén, professors at the Stockholm School of Economics, have studied this phenomenon and established the concept of “advertising equity”, for advertising that is not only tolerated, but also popular. It creates both more value for the company and added value for consumers. This means that people will want to watch more advertising from these brands. 

Sara Rosengren
Micael Dahlén. Photo: Emma Blomgren.

A high advertising equity weakens the resistance towards advertising and instead of consumers trying to avoid the advertising, they choose to watch and even search for it. One effect of this is that the brand can communicate more efficient at a lower cost. 

This is of benefit for the brand, employees, consumers and even media.

Advertising equity is a form of trust capital. However, advertising equity is not captured by traditional brand strength measures. Or measures such as brand attitude, purchase intentions or loyalty. The traditional dimensions tend to focus on the value of the company’s products and services, while advertising equity focuses on the perceived value of the company’s advertising.


The attitudes toward advertising is mainly negative by default. This was clearly illustrated in earlier research by professor Sara Rosengren and her colleagues. They studied advertising from ICA, the leading supermarket chain in Sweden. ICA established its advertising platform in 2001 as a sitcom set up in a small grocery store, which featured the retailer Stig and his employees.

One of hundred examples of ICA’s advertising. This time it the staff is recording a jingle about ICA’s branded products. Everyone is very pleased with the song, until the shop owner, Stig, starts to sing. The producers decides to cut his microphone totally. In Sweden, this is a funny twist, as the actor playing Stig is a former popular opera singer (Loa Falkman).

In their studies of ICA, the research team randomly presented two variants of the same question to two groups of consumers: “What do you think about ICA’s advertising sitcom?” and “What do you think about ICA’s TV-sitcom”. It became clear that if the word “advertising” was included in the question, the reaction was more negative than if it were not. An example of the generally negative attitude to advertising. However, many see ICA’s films more as entertainment than advertising. An example of this is the mobile app “ICA Play”, where the ICA-commercials are gathered, and you can order push notes when it’s time for a new one. When the app was launched in November 2013, it quickly became one of the five most downloaded in the Apple Store in Sweden. In 2007, ICA’s advertising appeared in the Guinness Book of Records, as the longest running television advertising drama. And it still continues today.

A similar, British, example is John Lewis. Their advertising is noticed, discussed and loved. Not least, it applies to their Christmas advertising. 

In September 2018, rumors began to spread in the media that Elton Johnwould participate in the John Lewis Christmas advertising of the year. This also proved right, when the campaign started two months later on 17 November. As is often the case with their Christmas advertising, the new campaign was first released on social media in the morning with immediate, wide sharing across digital platforms. The same evening, the campaign was launched on national television at prime time. The great interest in the forthcoming ad, the speculation about who would star, and then the rapid spread of the Christmas campaign are proof of the very strong advertising equity which John Lewis has built over a number of years.

Both ICA and John Lewis have both also realized the importance of working long-term and consistently at a high creative level. This has made their advertising equity strong, as well as their brands and profitability.

There are, of course, several more examples of brands with high advertising equity. But unfortunately, there are also many examples of companies that have failed to manage and develop their advertising capital. Instead, they have changed concepts and embarked on brand new tracks. Sometimes because they just, themselves, wanted change and sometimes because new market managers wanted to make their own mark on the work.

So, what can you achieve with a strong advertising equity?

First:If a company’s previous advertising is perceived as worthy of attention, consumers are likely to want to see their advertising even in the future.The research indicates that strong advertising equity means more to the attention of a company’s advertising than both brand attitude and buying intentions.

Secondly:Advertising equity signals positive characteristics of the brand and shows respect for the consumer. The message is “We don’t just steal your time, we have made every effort to make you want to give it to us”.

Third:Micael Dahlén has in his research also found that companies that have made an effort in their communication are also perceived to offer better products and be better at product development. Sara Rosengren, in her turn, has shown that these companies are also assumed to take better care of their customers. As well as of their employees. In other words, the overall attitudes towards the companies are more positive.

