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Americanisation in 20th Century Europe: business, culture, politics. Volume 2

 | 
Nick Tiratsoo
, 
Mathias Kipping

'Little America': the modernisation of the Finnish consumer society in the 1950s and 1960s

Visa Heinonen et Mika Pantzar

Résumé

La Finlande est entrée dans la société de consommation durant les années 1950 et 1960. Dans le discours public, les États-Unis devinrent un symbole de liberté, d’avenir et de modernisation, d’un meilleur mode de vie. Lorsque le marché de détail fut enfin libéré après la guerre, de nombreux nouveaux produits affluèrent. Ceci constitue l’arrière plan de notre analyse sur la façon dont les influences américaines ont permis l’émergence du consumérisme en Finlande. Nous utilisons un grand nombre de recherches différentes pour illustrer la position centrale des influences américaines. Nous insistons sur le rôle des individus, des nouveaux produits et des masses médias comme véhicules du modèle américain dans la société finnoise.

Texte intégral

introduction and theoretical framework

  • 1 Suomen Kuvalehti, 47, 1948, p. 16-17. The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful comments from Ilpo (...)

1Today Finnish households are not ‘modern’ and high-tech only in information technology. We argue that the Finnish home and kitchen have also been revolutionized and, we maintain, ‘Americanised’. It is impossible to trace the exact route by which the new thoughts about household technology found their way to Finland in the Twentieth Century. We think, however, that the origin of these ideas is rather obvious. Numerous Finnish press articles picturing the future always begin with a reference to the same model. This account is typical: “The American kitchen marketed by Eri Oy attracted the largest crowd of spectators. It had a refrigerator, a deep-freezer, an ultra-modern oven, a dishwasher and a washing machine, an all-powerful ‘kitchen assistant’, an electric mixer, an automatic toaster, etc. - all of them a dazzling white”.1

  • 2 K. Virtanen & E. Heikkonen, Amerikkalaisen kulttuurin leviäminen Suomeen. [The diffusion American C (...)

2In Finland people had looked to the United States for a vision of the future ever since the Nineteenth Century, although this kind of thinking gained more emphasis after World War Two. The intellectual elite, on the other hand, both in Finland and other European countries, had traditionally viewed the ideal of a consumer society for all citizens more or less critically ever since American Independence. But this did not prevent ordinary people and the popular press from taking the United States as their model.2 Therefore it is no surprise that from the latter part of the 1800s onwards, for instance, international exhibitions and World’s Fairs displaying the American home of the future and articles depicting American revolutions in domestic technology received wide coverage in the Finnish press.

  • 3 L. Bu, “Educational Exchange and Cultural Diplomacy in the Cold War”, Journal of American Studies, (...)
  • 4 In this article we want to emphasize the role of mediators – persons, images and surrounding produc (...)

3Why was the United States of America, in particular, the model of the future for Finns, especially in the 1950s and 1960s? Part of the explanation, without doubt, is the purposeful propaganda made by US officials under the banner of ‘cultural exchange’.3 This kind of explanation can be called a ‘dictating (or trickle-down) model’, where simple and linear causality goes from American intentions to Finnish reality. However, it is an over-simplification to argue that American influences were transmitted ‘undisturbed’, to become the ideals of Finnish consumer society, even though in ‘mediaspace’ there was an obvious lack of anti-Americanism in Finland until the mid-1960s. We argue that the role of interpreters and mediators has been very important. This kind of explanation can be called a ‘mediation model’.4 At the end of this chapter, we provide a third explanation - an ‘evolutionary model’ - which emphasizes cultural context and the relevance of historical accidents.

the dictating model

  • 5 Kuvaposti, 22, 1961 [emphasis added].

4In post-war Europe, American freedom’ was the model of the future, and the Americans themselves were well aware of this. For instance, fairs like America Today (1961) were important. President Kennedy greeted the Finnish people with the following words: “It is with warm feelings of friendship that I invite you to come and see the picture we are presenting of our country. We want to show you how we and others can contribute to a better life for all humanity”.5

5In public discourse, the United States was the model of the future when Finnish consumer society broke through during the 1950s and 1960s. The actualization of an American utopia was not, however, self-evident:

  • Historically, Finland had deep connecting roots with both Sweden and Russia. It was in 1809 that Finland changed from being part of Sweden to become an autonomous part of Russia. In 1917, Finland won its independence, but culturally she owes a lot to her former mother countries.

  • During the Nineteenth Century, Germany became more and more important as a source of cultural influences, while Sweden lost ground. It is important to bear in mind that Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian empire until the declaration of independence in December 1917. In World War Two, Finland fought with the Germans against the Soviet Union.

  • After the war, Finland had to pay onerous war reparations to the Soviet Union. Rationing of most consumer goods was a reality until the beginning of the 1950’s. Furthermore, the availability of imports was dependent on foreign exchange cycles.

6In spite of these retarding factors, the United States became the undisputed model of the society of the future in the years following World War Two: ‘A Society Looking to the Future’. When the consumer market was finally liberated, new products flowed into the Finnish market, for example, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and cars.

the mediation model

  • 6 P. Tommila and R. Salokangas, Sanomia kaikille. Suomen lehdistön historia, Helsinki, Oy Edita Ab, 1 (...)

7Just as it is difficult for technology to move directly from one culture to another, so it is for thoughts to be transferred intact. Journalists, exchange students, and advertising people stressed certain aspects and left other ‘less newsworthy and noteworthy’ items aside. Let us emphasize one essential thing: Finland has been among the leading nations in terms of the amount of newspapers and magazines per capita, and the amount of time spent in reading books and journals.6

  • 7 V. Heinonen, “Näin alkoi ‘kulutusjuhla’. Suomalaisen kulutusyhteiskunnan rakenteistuminen”, in K. H (...)

