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The Controversial Ad That Scandinavian Airlines Pulled After A Day

Scandinavian Airlines uploaded a new ad to YouTube on Monday, and just over a day later, the ad is no longer publicly listed, after the video got nearly 50x as many “thumbs down” reactions as “thumbs up” reactions.

SAS’ “What is truly Scandinavian?” ad

The ad starts with the narrator saying:

“What is truly Scandinavian?”
“Absolutely nothing.”
“Everything is copied.”

The ad then lists many of the things that Scandinavia is known for, pointing out how it’s actually from somewhere else:

  • Credit for democracy goes to Greece
  • Credit for parental leave goes to Switzerland
  • The Scandinavian windmills were invented in Persia
  • German bicycles are a staple of Scandinavian cities

After listing off a bunch of things, the ad continues:

“We are no better than our viking ancestors. We take everything we like on our trips abroad, adjust it a little bit, and et viola. It’s a unique Scandinavian thing. Going out into the world inspires us to think big, even though we’re quite small.

In a way, Scandinavia was brought here, piece by piece, by everyday people who found the best of our home away from home. We can’t wait to see what wonderful things you’ll bring home next.”

This is a great ad for globalism, not so great ad for an airline

In general I love this ad. The visuals are incredible, and the commentary from the narrator is almost poetic.

Personally the message also resonates with me. The one thing I’ve learned from all my travels is that there’s no one place that’s best, that we can learn something from everywhere, and that we’re all more similar than some people try to have us believe.”

At the same time, this is a very unconventional ad for an airline. Usually airline ads try to promote how they’re unique to that country, rather than point out how the country isn’t unique.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand what they’re saying, and I really like the message. But at the moment we live in a time where there’s an increasing divide between people who believe in nationalism and people who believe in globalism.

If the ad is targeted at Scandinavians, then telling them “hey, we’re actually small and just copy stuff” isn’t going to resonate with people who don’t have that outlook.

What SAS says about this ad

It seems that SAS doesn’t actually believe that this ad was particularly unpopular, but rather that there was a coordinated effort to have a negative response.

Here’s how SAS describes the message behind the ad:

“SAS is a Scandinavian airline that flies travelers to, from and within Scandinavia. We stand behind the message in the movie that is about travel enriching us.

When we travel, we both influence and are influenced by others. The experiences we bring from our travels affect us as individuals but also our communities.

We at SAS are proud of our Scandinavian origins and the values ​​that characterize our open, equal and democratic societies.”

SAS also suggests that the ad has been “kidnapped,” and that some group has intentionally been trying to add negative reactions:

“When we look at the pattern and the number of reactions to our film, there is reason to suspect an attack and that our campaign has been kidnapped. We do not want to risk becoming a platform for someone else’s values, which we do not stand for. Therefore, we have currently removed the films from our channels and are now discussing the next step.”

As of the time of this post the video has 363 “thumbs up” and over 16,000 “thumbs down” reactions, so I do believe that there may have been some sort of a coordinated response here.

SAS is currently in tense negotiations with their pilots, so the head of SAS’ Swedish Pilot Association has taken this opportunity to attack the airline:

“The reactions from our customers to SAS’s latest commercials show that they appreciate and care about the Scandinavian brand. We share their view that with Irish aircraft, Spanish pilots and Baltic cabin crew, the Scandinavian feels increasingly distant.”

Bottom line

In this divisive time, perhaps a message of globalism wasn’t appropriate if they were hoping to have an overwhelmingly positive response. Personally I think the ad is bold, but I like the message.

But is this ad truly overwhelmingly getting a negative response, or is there some coordinated effort?

I do suspect that there was some sort of a coordinated “thumbs down” campaign here, because the ratio of “thumbs down” to “thumbs up” is unreal. It’s one thing if there were the same number of likes as dislikes (which would already be bad), but the ratio does suggest to me that something is going on.

Or perhaps we’ll find out in the comments section if this ad is disliked by 98% of people…