Forth:Advertising equity is also of great importance internally. The theory has often been that if you care a lot for your organization, you like the advertising. In their research Sara Rosengren and her colleagues have found, that it might as well be the opposite. That is to say, if the employees like the advertising and perceive it to be effective, it gives stronger motivation to participate and contribute to the company’s development. It strengthens the identification. It is also important that employees perceive that the company has made an effort to make good advertising and that it fulfills a function.

Fifth: A strong advertising equity also adds values evem to the context of the advertising. That is to say, even the media where the advertisement is published serves on the advertising equity of the brand. Studies show that consumers have been prepared to pay more for media that contains advertising from strong brands, than for media with the same editorial content, but advertising from weaker brands. The same relationship has been seen when comparing high quality ads – in terms of production technology and/or creativity.

Thus, high-creativity advertising with high, production-technical quality makes consumers prepared to pay more for the medium itself. This can give advertisers room to negotiate better terms with media, which in turn gets added value through the brand’s advertising capital.

Sixth: A strong advertising equity can also open up to new collaborations. One such example is Volvo’s advertising with Zlatan Ibrahimović. This became possible since Zlatan himself saw Volvo’s commercials with Swedish House Mafia and wanted to cooperate with the brand.

How to measure advertising equity, and why

Sara Rosengren and Micael Dahlén have designed a simple model for measuring advertising equity. It is based on people’s overall impression of the company’s previous advertising.

They argue that it is worth-while to regularly measure advertising equity. Not least when deciding on future investments. How big they should be and what types of media should be used are some of the questions that can be answered when you know your advertising equity.

However, when measuring advertising equity, it is important to clearly define advertising, or perhaps even replace the actual “a-word”, in order to get around the problem with the automatic negativism. Instead of advertising one could, for example, describe the type of communication that the brand uses. When this is formulated, the questions can be relatively simple of the type “I think X usually do – interesting advertising/advertising that is worth paying attention to/advertising that is rewarding to take part of”, for example.

Sara Rosengren’s advice is that if the advertising equity is low, it is wise to work mainly with broad mass-media channels. If you have a high advertising equity, the possibilities of SEO, viral spread and earned media increases.

The advertising eqity can also be used as a tool to ensure the long-term view of advertising work and that it is steered in the right direction.

“Of course, it may sometimes be necessary to replace or update an advertising concept. The problem is only when you do it without first having known what advertising equity the concept has built. If there is no such analysis, it is easy for the decisions to be taken a little too easily. If we only evaluate the effect of advertising over time in terms of the brand, we will easily miss the long-term value of the advertising itself ”, Sara Rosengren emphasized earlier when I interviewed her on the matter. 

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Get better results – in many ways – without stereotypes


Good advertising is not only important for the development of brands and companies. It can also be a positive power in society.

By understanding and avoiding the stereotypes that are often used in advertising, it is possible to influence attitudes in a deeper and more positive way. These conclusions can be drawn from the research that Nina Åkestam did as a doctoral student at the Stockholm School of Economics. Her thesis was named “Understanding Advertising Stereotypes” and reported what happens when creative communication violates social norms and stereotypes.

Nina Åkestam studied the negative consequences of stereotypes in advertising. And the opportunities that open up, when you avoid the stereotypes.

The image that the advertising traditionally shows is often far from reality and idealized images of people and situations that are often far from reality.

But it is not obvious that these images make people long and dream – or buy. They can just as easily create discomfort, shame and poor self-confidence.

In her research, Nina Åkestam has found that advertising that violates stereotypes and come closer to reality – for example create positive effects. For example, images of homosexuality create positive social effects in terms of empathy.


“Research on advertising is often done either from an economy aspect, when you look athow it affects social and business economics. Or, you do that from a psychological aspect and look at how it affects people in different ways,” Nina Åkestam explained when I talked to her on the matter.