8Indeed, one of the engines powering the development of the Finnish consumer society in the Twentieth Century was the conflict between promises and actual opportunities. The democratizing influences of the spread of consumer goods following the American model leveled down social conflicts during the 1950s and the 1960s, and paved the way for the coming of a welfare society. At least as the press judged it, Finns ‘purchased’ their way into the modem age by buying and reading about novelty products. The development of the consumer society followed the same path as in many other European countries after the war.7 But in Finland, all these changes occurred rather rapidly.

  • 8 V. Heinonen & H. Konttinen, Nyt uutta Suomessa! Suomalaisen mainonnan historia, [Now new in Finland (...)

9Novelties were valued almost invariably as if there were only two, mutually exclusive options: either to board the train of progress and well being, or to bid farewell forever to development. For instance, in the mid-1950s the establishment of national television broadcasting was legitimized in public by warnings such as: “If Finland is not active in establishing television stations it will be with Albania the last country in Europe”. Television was introduced to Finnish audiences in the early 1950s and broke through very rapidly during the 1960s. A Finnish specialty in the European context was the early adoption of television advertising. Television was typically an American media and television advertising became an important institution and source of income for the public television company.8

  • 9 C.f. G. Ritzer, Explorations in the sociology of consumption. Fast food, Credit Cards and Casinos, (...)
  • 10 Strasser et al. 1998.

10Plenty of research exists about Americanization from the American point of view. Typically, designers and advertising people actively ‘exhibited’ American culture abroad. Less is known about the reception of American influence in receiving countries and the role of mediators, the issue in this chapter.9 During the past few years attention has been paid to the diffusion of the American model in a business context, but the diffusion of American lifestyles and consumer patterns into different cultures has rarely been studied systematically or comparatively.10

  • 11 Heinonen 1998; & Konttinen 2001; Pantzar 1996, 2000.

11Our enquiry focuses on a culturally open, small importing country, and the decades after World War Two. It is, however, based on extensive empirical material, mainly advertising copy and articles in Finnish magazines and newspapers.11 We have used different types of research material to understand the central position of the American influences and mediators, including advertisements, archive material and reports published in magazines and written by people who visited the United States after the war.

12In the following passages we focus on the objects and subjects mediating the ‘American’ model to Finnish society. Mediators – ‘agents of change’ - can be divided into three related classes: new products such as jeans, hygiene products and domestic appliances; the media, i.e. newspapers, magazines, radio, television and fairs; and individuals, both organizations and human beings promoting ‘American ideals’.

widening consumer goods markets

  • 12 Hei 2000a: 14, 17; K. Ilmonen, Tavaroiden taikamaailma. Sosiologinen avaus kulutukseen, Jyväskylä, (...)

13A material modernisation process that had begun during the first half of the Twentieth Century accelerated in post-war Finland. Private consumption doubled in the years 1952-1975. A similar magnitude of change in material affluence had taken twice as long in the first half of the Twentieth Century. During the 1950s and the 1960s there was a pronounced widening of consumer good markets and much urbanization. Less than 60 per cent of the potential working population were wage earners in the early 1950s, but the proportion was nearly 80 per cent twenty years later.12

14In post-war Finland, American influences were very strong in the field of popular culture which gradually became a greater and greater source of influences for the advertising business. This connection between advertising and popular culture became tighter when advertising film developed as a genre and especially because of the advent of television in the mid-1950s. American-style popular music and feature films flooded into the Finnish market. Young people, in particular, formed an eager audience for films, music, youth fashion, juvenile magazines and cartoons. The star cult introduced by Hollywood was very popular in Finland as well as in other countries. Entertainment offered ideals and themes for daydreaming.

15The beginning of the 1950s brought a new liberalizing atmosphere, widening consumer goods markets and the flowering of popular culture. At the same time, the rationing System that had been established during the war was finally abolished. Many new consumer goods were available. For instance, in November 1950, Oy Anglo-Nordic Ab organised a presentation of General Electric’s new television set in Stockmann, the biggest department store. Finns could drink Coca Cola from 1952, the year of the Helsinki Olympics. Rock and roll music began its invasion in 1956 when the film Rock around the Clock, with Bill Haley and the Comets, premiered in Helsinki. The police feared juvenile disorder but, as it turned out, unnecessarily so. On the night, a couple of youngsters dressed in leather jackets and jeans annoyed the forces of law and order with their jokes.

cars, beauty, gadgets and coffee

  • 13 According to O Dell, American cars provided a way to contest the dominant aesthetics of ‘good taste (...)
  • 14 Cf. R. S. Cowan, More Work for Mother. The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to (...)

16Ford had become an important advertiser in Finland in the early 1920s. However, the import of cars was only liberalised in 1963. The 1960s became the decade of the car in Finland. At the beginning of the decade, Finns owned about 180,000 cars. Ten years later, the number had risen to over 710,000. Indeed, certain products such as cars were important carriers of American influences in the post-war period.13 In spite of this, the actual number of American cars was really quite small when compared to cars imported from other European countries. American influences were also very clearly observable in beauty product advertisements, as well in those for cigarettes and entertainment products. These products were advertised widely especially in Finnish women’s magazines. In the ads for household equipment, an emphasis on the liberalization of housework was very typical. New vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and washing machines would free housewives from hard work. But because of rising standards of hygiene and the proliferation of new tasks, the outcome was sometimes exactly the opposite: an increasing burden.14 In the Finnish market, only a few of these items were of American origin.

