Nordic liquor brand Hartwall wanted to promote its Long Drink as Finland's beverage of choice. Unsurprisingly, alcohol promotion is tightly regulated (though you wouldn't know that from the Super Bowl) ... but it's even trickier in Finland, where, in 2015, the government passed an amendment prohibiting alcohol ads in public places, as well as social media activations.
The ban was unprecedented when it passed. So, instead of trying to work within crippling constraints, Hartwall leveled up … and made the whole damn country its ad.
Finland is grey in ways both physical and spiritual. Its skies are grey, and its people maintain an active (if playful) blend-into-the-background reserve. Hartwall's Long Drink, composed of gin and grapefruit soda, is grey, too.
So it gave the Finns their own special holiday: The Greyest Day of the Year.
Who needs billboards and Twitter?
The brand worked with meteorological services brand Foreca to study weather greyness in different countries. Together they found that Helsinki is Europe's greyest capital. This depressing aesthetic quality peaks in November, preceding mid-winter snowfall.
The actual greyest day of the year was identified: Nov. 17. Hartwall proclaimed it a national holiday and threw a massive party at Alla Sea Pool, conveniently located beside the Helsinki presidential palace. (Weird anecdote about the Alla Sea Pool, randomly sprinkled into the press release: The pool area became "quite known during the presidential meeting of Trump and Putin." We don't know. But OK, let's move on.)
This is no St. Patrick's Day, but we'd sacrifice all that green for a hot springs party any day:
Hartwall's Long Drink was obviously served generously, and local celebrities and musicians attended. In collaboration with retail brand BilleBeino, Hartwall even created a grey (or grey-themed … ?) clothing line:
"The Greyest Day of the Year combines two things that are uniquely Finnish—grey weather and grey drinks," says Hartwall marketing manager Eeva Ignatius. "We wanted to bring these elements together in the form of a new national celebration and raise a glass to our grey national weather."
What else can you do when daylight is just five hours long?
Outside Helsinki, other Finnish cities reopened their terraces and encouraged people to bask in their local greyness; even competitors joined in with Greyest Day of the Year offers.
While most brands might worry about the day escaping their grasp, Hartwall's Long Drink apparently now enjoys a strong brand association with the color grey: 23 percent of Finns, or about one in five people, now associates the shade with the drink.
What's more, a date's already been set for next year's Greyest Day of the Year: Nov. 19.
"We hope the new national celebration will encourage people to see our unique, grey weather as a positive thing," Ignatius says. "In mid-November, Finns can come together and raise a glass of grey ... while showing the rest of the world that we can celebrate outdoors despite the weather."
A glass of grey. Take that, rosé!
Below is a print ad for this year's big shindig. There's some pretty choice copywriting here, from the Volkswagen "Lemon"-reminiscent "Grey Pride" header to the CTA-driven paragraph that begins, "There are many grey days in Finland, but only one can be the greyest." We know this translation exists just for ad promo, but whoever's responsible for this modestly mischievous copy deserves a hug (and the job of whoever made a writer do this).
A handful of agencies—Miltton, Bob the Robot, Dagmar and Lataamo—worked on the campaign. Though in truth, this was probably a job for Grey Advertising.