She, however, wanted to see how these two areas affect each other.
Can good advertising, which communicates equally and affects people positively, also be more profitable?

Traditionally, companies have often regarded marketing as an isolated issue, while social affairs and CSR have been something completely different. “It’s nice if we can do something good, but we have to sell too”, is often the reasoning.

Nina Åkestam’s research shows however that there are no contradictions in this. Nevertheless, so much advertising is made from old stereotyped templates. Which people think still applies.

There are different theories in terms of the role and expression of advertising. The most common speaks of advertising as a mirror of society.
When agencies or advertisers sometimes are criticized for enhancing prejudices or negative trends in society, the defense usually is “advertising does not create trends, advertising only reflects and reinforces the trends that exist”.

But in this case, you could of course argue, that advertisers can choose which trends you want to reflect.
The German professor, Martin Eisendin Berlin, has done a comprehensive metastudy about gender stereotypes in advertising. He has among other things found that the theory of mirrors is quite reasonable, but the advertising is lagging by fifteen years and playing on old attitudes.

Nina Åkestam noted, that if advertising really would have reflected its contemporaries, it would not look like it does on several points:
* Because then every tenth of the ads would be homosexual.
* Every fourth person would have an immigrant background.
* The typical age of people in the advertisement would be 41 years.
* The average weight for model-long women would be 85 kilos, not 53.
* Men would be undressed as often as women.
* Furthermore, women would not become more and more sexualized.

But, as you know, it does not look like that at all. And it is no benefit for companies that the image is so skewed.

“Consumers are much more aware than companies often think. Many in the advertisingindustry also have an idea that people are much more conservative than they are. Maybe it’s the advertising industry which is conservative,” said Nina Åkestam.

In her research, together with her tutors and supervisors Sara Rosengren and Micael Dahlén, she studied how images of gay sexual couples in ads affect consumers in comparison with images of heterosexual couples.

They have then found that images of homosexuality create positive social effects in terms of empathy.

Other studies have looked at how people respond to different pictures in advertising. The interviewees were asked about their first ten spontaneous thoughts when they see ads.

Traditional, stereotype advertising met a lot of protests. People put it in a broader context and see it as part of what develops the world. They think about how prejudiced advertising affects others, if it can hurt people or how they affect attitudes of young people, for example.

The research has also shown that the closer you are, to the ideals of young, beautiful and slim, the more you compare yourself with the pictures of the advertisement. And the more they make you feel insecure and unhappy.

As a result, the advertisement does not strengthen the brand but rather creates reactance, that is, it builds resistance and instead of listening, consumers are disturbed.

“It’s also about the legitimacy of the industry. When I was working at an agency, I could feel discomfort about advertising that the industry rewarded, when rewarding themselves with advertising people do not like. I could be ashamed to be associated with such advertising, even though I have not been involved in it,” said Nina Åkestam.

Femvertising is a countermovement, where advertisers try to push development in a morebalanced direction. It is clear that it decreases the reactivity.

Nina Åkestam herself, together with her supervisors, has found that femvertising works. In all kinds of media as well as in both pictures and film. The reactance becomes so much less.

Instead of protesting against the advertisement, people become curious.
Today, much of this debate is about gender equality and advertising aimed at women, as well as gender stereotypes and sexual orientation. Of course, it is not just there, which much needs to be done. But it’s a good start, because so much more follows.

“Now, we are also looking at ethnicity and male gender roles in the ads,” Nina Åkestam explained, and noted that some of the problem is undoubtedly due to the fact that the advertising industry is so .homogeneous in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and function.

The lack of diversity, of all kinds, is striking.

It can of course affect the work done in the industry, more than you can imagine.

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Purchased, own or earned? But you really have to earn it!

Skilled companies today know that they act in a bright spotlight on an open stage, where every movement is recorded, evaluated and discussed. And most people understand the importance of earned media.

