'Visit Oslo,' A Hilarious New Anti-Ad, Advises Us Not To Come


Promoting tourism with pitch-dark, bone-dry, counterintuitive humor?

That’s a hard nut for an ad to crack.

Unless you are Norwegian. And then it seems fitting and almost natural for a viral “Visit Oslo” spot to feature a hangdog 31-year-old narrator and guide named “Halfdan” who’s so down on his native city that he opens with, “I wouldn’t come here, to be honest.”

Then he adds, “Is it even a city, you know what I mean?” 

For those who know it all, Oslo is the capital, and largest city in Norway, but technically it’s a municipality.



This brilliant reverse psychology strikes at the heart of every classic tourist commercial featuring saccharine couples vibrantly dancing into the sunset.

That perfection seems so corny and ordinary by comparison.

By contrast, this spot is anti-advertising, anti-crowds, anti-noise -- and so Norse. 

As he walks us around the city, our Oslovian guide continues to list dilemmas like “Everything is just so available…there’s no exclusiveness.”

Which is true. “Oslo feels like a village, maybe. You can walk from one side of town to the other in like 30 minutes,” he says, as he pads along.

He also notes that he can just step into a sophisticated restaurant without a reservation and get a table, “and I’m not even famous… what does that tell you?”

As for culture?  “If you don’t have to stand in line for at least a couple of hours, is it even worth seeing?”

The spot is shot in a natural, (hand-held?) videographic style that also manages to be deadpan. You get to enjoy the quiet and see the ease and beauty of the backdrop -- as those attractions get undercut by the narrator’s blasé-to-sullen comments.

It’s an unexpected, expertly crafted monologue. And in his slightly depressed monotone, our tour guide delivers it perfectly.

Plus, there’s visual satire to match.

For example, the director seems to have snuck in a surprisingly not-terrible balls joke. When sad sack Halfdan visits a museum and gazes up at a sculpture, he’s shot from way back, through the open legs and hanging package of a David-like statue.

Then we witness Halfie standing next to Norwegian Edvard Munch’s powerful, uber-famous painting, “The Scream.” A breakthrough for the time, it was the first to express the angst of the almost 20th century-modern person. (Oslo boasts a newish Munch Museum, btw.)

“It’s not exactly the Mona Lisa,” Halfdan says, Norwegian burn-style.

There are also subtle comic touches that are priceless. For example, we see Halfdan sitting on a dock in the harbor, getting splashed as he says, “I don’t understand why people go swimming in the middle of a city. It’s disgusting.” 

The entire time, he wears a canvas shoulder bag with a giant logo promoting 2 percent milk. It’s a hilarious wet blanket, a graphic way to water down the fun.

Then there’s the post-swim shot of him in a robe and white socks, navigating thongs.

He ends by saying “I think a city should feel a little hard to get. It’s like a good relationship, it’s not supposed to be easy.” 

I guess it’s a Nordic thing. Last year, Sweden released a brilliant and biting “We’re not Switzerland” campaign (sand banks, not financial banks.) And post-COVID, Iceland’s “Let It Out” ads encouraged people to go there and start screaming at fjords.

Halfdan’s tone in the opener also reminds me of the logic of the raincoated Swede in the old, award-winning Ikea lamp commercial. While we watch this poignant, goose-necked, Pixar-logo-like lamp get pitched to the curb, thrown out of its warm home into the rain and dark of night, the narrator stands outside on the street, getting drenched and observing.

“Many of you feel bad for this lamp,” he says in his slightly accented English as he moves to get near a streetlight. “That is crazy. The lamp has no feelings, and the new one is much better.”

At a time when European tourism otherwise means fighting the heat, mobs, and lines, our narrator tells us about all the grief we’ll have to suffer by visiting Norway’s airy, interesting, uncrowded capital.

That’s where life is so easy-going and egalitarian that you can walk around the corner and bump into the King, and he’s just a regular guy.

That’s crazy.  This city sounds so much better. I can’t wait to go. 


4 comments about "'Visit Oslo,' A Hilarious New Anti-Ad, Advises Us Not To Come".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Esther Dyson from EDventure, June 28, 2024 at 8:44 a.m.

    Thank you Barbara!   This reminds me (in its own way) of the Polish tourism ad targeted at British readers, in pre-Brexit times when there was alarm at the influx of Polish plumbers.  It showed a buff Polish plumber, arms swelling through his short T-shirt sleeves, saying (paraphrase): "Come to Poland!!  Not all our plumbers have left."      And it turns out, they had a French version too:

  2. Barbara Lippert from, June 28, 2024 at 10:52 a.m.

    Thanks so much, ED! I looked up the plumber, and he's s as delightful as you say. But he's no astringent Finn! 

  3. Bradford Goz from NFC, Inc., June 28, 2024 at 5:53 p.m.

    The dry humor of a country that waited until 1905 for nationhood. I find it very effective and should taret well their target demographic in the US. Love the Long Boat musuem. Small tho it might be, th city is fluch woth petrol revenue and sports several state-of-the-art new cultural institutions.

  4. Barbara Lippert from replied, June 28, 2024 at 9:12 p.m.

    thanks, Brad. I must get there!

Next story loading loading..