‘Hipster hostile’ Swedish military ads stir debate

'Hipster hostile' Swedish military ads stir debate
An ad campaign by the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) has split commentators in two camps over whether it denigrates normal citizens in its attempt to attract new recruits.

Entitled “Vad håller du på med?” (‘What are you doing?’), the military recruitment ads began running in mid-January in a series of broadcast spots and billboards.

The series of advertisements shows young Swedes carrying out activities that are seemingly pointless.

A young man in a student residence hall blows up a condom and manages to squeeze his head and half his torso into the huge bubble.

In another ad, a woman stands on a kitchen chair, engaged in a prolonged and focused effort to find the best angle from which to photograph her breakfast with her mobile phone.

The recruitment page on the Armed Forces website also contains a link guiding would-be recruits to the areas within the army and navy which are need of personnel.

But the ads, meant to help the military address a shortage of new voluntary recruits after mandatory conscription was abandoned in 2010, have drawn criticism from various quarters.

The cultural pages of several influential Swedish newspapers were quick to dub them “an attack on hipster culture,” while one writer said it painted a negative picture of modern life.

Dagens Nyheter (DN) music correspondent Fredrik Strage was one of the writers who thought the campaign insulted cultural activities.

Yet on Friday, the same newspaper’s editorial writer Erik Helmersson defended the Armed Forces.

“I think you have to have an extremely tolerant notion of what constitutes culture if you include Instagramming your breakfast or taping yourself to a wall,” he wrote.

Helmersson also wrote that throughout much of the 1970s “military equals death equals bad”-thinking still survived in Sweden.

“Is it wrong to say that it is more important to help a food aide convoy reach its destination in a war zone than photographing your own food at home?” he asked.

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