  • 15 K. Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies. Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture, Cambridge (M (...)
  • 16 Ross 1999: 74-78.

17Kristin Ross has shown that in France it was cars, hygiene products and household equipment that were very important.15 She offers a very interesting interpretation of the intensification of hygiene in France after the Second World War. The nation wanted to clean up its past, and purge itself of the German occupation, the Vichy government and the terrible experiences of war.16 Finnish post-war development can be interpreted at least partly in terms of the same idea. The lost war was a very hard experience for everybody but perhaps especially the ruling class and those Finns who believed in a German victory. The atmosphere in Finnish society during the immediate post-war years was rather tense, and many people were afraid of a ‘putsch’ and the liquidation of anti-Soviet circles. Metaphorically, the strong hygiene movement of the 1950’s can be seen as a purification of Finnish homes in order to create a new society.

  • 17 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 144-145.

18Coffee was an important stimulant for Finns. Paulig was a famous traditional coffee producer and was already a pioneer in consumer packaging in Finland in the inter-war years. It started an American style advertising campaign in 1950, centered on a beautiful, smiling Paula girl. She soon became a national celebrity. In the magazine ads she served coffee to people in different situations at work and elsewhere. The model for this campaign was brought over from the United States, which the people responsible for the firm’s advertising had visited. The campaign was a Finnish classic of personified advertising and ran for a long time.17

  • 18 Around the turn of the 1950s and the 1960s teenage stars were recruited for advertising campaigns. (...)
  • 19 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 145; J. Vesikansa, Leipurinpojan perintö. Huhtamäki Oy 1920-1995, Keur (...)

19After the World War Two, Americanism was connected to urbanism, a carefree and youthful style of life, freedom and internationalism. This was clearly evident in advertising where beauty products and cigarettes were promoted by reference to symbols of American consumer culture. Stars of Hollywood movies and popular singers were used in ads for chewing gum, motorcycles and American cars.18 One of the leading Finnish producers of foods, sweets and biscuits, Huhtamäki-yhtymä, launched Jenkki (‘Yankee’) chewing gum in 1951 and became market leader. Huhtamäki used American style advertising campaigns successfully after the war. Its founder and manager, Heikki Huhtamäki, traveled in Europe and the United States during the 1920s and 1930s gathering knowledge of modem business methods. In the late 1950s, Huhtamäki started to export sweets and crackers to the US market.19

retailing and the demonstration of the ‘american way’

  • 20 Clarence Saunders’ Piggly Wiggly self-service store opened in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916 and recei (...)
  • 21 J. Ahola, Arvoisa kaukainen asiakas. 100 vuotta suomalaista postimyyntiä, Jyväskylä, Suoran Koulutu (...)

20The first self-service stores were opened in Oulu and Helsinki during the late 1940s. This American shop type spread fairly quickly. In 1963, the number of self-service stores in Finland exceeded 1,000. Ten years later, there were three times more.20 Mail order retailing started in Finland in the late Nineteenth Century following the American model. It should be remembered that Finland was a sparsely populated country of long distances. Mail order retailing was a very suitable way to reach consumers in agrarian areas. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, products like watches, bicycles, sewing machines and gardening tools were sold by this method. During the 1950s, mail order retailing grew rapidly. Its most important developer was Kalle Anttila Oy, founded in the 1930s. The business ideas of this firm were cheap prices, right of return, and low operating costs. Anttila followed the American way of mail order business, publishing a catalogue with colorful pictures, and doing a lot of advertising.21 The publisher of the Finnish version of Reader’s Digest, Valitut Palat, was another firm starting a mail order service on American lines at this time.

‘fairs america’– day dreams

  • 22 Kotiliesi, 23, 1953, p. 852-853.

21In Finland, fairs, exhibitions, and their press coverage had played a major role in hastening the advent of the modem age from the last decades of the Nineteenth Century. In post-war Finland the press was particularly inspired by the stands at the America Today exhibitions. For example, the 1953 exhibition in Helsinki, entitled The American Home, was eloquently praised in the magazines. Novel household appliances, including an oven with timer, a dishwasher, and a sink with garbage disposal, were introduced to Finnish consumers. The leading women’s magazine, Kotiliesi, described these novelties as being anything but luxuries in the New World : “Even though this exhibition looks like utopia in the eyes of the Finnish housewife it is worth noting that the objects displayed at the household stands are not luxuries in America, but can be found in normal middle-class homes”.22

  • 23 Suomen Kuvalehti, 46, 1953, p. 31

22The disparity between the prevailing circumstances and future possibilities was expressed so often it began to sound redundant. Suomen Kuvalehti, a weekly magazine with a wide circulation, wrote about the same exhibition as follows: “A piece of America in Helsinki... ordinary Finnish consumers and specialists alike got new ideas which can be realized also in our conditions. The model kitchen of the American home and its labour-saving inventions may remain a daydream for the Finnish housewife, but still it is likely that a number of new gadgets and household utensils may appear on Santa’s wish-list this year”23

23The world’s most ‘advanced’ country had made dreams come true even for ordinary people. The essence of the modem ideal was ‘a democracy of material wealth’. What had previously been luxury items for a selected few now became necessities for everyone. By following the teachings of market economics, Finland could also climb higher on the ladder of development – provided that she acted right politically.

  • 24 R. Rydell, Worlds of Fairs, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1993; R. Rydell, J. Findling and (...)

