Abstract: The "Creative Revolution" and the Transformation of the Swedish Advertising Industry, 1962-1980: The Case of Ervaco and Arbmans

Erik Lakomaa


The "creative revolution," inspired by agencies in the United States, where Doyle Dane Bernbach, Ogilvy, and Leo Burnett developed a new type of advertising in the 1950s, transformed the Swedish advertising industry, not only when it came to the design of ads but also corporate governance and the structure and institutions of the industry. The "creative revolution" bred a new type of smaller agency that relied more on graphic design than on market research. During the period, the average size of advertising agencies declined significantly, and many existing large advertising agencies created smaller sub-agencies in order to become more agile. Further, the use of creative teams consisting of an account executive, a copywriter, and an art director was introduced in Sweden. In addition, and more important, the industry abandoned the previously mandated system where advertising agencies were paid a proportion of media buys, replacing it with hourly fees. At the same time, the market opened up for new competition, since existing barriers to entry were removed with the abolition of the requirement that advertising agencies were to be authorized by the Swedish Media Publishers Association in order to place ads in newspapers. This led to "unbundling" and the emergence of specialized media agencies, a development that took place in the United States only later. The development is analyzed using two cases Ervaco( of Erwin, Wasey & Co. descent) and StigArbmansAnnonsbyrô (Arbmans). Ervaco was a large established advertising agency before the "creative revolution" and Arbmans a newcomer that acted as one of the spearheads in the transformation of the industry. The case studies are based on interviews and previously unavailable archival materials. The two contrasting cases, even though neither of the two firms eventually survived, highlight different strategies used to address industrial change.