Shreyas Kulkarni

Oslo downplays its tourist appeal in a new film, and it is brilliant

The ad’s anti-tourism theme shatters most tourist ad tropes.

Replete with dry humour and reverse psychology, Oslo’s new tourism ad does what every tourism board ad wants — getting people to watch, share, and talk about it.

And it is happening. Social media posts and chats about this ad have increased since it dropped online a few days ago.

A grew-up-here-now-temporarily-live-here Halfdan, for nearly two minutes, bemoans Oslo’s ordinariness and how one does not need to make any efforts to create those Instagram-worthy moments – slow and authentic is how he inadvertently presents the Norwegian capital.

“I think a city should feel a little hard to get,” he states.

Why? Because the hoi polloi can swim in the ocean in the middle of the city. They do not have to stand in line for hours to glimpse a famous painting – he says this while standing alone in front of Edvard Munch’s The Scream found at Oslo’s National Museum.

“Everything is just so available. There is no exclusiveness.”

These days, tourism is influencer and social media-driven. They curate what is worth and not worth visiting. This ad throws all of that into a bin and wants you to slow down, savour the relaxed feel of Oslo, and not worry about ticking off the ‘places to visit’ checklist.

“Planning to visit Oslo soon? Suggest you don’t. Or maybe do?” wrote May-Elin Stener, Norway’s ambassador to India, on X (formerly known as Twitter) as she promoted the ad.

Unfortunately, such ads need the backing of a courageous client, and most tourism boards are not. Many still rely on the tourism tropes or choose alternative routes for their ad’s treatment that surprisingly work well.

Back in India, Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s ad last year chose the latter. Made by Ogilvy India, it utilises the strength of song and adds a touch of technology.

“Gond art will not show the tiger’s muscles moving in the ad. An animator did it using technology, but you will not see it. That is the true use of technology when you never comment on it,” remarked Ogilvy supremo Piyush Pandey to afaqs! in January 2024.

The WPP-owned ad agency has serviced the Madhya Pradesh Tourism account since 2006.

The country’s tourism ads, on the other hand, fall under similar tropes. Its 2023 August ad asks people to hold their marriages in India, but the persuasion bit is left to the stereotypical shots of India’s locales. A Visit India Year 2023 ad falls on similar lines.

They're more corporate AVs and less tourism generating fun ads.

Perhaps this Incredible India ad from 2013, produced by Nirvana Films and directed by Prakash Varma, needs to be revisited; its simplicity casts a magic that retains its charm even after all these years.

Have news to share? Write to us