24The exhibitions arranged on both sides of the Iron Curtain were an important part of American propaganda and so-called ‘cultural exchange’ in the Cold War era. In the spirit of the World’s Fairs - although on a smaller scale - the American fairs described what life was to be like tomorrow and spoke for the superiority of the market economy.24

25However, with the development of Finnish consumer society, the tone employed in the press began to be more critical. This can be clearly seen, for instance, in the press coverage of the 1961 America Today exhibition. This had opened in Moscow during 1959, under the title People’s Capitalism. The meeting between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard Nixon in the ‘kitchen of the future’ had been widely publicized in the press worldwide. It was much less of a news item that the house-cleaning robots and the automatic serving carts were technically unusable products of the imagination. According to the Finnish press, it was important for Finland that the first showing of the exhibition had taken place in Moscow:

  • 25 Kuvaposti, 22, 1961, p. 4-7.

It is a good thing that a corresponding fair has already been elsewhere, e.g., in Moscow. Thus, nobody can claim that the exhibition has any provocative political purposes. Now our own homespun communists are trying to make out that the Skyblazers group doing their marvelous acrobatics with jet fighters are, in fact, one such provocation. That, of course, is only sports and play – the same thing as the black Harlem basketball virtuosos, the Brunswick automatic bowling alleys, and the latest rage in outboard motor boats.25

26Material prosperity and the promise of new technologies formed an essential part of the ideology of a better future. Among the novelties on display at the fair was a vehicle of the future, Ford’s ‘Levacar’, which was powered by a jet turbine engine, moved on an air cushion rather than wheels, and could reach speeds of 300-800 km/h. But, nevertheless, it was the home that was at the center of the Western promise of welfare:

  • 26 Ibid.

What do you think this row of switches is? Take two guesses! No, it is not the dashboard of the latest American rod nor the control panel of a television and radio cabinet. All these switches, timers and regulators are the automatic Controls of an electric oven. It is with such complicated equipment that the American housewife prepares roasts for her family... Big American cars, each one shinier than the next, occupy a large area in the fair. These are dream wagons out of reach of the ordinary Finn, but that doesn’t prevent us from admiring them.26

  • 27 Ibid.

27Apart from industrial products, the exhibition also demonstrated the American way of life, the so-called ‘American Spirit’: “A typical feature of this lifestyle – in addition to the extremely high degree of mechanization – is a kind of relaxed sense of space and joyfulness”. The exhibition was, “first and foremost, a colorful, spacious and happy marketplace”.27

  • 28 Kotiliesi, 13, 1961, p. 862-865.
  • 29 Oddly enough, in the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition of 1961, the Finnish Nursery was dismissed as (...)
  • 30 Kotiliesi, 13, 1961, p. 862-865.

28But such admiration was accompanied by some more critical comments. The editor of the women’s magazine Kotiliesi wrote: “Do the Americans really think that we don’t have the latest household appliances on sale here? In the past few years we women have been pampered by our importers and shopkeepers so that there is nearly any kind of household novelty available in our shops”.28 She particularly questioned the suitability of the laboratory-like ideal of a kitchen for the Finnish lifestyle.29 The differences between the Scandinavian and American styles were conspicuous: “It seemed that the American interior designers’ idea of a comfortable home did not comply with our Finnish taste. Here in the Nordic countries we are used to seeing high-class interior design and we are proud of it. Maybe the Americans were not sufficiently aware of this when they were planning the exhibition”.30

29The United States (and Sweden) continued to be the primary objects of admiration up until the 1960s, when electric household appliances started to become more common in Finland. The criticism provoked by the exhibition reflected a phase of self-assertion and self-criticism in the emerging consumer society, something that had been unknown in the earlier phase of imitation and idolization.

individuals and organizations involved in americanizing finland

  • 31 Pantzar 2000; R. Wallensteen, “Tällainen on amerikkalainen maalaiskodin keittiö” [“The kitchen of a (...)
  • 32 Wallensteen 1948: 22.

30In post-war Finland the major proponent of new kitchen technology was the Work Efficiency Association. Since its establishment in 1924, this had been one of the most important and influential advocates of Tayloristic rationalization in Finland. It conducted the first tests on freezers at the beginning of the 1960s. However, several articles on the subject had already appeared in the 1950s in the journals published by the Institute. The first reference to the freezer in these publications in fact dates back to the early post-war years.31 Rut Wallensteen, a Swedish home economics adviser, described her study visit to the United States under the heading ‘The kitchen of an American country home’. After musing about the wonders of the washing machine, she described a room with “the most gorgeous deep-freezing cupboard... where the housewife stores fruits, vegetables, berries, meat, etc”. It was this, she remarked, that spares the housewife “the time-consuming job of preserving these foods”.32

  • 33 See e.g. B. Ehn, J. Frykman and O. Löfgren, Försvenskningen av Sverige, Natur och Kultur, Stockholm (...)
  • 34 Heinonen 1998: 203.

31In the 1950s a majority of the educational articles published by the Work Efficiency Association were written by Maiju Gebhard, a Finnish home economist who had been educated in Sweden. Thus, it is no wonder that it was Sweden, a country which emphasized ‘functional ideals’, which was taken as the model in the Institute’s educational activities.33 The highly technological American society and its teachings on rationalization provided another important stimuli. The visit to Finland of Professor Lillian Gilbreth of Purdue University in 1949 is worth mentioning in this context. She was the wife of Frank Gilbreth, one of the fathers of the American theory of rationalization, and herself a zealous supporter of rationalization.34 To reach larger audiences, the Gilbreths became columnists for Kotiliesi, probably the most important family magazine of post-war Finland.

  • 35 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 127, 152-154.

