What the rest of the world can learn from Swedish creativity

From Ikea to Oatly, Swedish brands have won the hearts of consumers the world over. Here, Forsman & Bodenfors’ Johan Eghammer reflects on why the country’s creative reputation is the ultimate underdog story

Being from Sweden, I often think of it as the most normal country on earth but, from an outside perspective, I understand that people can see us as quite radical. When it comes to the Swedish Music Wonder, for example, we can thank the municipal music school that everybody was brought up with. When it comes to the Swedish Gaming Wonder, we can thank the government for democratising the internet in our country at such an early stage. But when it comes to creativity in the ad industry, I think we can thank the lack of advertising that we grew up with.

There were only two TV channels in Sweden until the late 1980s, neither of which featured ads, and there was no commercial radio at all. The closest we got to advertising was the five-minute break between TV programmes, when the government reminded people about upcoming tax filing deadlines, the dangers of drinking alcohol at sea, and when it was time to shift to winter car tyres. As a kid, I watched those bumpers with wide eyes. This absence of advertising created an enormous longing for that magical and mysterious world you could only reach through things like travel or going to the movies.