Nordic advertisers have learned the local value of competing for attention on a global scale, argues AOL managing director Jakob Stigler.
You know the scene: in the 2000 historical blockbuster movie ‘Gladiator’, Russell Crowe’s Maximus character finds himself in mortal peril in Rome’s Colosseum, when he convinces his fellow fighters to stand back-to-back to help each other survive the ordeal.
The moral of the story? Collaboration is better than the unilateral pursuit of self-interest. And the sequence provides an apt metaphor for the recent success stories in Scandinavian media, argues AOL Nordics managing director Jakob Stigler.
Meeting M&M Global in London ahead of the Festival of Media Global 2017 – where Stigler will be both speaking on stage and judging this year’s Festival of Media Global Awards – he believes that popular, award-winning campaigns emerging from the Nordics share a common “Gladiator syndrome”.
“[In ‘Gladiator’], the ones who don’t get slaughtered get their backs to each other, look out at the world from the same perspective,” says Stigler. “Once you get to that point, you suddenly go from having a client that briefs an agency in a really linear way, who then briefs media partners, to suddenly having a much more mission-centric organisation.”
Integration in terms of stakeholders, as well as media channels, is vital, insists Stigler, who joined AOL as part of the 2009 acquisition of GoViral.
The Nordics benefits from almost total internet and mobile penetration; local consumers are early adopters, and competitive markets such as Sweden are advanced in their consumption of video and content. So once you have audience attention, what comes next? “How do we get it right?” is the question advertisers need to address, says Stigler.
He points to Volvo’s viral hit ‘Epic Split’ (watch below), the brilliantly comedic video showing Jean-Claude Van Damme straddling a couple of reversing trucks, orchestrated by Be On, AOL’s video syndication network. The video attracted over 100 million views due to the collaborative mentality of all participants, operating as a single “organism”, he says, rather than competing bodies.
“Suddenly you are moving into the market of global attention. That can be a great opportunity, but it can also be an extremely tough ball-game”
In this sense, claims Stigler, Nordic advertisers, agencies and publishers are better positioned to strike a chord with an international audience than other, better-financed markets. Highly creative video-led campaigns such as Volkswagen’s ‘Trailer Assist’ and travel company Momondo’s ‘DNA Journey’ film have been viewed far and wide, successfully tapping into power of cultural observations.
“Nordic agencies have a very unbiased perception of what it means to be global, compared to the rest of the industry. They come with an extremely open mind [and a] very collaborative approach. The ‘one-winner-takes-it-all’ is simply not viable when you are competing in an extremely fragmented and dynamic market,” he says.
“Luckily, we have a tradition in our DNA of not just doing great creativity locally, but – as a business limited by local budgets – [we have] always been forced to squeeze the most out of every penny from a creative perspective.”
Home and away
Lest anyone accuse Nordic media businesses of pursuing fame and acclaim for reasons of vanity, Stigler is quick to insist that this admirable international hit rate is also important for brand consideration in local markets.
“When you move into video, and once you move into content, you move into a new remit in terms of who you are competing against. Suddenly you are moving into the market of global attention. That can be a great opportunity, but it can also be an extremely tough ball-game,” he says.
“There is an acceptance that winning locally means dealing with the global market. When you are suddenly chasing global headlines, you are not just doing it to fulfil your media requirements, you are doing it because you also see a massive uplift locally. Good brands will realise there is an upside [to global attention].”
Stigler advocates the value of longer-term, “sustainable” creative platforms over “one-off” viral hits. Volvo, for instance, has followed up ‘Epic Split’ with a series of well-viewed sequels.
And he is adamant that brands must leverage the “immense” potential and influence of their own employees as ambassadors: “There is a massive need for advertisers to accept that investing in advertising nowadays is a two-way street; it is about how you build equity externally, and expectations, and understanding how you align the internal potential of your organisation.
“Ask Red Bull. I have seen what a global phenomenon can do to your company. That is why you are suddenly seeing consultancies eating other people’s lunch, because they understand the internal potential of the organisation more than anyone else,” he concludes.