32It is impossible to underestimate the role of the media in domesticating American values and technology in Finland. For instance, Finland was the third European country after Britain and Sweden where a national version of the Reader's Digest was published from 1945 onwards. In the 1950s, Valitut Palat was very popular and one of the largest-selling magazines in Finland. It did a lot of direct mail advertising.35 Valitut Palat was published by the company Sanoma Oy which also published the largest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, and the very popular children’s magazine Aku Ankka, the Finnish version of Donald Duck, from 1952 onwards.

33The owner of this publishing company was Eljas Erkko, who was a very important intermediator of American influences to Finland. He had been foreign minister during the war and was very well known as a Western oriented person. For instance, in the 1943, when Finland was at war alongside Germany against the Soviet Union, Erkko founded the Finnish-American Association. His influence was felt in various other areas, too. For instance, he is famous for introducing golf to the Finnish business elite in the 1930s.

34Despite, or rather because of, the fact that Finland fought with the Germans against the Allies during the war, the United States became rapidly a symbol of better living and freedom. Besides, there had already been significant emigration to the United States, starting in the late Nineteenth Century. It must be remembered that after the Second World War Finland was - besides Spain - the only Western European country that did not receive Marshall Aid. The importance of the United States as a source of influences, however, was most evident in the Finnish advertising business, which highly valued the American advertising model.

  • 36 V. Heinonen, “Professionalisation and Institutionalisation of the Finnish Advertising Business”, in (...)
  • 37 Heinonen 2000b; Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 195; A. Raula, Miten Amerikassa tehdään ja tutkitaan m (...)

35Ford’s original American advertising agency, Erwin, Wasey & Co, founded an office in Helsinki as early as 1925. The new Finnish agency, named Erva-Latvala Oy in 1933, grew rapidly under the leadership of W K. Latvala and was among the largest Finnish advertising agencies for several decades.36 Finns also traveled to the United States to learn the new doctrines of American business life. One of them was Artturi Raula, already a pioneer of Finnish advertising in the inter-war period. Raula had very strong American connections. He had worked and spent time in the United States during the 1920s and the 1930s; was influenced by the opinion research methods of George Gallup; and in fact founded Suomen Gallup Oy (the Finnish Gallup) in 1946. Raula visited the United States again in 1951 and a book about his experiences was published in the following year by the biggest advertising agency of the time, Oy Mainos Taucher Ab.37

  • 38 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 195-196; A. Puukari, Markkinointi uudistuu ja uudistaa, Keuruu, Otava, (...)

36During the 1960’s, some American books on advertising were translated into Finnish. In this way, John Galbraith, Rosser Reeves, Marshall McLuhan and Vance Packard were introduced to a Finnish audience. These books were very important sources from the point of view of the development of Finnish advertising. In the mid-1960s it was Arvo Puukari who was most instrumental in bringing American marketing ideology to Finland. He published two books, one a textbook of marketing and the other a more popular book describing developments in American society38. He was at this time the lecturer in advertising at the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Management.

  • 39 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 136; R. Niskanen, Ihmiskuva 1950-luvun suomalaisissa julisteissa. Tied (...)
  • 40 A. Ainamo, Industrial Design and business Performance. A Case Study of Design Management in a Finni (...)

37There were other very important mediators of the American influences. Some US consultants taught advertising people during the 1950s. Oy Rastor Ab was founded in 1950 and brought consultants and American ideas of business management to Finland.39 The famous Finnish design and fashion firm Marimekko, founded in 1951, is an interesting example of filtering, transformation and the backward-and-forward motion of American business and design ideas. The founders of the firm were Armi and Viljo Ratia. The former became the guiding spirit and visionary of the enterprise. She hired talented designers to create the fashion products that built Marimekko’s reputation. During the period 1956-1968 Marimekko became a widely known American style brand, the first in Finland. The company’s great breakthrough took place after the Brussels World Exhibition, where Benjamin Thompson, the owner of the American design retail shop Design Research, was thrilled at Marimekko’s products. Marimekko’s design concept included ideas from architecture, sculpture, geometry and international traditions of art and design. The firm received enormous media attention around the world when Jacqueline Kennedy wore one of Marimekko’s well-designed dresses during the 1960 presidential campaign. In this case Finnish design received enormous attention and the demand for Marimekko’s products soared in the United States. American magazines like Life, the San Francisco Chronicle and Vogue praised Finnish fashion products at the beginning of the 1960s. Marimekko received the Neiman-Marcus award for design in 1968. American influences were found in Marimekko’s designs as well. Linkages between Vuokko Nurmesniemi’s works and the paintings of Jackson Pollock were observed. Maija Isola’s and Annika Piha’s clothes were described as a kind of collective “pop-art of fashion”, a reference to Andy Warhol’s paintings.40 The founder of the company, Armi Ratia, had a background in the advertising business. She visited United States regularly. Among her friends were such figures as famous futurist visionary and architect Buckminster Fuller.

38More generally Finnish business life, with Marimekko as an exceptionally strong case, was modernised according to the American model. For instance, Teuvo Aura, a minister and bank CEO, provided a ‘leader grant’ that allowed the first Finnish purchase of a computer for corporate use. Aura was stimulated by an excursion to the IBM laboratory. Later on, he was active in modernizing Finland as a member of the governmental bodies of Finnish IBM and many funding organizations.

