The new ad campaign by the 7-Eleven chain features beautiful fjords and smiling people in traditional dresses accompanied with captions "Welcome to Norway, the land of chlamydia" or "Welcome to Norway, the land of midnight sun. And chlamydia."
As part of the campaign, 7-Eleven also issued videos announcing that Norway had one of Europe's highest chlamydia rates and encouraging tourists to buy condoms in order to "protect themselves from the locals."
Shortly thereafter, 7-Eleven Norway's Facebook page was flooded with angry comments. Fuming Norwegians didn't skimp on negative epithets such as "reprehensible" and "shameful." Some of the critics even called 7-Eleven "traitors."
"You have managed to offend half of Norway with this ad. Not just tasteless, but you also used national symbols to sell more condoms. How desperate can it be?" a user inquired.
Stein Ove Rolland, a market developer for the travel guide Visit Norway, argued this "PR-horny" campaign was a bad way of presenting Norway.
"This may portray Norwegians as ignorant, sleazy and sex-crazy," Rolland told the daily newspaper Dagbladet.
By contrast, Tore Holte Follestad, assistant general manager in the national reproductive center Sex and Society, was cheerful over the campaign, calling it "funky, creative and positive." According to him, the Directorate of Health should bet on similar campaigns.
"I think it conveys an important message in a non-judgmental manner and it is conspicuous," Holte Follestad argued.
He also argued that 7-Eleven's campaign hit bull's eye in portraying Norway as a "land of chlamydia." He stressed that over 26,000 cases of chlamydia were diagnoses in 2016 in Norway, a nation of 5 million. Norwegians weren't good at using condoms.
Communications manager at Reitan Convenience, Thea Kjendlie, said they did not want to upset anyone, but admitted that the point was to hit a nerve.
"Attempts have been made to make Norwegians better at using condoms before, but much suggests that it's hard to make them listen by merely talking to them. Therefore, we are now trying to get the message through by talking about Norwegians — to someone else. By warning tourists of Norwegians, the idea is to gain attention in a way that may be hurt the national self-image," Kjendlie explained to the media outlet Kampanje.
Arild Johan Myrberg of the Norwegian Directorate of Health also praised the contentious campaign for pressing for increased condoms use.