It is certainly no news that companies want to be noticed in the media. But that is, of course, the want attention. The value of a benevolent mention in the press, soon surpasses a traditional advertising campaign. But the damage of negative press coverage can just as quickly destroy the strongest profiles.

Certainly, development has progressed, even in this area. But it always amazes me that so many, so often still, work so amateurishly, bluntly and old-fashioned when it comes to press contacts.

Someone should speak really seriously with those who send press releases for example. Or rather – those who pour out empty words and warm air.


Press releases can be good tools for journalists. Today, most press releases are of greater benefit – and danger – than ever before. The personnel forces have slimmed down, almost to the limit of the impossible. This means that press releases will be welcome additions if there is a lack of news materials and no time for more extensive news hunting. But it also means that press releases are not always professionally reviewed and evaluated. They do not become the basis for follow-up, but the news itself. Something that I see as a great risk for professional journalism – and thus for readers and viewers.

Many companies may think it is good that they can disseminate their information as they please, but in the long run it is not very good for companies either.

Over the years I have been overwhelmed by press releases. A few percent have been interesting. Most just pointless, at best. But much is directly annoying.

Of course, it is often to a mutual benefit with serious contacts between companies and journalists. And press releases are not necessarily the only form of contact. But no matter what the companies contacts with journalists look like, they must respect the journalistic integrity and also, even in these contexts, always act in line with their brands.


For the moment, I will only discuss press releases and would like to share some advice that I have often thought of in these contexts. These are some of the most important points that all companies should think about, but too often miss.

Firstly – who cares?Do not send a lot of uninteresting, internal information that does not affect anyone other than your own organization and, at best, your employees. Those who do not understand the difference, will automatically end up in the trash for a while. Without the journalist even wanting to be bothered to control what you write.

Second – don’t play hide-and-seek with journalists!Talk about what’s interesting right away. And keep it short! Do not try to get stressed journalists to read a lot of words, where they have to look for the very essence. If necessary, attach a more detailed information separately.

Thirdly – think about who you are talking to!Customize your messages to the editors you contact. Trade presses of various kinds have their areas of interest, their popular press, general news editions as well and so on. The same news can certainly be interesting for several editors. But probably not from the same angle. Learn more about the editors you contact. Read, at least sporadically, the magazines they publish or listen to and watch the radio and television programs.

Fifth – let local news be local!Media researchers have known for decades that the shorter, geographically (or culturally) distance it is to an event, the greater the possibility of its being included in the media. Many release writers have obviously realized that. But then they don’t understand how to handle that insight. For example, I just received a press release about a new grocery store to be built in Halmstad in the south west corner of Sweden. It will use geothermal heat. Why should I care about that, being specialized in marketing and advertising?! If the release had been sent to the local press and to, for example journals on Energy & Environment or Construction & Real Estate, I would understand. But it is really of most interest for the internal magazine of the store chain anyway. Sometimes nationwide companies or organizations look for a “local touch”. Good! But keep it local! However, it is not uncommon for me to get dozens of releases on the same topic, just with a geographic variation in headlines. Yesterday I received ten releases from the organization of Sweden’s Bakers and Confectioners. Each one told about a person who went to the final in the Young Bakers Championship. A finalist from Gävle, one from Västervik, one from Motala and so on. That only made me fed up with bakers. Firstly – why do they send it to me at all? And if, against presumption, they can give me a credible explanation for it; why on earth don’t they send a summarizing release to everyone except the local press in Gävle, Västervik, Motala and so on.

Sixth – forget the superlatives!Far too many are trying too much to convince themselves of their own excellence. They are rarely as remarkable as they want to appear. The more superlatives, the less credibility. One word that makes me yawn is “leading”. How many companies do not claim to be “leading”? Very rarely, however, do they talk about how they are leading. Largest market share, highest profit, best in test, winner in most industry competitions. Or?

Last but definitely not least – Be available!If your information is interesting, the journalist probably wants to follow it up. Give information about who can then be contacted – and make sure the person is really available. And can answer questions.

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