39Many of the most active minds in Finnish society received Fulbright grants and spent time in the USA. For instance, both modem sociology and economics were imported from the United States in the years before the 1980s. The donor country called this ‘cultural exchange’. A typical example was the young student Osmo A. Wiio, later professor of communication at the University of Helsinki, who visited the United States during the 1950s and reported his experiences (about rockets, computers and modem science, amongst other things) in several articles and booklets. Indeed, exchange students became an important source of information about America in the post-war period.

theoretical interpretations and conclusions

40The development of consumer society in the Finnish case after the Second World War can be described in evolutionary terms. An emerging and evolving American cluster in the Finnish context developed, for instance, when the Erkko family, with many cultural products of American origin, captured a notable share of the local media market. More formally, it is possible to talk of auto-catalytic or self-propagating cycles (rather than clusters) which existed through self-production. As clusters generated surplus to their members (profit, wellbeing etc.) their ability to survive increased. In time, American clusters also became integrated with other, similar blocks in both Finland and other countries. The original elements of these cycles consisted of almost purely ‘American’ objects – ideas, patterns of meaning, human beings and material artifacts – which promoted each other. In the early phase ‘foreign’ objects were internally coherent but with only minor amount of contacts to the receiver culture. In time, however, their ‘foreignness’ vanished and they became integrated (through processes of normalization, domestication, internalization, socialization, appropriation etc.) into the domestic Systems of meanings and ecology of goods, resulting in stable clusters of meanings and artifacts.

41The ‘Americanization’ of Finland did not take place in the flow of physical artifacts but mostly in the form of ideas and cultural goods (Table 1). Small artifacts such as records, comics and cosmetics were both the materializations and carriers of the idea of modem society. In fact, most of ‘American’ technology, including big domestic appliances, was produced either in Finland or in Sweden, the UK or Germany, which were the most important trading partners of Finland in this period. In many cases, American products were either too big or too expensive for Finnish consumer markets. Besides, the rather small Finnish consumer markets were not too attractive for American firms. The transaction costs, import fees, costs of packing, freight, and so on were simply too high.

Table 1: The penetration (+) and prevention (-) of American products and ideas to Finnish consumer markets.

+

-

Hollywood films
Popular music (jazz, rock)
Commercial TV
Beauty contests
American cigarettes
Reader’s Digest
Donald Duck
Jeans and youth fashion
Motorcycle culture
Chewing gum
Coca Cola
Kellogg’s corn flakes
American cosmetics (Revlon)
American soap (Rexona) Records, record players
Cameras (Kodak)
Sewing machines (Singer)

household appliances
indoor decoration style
American cars

some paradoxes

  • 41 V. Heinonen, J. Mykkänen, M. Pantzar and S. Roponen, Suomalaisen talouspolitiikan ajattelumallit va (...)

42Arthur Asa Berger, a well-known researcher of popular culture, has maintained that Finland is probably the most Americanised country in Europe. In this early phase of our study we feel somewhat ambivalent about this claim. In post-war Finland the source of modernity was quite different for the economic elite and ordinary consumers. The former group believed in a centralized and regulated planning System. For instance, formal trade agreements with the USSR were an important part of Finnish economic modernisation. Indeed, a market economy in this sense really only emerged in Finland at the beginning of the 1980s, when, for example, the Finnish money markets were liberalized in line with US and British conceptions.41

  • 42 In the United States the positive meanings of technology seem to center around liberty, control, an (...)

43However, from the very beginning, Finnish consumers and media took their ideals from Anglo-Saxon market economies.42 Certainly, the role of intermediaries was important. Narratives about American consumers provided the model of the future. The relative circulations of Reader’s Digest and Donald Duck were the largest among the European countries in the 1960s. Finnish consumers welcomed the democratizing effects of widening consumer goods markets and increasing material wealth. This was especially important during the Cold War and the ideological battles of 1945-1989.

44The latest American technology was always sure to be newsworthy. But consumers did not all react alike to the American promises. Everyone had their own way of reading their Donald Duck. Each buyer of a Westinghouse freezer viewed it from within their own interpretative framework.

45The sources of modernity were quite different in different sections of the intellectual elite. For instance, advertising people took their model quite directly from the United States. B y contrast, designers and architects, from the same professional and educational background, took their model of modernity from European sources, condemning Americanization as a banal and decorative style, mere ‘nameplate engineering’. In fact, Nokia’s mobile phones and Marimekko products were already in the 1960s the first successful attempts to integrate the US design tradition with its Finnish counterpart.

46One paradox of Americanised Finland is related to the interior decoration of Finnish homes. At least on the basis of anecdotal evidence, Finnish households were light years ahead in their ‘modernistic style’ when compared with their counterparts in the USA. The values of simplicity and functionalism were propagated both by the intellectual elite and retail outlets. Furthermore, it is somewhat paradoxical that domestic appliances were sold and advertised to Finnish consumers by offering the housewife the possibility of liberating herself from the ‘slavery’ of housework, although the central European and American housewife model did not root in Finnish society. In post-war Finland, women were needed as workers. Indeed one key feature of Finnish society was the comparatively high rate of female participation in the labour force.

shared ideals

  • 43 C.f. N. Johnson, “From time immemorial. Narratives of nationhood and the making of national space”, (...)

47One thing that seems to make Finland’s Americanization so specific is the almost total lack of Anti-Americanism. The reasons for this are various. One obvious reason is the fact that Finns knew very well that the alternative was the Soviet System. Another possibility is the fact that both Finland and United States have had quite short and similar periods for ‘cultural evolution’. In both countries the progressive tone in nation building may be related to a sort of ‘new frontier’ ideology.43 In the United States the successive adaptation to environmental conditions by settlers took place along the frontier. A combination of individualism and collective responsibility arose. A sort of democracy of material wealth was at least present as a manifest value, even if it was not necessarily actualized. It is perhaps appropriate to see Finnish history through similar lenses. It is a well known cliché in Finland that society and material well-being started when Jussi went into a swamp and transformed natural soil into agrarian land. The strong pioneering spirit of the settlers in the American West was equally evident among Finnish peasants clearing their own wilderness. The American values of freedom and democracy were well suited to Finland, where no court or strong nobility ever existed, unlike in so many other European countries. Finnish society had strong peasant roots, an egalitarian tradition and national unity that was tested during the civil war of 1918 but regained during the very difficult years of the Second World War.

