iceland’s media desert

i’m a professional in tv/film and part of my job requires me to produce stuff that helps a client deliver their messages to a potential audience in a creative way that sells their brand or products.

so the one thing that really mystified me while i was in iceland was the lack of advertising in reykjavik.

while billboards and videoboards sprawl the cities, highways and neighbourhoods of most countries, iceland is devoid of such flamboyant displays of modern consumerism.

advertising is kept to a minimum and most of it is done without overwhelming audiences. in fact, when it comes down to it, iceland comes across as a country with people that place functionality and practicality over personal indulgences.

the only memorable advertising campaign i observed during my recent visit were bus displays and billboards featuring a male model donning iceland’s most popular winterwear brand, 66 north.

the campaigns feature beautifully photographed and photoshopped instances of a nordic beast of a man successfully braving the elements of nature with his reliable and trusty 66 north apparel; a message the advertisers have obviously spun to good effect since most people in the country swear by the brand and iceland is undoubtedly, a country constantly at war with the inclement weather, geology and turbulent socio-economical climate.

to top it off, i also found iceland’s idea of an attractive male very strange.

perhaps it’s because i’ve unconsciously been conditioned to think that the smart, attractive man of today is the dressy, clean-shaven, effeminate “topshop” guy who strides the streets confidently in his fedoras, pumps and ‘murses’ (man purses)…..the man who has taken metrosexuality above and beyond androgynous ambiguity such that only a plastic surgeon can tell the difference between him and a hot-looking lesbian.

thankfully in iceland, such extreme gender-bending antics haven’t polluted the country – yet.

instead, here, you’ll have to set your google calendars back at least a thousand years as the ideal male pinup is a relic from the past. check out the video below to see what i mean.

he sports a thick, viking-like beard accompanied by a mane of unkempt shaggy blonde or ginger-tinged hair that is usually held down by a woollen hat. he is always bundled up in the latest and grooviest 66 north apparel with partially iced eyebrows and beard. he also looks like he is not to be messed with and is about to jump onboard a ship for another round of viking maritime explorations.

– iceland’s ideal male pin-up model with viking-charged characteristics –

and 66 north isn’t the only one playing at this game. other local-born fashion brands produce the same images in their ad campaigns.

– woman has a far-away look as she peers into the distance –

models, both male and female are made up to look like they are weathered by the gorgeous icelandic landscapes imbuing them with a rustic, peasant-like air. while he tackles glaciers and sub-zero terrains, she lingers in front of the camera, with a dreamy far-away expression, decked in her lopi, waiting for ‘her man’ or her icelandic horse to show up, whichever comes first.

- should i look in the distance or at my horse? -

– should i look in the distance or at my horse? –

does the message hit home?

apparently yes, given that business is doing quite well.

is it culturally relevant with a distinct icelandic voice?

most definitely. the corporate suit isn’t exactly viking in any way is it?

which brings me to the point that – it is what it is which is what it should be but to be honest, it’s all a bit too organic and understated for me – like eating mom’s home-made barley and oatmeal cereal for breakfast, which isn’t a bad thing, really – it’s just harder to get my head around it, that’s all.

perhaps it’s also because i’m so used to the fast-paced advertising and in-your-face dynamism of ad campaigns that visiting a country without all the usual crazy video and print messages pile-driving itself 24-7 unto your senses seems a bit off-kilter; almost like experiencing information overload withdrawal symptoms, without the nausea, which i suspect, in the end, it is.

anyone else feel the same?


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