Can Social Media Help Bypass Advertising Regulations in Sweden?

Do not accept jars from this bear.

Do not accept jars from this bear.

As technology and Internet usage booms throughout the world, with more people using social media tools and going online for most aspects of their life, I always find it interesting to see how other countries stack up on time spent online. Upon researching social media in Sweden, I found the following fact on the official Website of Sweden:

“Young Swedes surf the internet as much as they watch TV. More than one in four 12- to 15-year-olds watches TV at least three hours a day. Just as many spend as long surfing the internet. Half of all five-year-olds and one in five three-year-olds have browsed the internet. Children aged 12-15 prefer to chat online, while 9- to 11-year-olds are more interested in playing computer games. The most popular game is The Sims. The most popular chat rooms are:,,,”

Upon researching further, I found that Swedish children spend 4 hours more online than children in other countries (9 hours vs. 5 hours). Based on the countries surveyed, only Brazilian children spend more time at 13 hours. The relevance comes from further learning that “Sweden banned all TV advertising during children’s prime time in 1991. Furthermore, commercials featuring characters children are familiar with are prohibited until 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on weekends.”

So why does this matter? Because advertisers are missing out on a great opportunity to target children to sell their products, the possibility is opened that they could start turning to social media to reach children, who in turn will either buy the products or ask their parents for them. In other words, Facebook, LunarStorm, SkunkSpray, and Hamsterpaj can run strong targeted advertising campaigns on social networks to ensure that more children’s eyes are reached in a new way to compensate for the lost TV viewing.

For example, 25-year-old Swedish toymaker Playsam is new to Facebook, but is well-known to Swedes. They could begin advertising and reaching out more with their products. Playsam toys are pretty expensive, so a child isn’t likely going to ask his or her parents for a Playsam toy, but seeing ads for the toys could still help drum up business by

Playsam. These will remain on your shelf as "heirlooms"

Playsam. These will remain on your shelf as "heirlooms"

getting stuck in children’s minds, which in turn leads them to tell their parents. Or the parents could be targeted online as well. Brio toys can do the same thing.  This toy company has been around since 1884 and has a good Website where you can order their products, but showing ads on hamsterpaj could again reach new eyes, just as traditional TV commercials would. Of course, this business opportunity isn’t limited to toys. Food, clothing and technology companies can all use the popularity of the internet to their advantage. Facebook already has targeted ads that run on users’ profile pages. These ads change based on your information and discussions. Often they change based on your IP address as well. So while Brio might not be able to put up an ad during a rerun of Bamse (the bear in the picture above), it can appear when the usual Bamse viewer logs onto Swedish Facebook.

Imagine the fun!

Imagine the fun!

It does not appear that there is legislation regarding this type of targeted online advertising, meaning that the opportunity exists for companies to reach their audiences in a new way.

As a side note, while Swedish children spend a lot of time online, in a reversal of roles, one article stated that Swedish children are concerned about their parents’ web habits, feeling that they spend too much time online and view “inappropriate material.” All in all meaning that there is near unlimited possibilities for companies to hawk their wares in Sweden to youngsters and grown ups alike.


One Response to Can Social Media Help Bypass Advertising Regulations in Sweden?

  1. Interesting topic to focus on, given the extreme government position that Sweden has taken here and the subsequent attention the global marketing community has paid to this step. It’s hard to imagine that in a country with this extreme regulation around marketing to children that using social media for this purpose would last long or be culturally accepted. You do a good job of pointing to how it could be an opportunity for brands and rightly point out that it could compensate for the advertising ban. What do you think about the cultural element of this? Do you think it would be accepted and could work for a brand in Sweden if it were technically legal – or should they shy away from this? (3)

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