  • 44 R. Inglehart and W. Baker, “Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional valu (...)

48Today, it may be asked who is following whom in value exchanges. According to the well-known researcher Ronald Inglehart, it is misleading to view cultural change as ‘Americanization’: “Industrial societies are not becoming like the United States. In fact, the United States seems to be a deviant case, as many observers of American life have argued... its people hold much more traditional values and beliefs than do those in other equally prosperous societies... If any societies are at the cutting edge of cultural change, it would the Nordic countries.44

geographical position as a source of country image and modernizing discourse

49American exhibitions were exported to many countries behind the Iron Curtain. This might explain why Finland was also among those countries. However, the Finns did not recognize themselves as a part of Eastern culture. Their attitudes toward these exhibitions changed in the 1960s. In the 1950s, articles dealing with the America Today exhibitions took as their starting point humbleness and excitement. By the turn of the 1960s the reception was much more critical.

50The United States became known to the Finnish consumer as a very homogeneous entity. Certainly the way in which the United States was referred to naturally did wrong to the diversity of a vast nation. Be that as it may, the press coverage in Finland makes it unquestionably plain that what American consumer society represented to Finns in the post-war years was an abstract and homogenous promise of a better future. It was not until the late 1960s that this object of imitation began to be seen as more controversial. The ensuing debate about environmental issues and the Vietnam War gave rise to a new, more critical attitude. The more Finland was Americanised, the less America was worth imitating. In our future research, we will attempt to explain this change.

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Notes

1 Suomen Kuvalehti, 47, 1948, p. 16-17. The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful comments from Ilpo Koskinen, Tanja Kotro, Matti Rautiola and Elisabeth Shove; and financial support granted by the Chancellor of the University of Helsinki.

2 K. Virtanen & E. Heikkonen, Amerikkalaisen kulttuurin leviäminen Suomeen. [The diffusion American Culture in Finland], Turun yliopiston historian laitoksen julkaisuja no. 15, Turku, 1985.

3 L. Bu, “Educational Exchange and Cultural Diplomacy in the Cold War”, Journal of American Studies, 33, 1999, p.393-415; V. Heinonen, Talonpoikainen etiikka ja kulutuksen henki. Kotitalousneuvonnasta kuluttajapolitiikkaan 1900-luvun Suomessa [Peasant Ethic and the Spirit of Consumption. From Household Advising to Consumer Policy in the Twentieth Century Finland], Bibliotheca Historica 33, Helsinki, Suomen Historiallinen Seura, 1998; M. Pantzar, Tulevaisuuden koti. Arkisia tarpeita keksimässä [How the needs of the future home has been invented], Helsinki, Otava, 2000.

4 In this article we want to emphasize the role of mediators – persons, images and surrounding products – introducing new cultural landscapes. The activity of mediation could well be called ‘hypermediation’, “the way in which subjective experience of technological is forestructured by media”. See M. Carroll, Popular Modernity in America, New York, Suny Press, 2000, p. xii.

5 Kuvaposti, 22, 1961 [emphasis added].

6 P. Tommila and R. Salokangas, Sanomia kaikille. Suomen lehdistön historia, Helsinki, Oy Edita Ab, 1998, p. 298-302.

7 V. Heinonen, “Näin alkoi ‘kulutusjuhla’. Suomalaisen kulutusyhteiskunnan rakenteistuminen”, in K. Hyvönen, A. Juntto, P. Laaksonen ja P. Timonen (eds.), Hyvää elämää – 90 vuotta suomalaista kuluttajatutkimusta, Helsinki, Kuluttajatutkimuskeskus, Tilastokeskus, 2000, p. 8-22; E. Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes. The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, London, Abacus, 1995, p. 257-319; J. Obelkevich, “Consumption”, in J. Obelkevich and P. Catterall (eds.), Understanding Post-war British Society; London, Routledge, 1994, p. 141-141-154; Pantzar 2000; S. Strasser, C. McGovern and M. Judt (eds.), Getting and Spending. European and American Consumer Societies in the Tmntieth Century, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

8 V. Heinonen & H. Konttinen, Nyt uutta Suomessa! Suomalaisen mainonnan historia, [Now new in Finland! The History of Finnish Advertising], Helsinki, Mainostajien Liitto, 2001, p. 139-140, 166-167, 176-185; M. Pantzar, Kuinka teknologia kesytetään. Kulutuksen tieteestä kulutuksen taiteeseen [How technology is domesticated], Tammi Press, Helsinki, 1996.

9 C.f. G. Ritzer, Explorations in the sociology of consumption. Fast food, Credit Cards and Casinos, London, Sage, 2001.

10 Strasser et al. 1998.

11 Heinonen 1998; & Konttinen 2001; Pantzar 1996, 2000.

12 Hei 2000a: 14, 17; K. Ilmonen, Tavaroiden taikamaailma. Sosiologinen avaus kulutukseen, Jyväskylä, Vastapaino, 1993, p. 39-43.

13 According to O Dell, American cars provided a way to contest the dominant aesthetics of ‘good taste’ in post-war Sweden. Certainly the symbolic value of, say, a Chevrolet Impala was different from a Volvo (‘the people’s car’). See T. O’Dell, “Raggare and the Panic of Mobility: Modernity and Everyday Life in Sweden”, in D. Miller (ed.), Car Cultures, Oxford, Berg, 2001.

14 Cf. R. S. Cowan, More Work for Mother. The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, New York, Basic Book/Harper, 1983.

15 K. Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies. Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture, Cambridge (Mass.) and London, The MIT Press, 1999.

16 Ross 1999: 74-78.

17 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 144-145.

18 Around the turn of the 1950s and the 1960s teenage stars were recruited for advertising campaigns. Popular singers advertised cloths, and masters of rock and jive dancing promoted the King Cola drink. At this time Amer-Tupakka Oy was one of the most innovative users of American style advertising campaigns. For instance, it had already launched its Boston cigarettes with large print ads and television shows in the mid-1950s. At the beginning of the 1960s, Finnish cigarette factories begun to produce famous American brands under license

19 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 145; J. Vesikansa, Leipurinpojan perintö. Huhtamäki Oy 1920-1995, Keuruu, Otava, 1995, p.42, 65-70, 103-140.

20 Clarence Saunders’ Piggly Wiggly self-service store opened in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916 and received a patent on the design the next year (S. Strasser, Satisfaction guaranteed. The Making of the American Mass Market, Washington and London, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989, p. 248).

21 J. Ahola, Arvoisa kaukainen asiakas. 100 vuotta suomalaista postimyyntiä, Jyväskylä, Suoran Koulutus ja Kustannus Oy, 1997, p. 16-36, 58-60; Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 33, 151-152.

22 Kotiliesi, 23, 1953, p. 852-853.

23 Suomen Kuvalehti, 46, 1953, p. 31

24 R. Rydell, Worlds of Fairs, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1993; R. Rydell, J. Findling and K. Pelle, Fairs America, Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

25 Kuvaposti, 22, 1961, p. 4-7.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Kotiliesi, 13, 1961, p. 862-865.

29 Oddly enough, in the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition of 1961, the Finnish Nursery was dismissed as being “delightful if only for its graceful simplicity”. (D. Ryan, The Ideal Home Through the Twentieth Century. Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition, London, Hazar Publishing, 1997, p. 128). The catalogue of the exhibition pointed out that it appeared to have been designed more for the convenience of those in charge of children than for the children themselves. (ibid.: 127-128). In contrast “The American Nursery”, called “A Room for a ‘Little Man’ to Grow In”, was equipped for a toddler, with robust fittings and many items to encourage manual dexterity” (Ibid.: 128).

30 Kotiliesi, 13, 1961, p. 862-865.

31 Pantzar 2000; R. Wallensteen, “Tällainen on amerikkalainen maalaiskodin keittiö” [“The kitchen of an American country home”], Työtehotietoa, 3-4, 1948, p. 22-23.

32 Wallensteen 1948: 22.

33 See e.g. B. Ehn, J. Frykman and O. Löfgren, Försvenskningen av Sverige, Natur och Kultur, Stockholm, 1993.

34 Heinonen 1998: 203.

35 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 127, 152-154.

36 V. Heinonen, “Professionalisation and Institutionalisation of the Finnish Advertising Business”, in A. M. Kuijlaars, K. Prudon & J. Visser (eds.), Business and Society. Entrepreneurs, Politics and Networks in a Historical Perspective. Proceedings of the Third European Business History Association (EBHA) Conference ‘Business and Society’, September 24-26, 1999, Rotterdam, Centre of Business History (CBG), 2000, p. 362-363; Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 61-66. W. K. Latvala was born in the United States as a son of an emigrant family. He moved to Finland and brought many American ideas to Finnish newly organised advertising business.

37 Heinonen 2000b; Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 195; A. Raula, Miten Amerikassa tehdään ja tutkitaan mainontaa: Havaintoja Amerikan matkalta 1951, Helsinki, Oy Mainos Taucher, 1952.

38 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 195-196; A. Puukari, Markkinointi uudistuu ja uudistaa, Keuruu, Otava, 1965; A. Puukari, Näin Amerikassa, Helsinki, Otava, 1966.

39 Heinonen and Konttinen 2001: 136; R. Niskanen, Ihmiskuva 1950-luvun suomalaisissa julisteissa. Tiedettä naista syleilevästä miehestä. Kulutusosuuskuntien Keskusliiton kokoelmat 1949-1957. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia 640, Tampere, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1996, p. 38.

40 A. Ainamo, Industrial Design and business Performance. A Case Study of Design Management in a Finnish Fashion Firm. Acta Universitatis Oeconomicae Helsingiensis A-112, Helsinki, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration, 1996, p. 135-144, 170.

41 V. Heinonen, J. Mykkänen, M. Pantzar and S. Roponen, Suomalaisen talouspolitiikan ajattelumallit valtiovarainministerien budjettiesitelmissä 1974-1994 [Finnish Economic Policy Models of Thought in the Budget Lectures given by the Minister of Finance, 1974-1994], Helsinki, Kuluttajatutkimuskeskus, 1996.

42 In the United States the positive meanings of technology seem to center around liberty, control, and efficiency. According to Mick and Fournier these values were originally identified by Tocqueville over 150 years ago but are American core values even today (D. Mick & S. Fournieur, “Paradoxes of technology: Consumer cognizance, emotions, and coping strategies”, Journal of Consumer Research, 25, 1998, p. 123–143). The Finnish value studies have shown that these also fit well with a Finnish value map (Pantzar 2000).

43 C.f. N. Johnson, “From time immemorial. Narratives of nationhood and the making of national space”, in J. May and N. Thrift (eds.), Timespace. geographies of temporality., London, Routledge, 2001, p. 95.

44 R. Inglehart and W. Baker, “Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values”, American Sociological Revient, 65, 2000, p. 49.

Auteurs

University of Helsinki and National Consumer Research Centre

University of Helsinki and National Consumer Research Centre

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