Response to Fazer’s gigolo says a lot about Finland today

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The decision by the Council of Ethics in Advertising of Finland that there was nothing wrong with Fazer’s gigolo television commercial says a lot about why there is so little respect towards minorities in this country. For those who lived in Finland in the 1970s, Fazer’s gigolo was the typical stereotype of the southern European man, who spoke broken Finnish, was useless but was a good lover. 

Irwin Goodman even wrote a racist song about the ‘gigolo’ called Marcello Magaoni, or Marcello Macaroni.  There a similar song in the 1970s by Esa Pakainen, who masqueraded in a 1960 Finnish movie as a blackface with his partner Pätkä.

In a similar story in Sweden in July, some members of the Finnish community in Sweden were outraged about a Heikki the drunk character in a book that they claimed reinforced stereotypes about Finns in Sweden.

Why does a large sweets company like Fazer of Finland think that it’s perfectly acceptable to reinforce stereotypes about minorities in order to boost sales? Are they saying that ‘humorous’ racist stereotypes hit the spot with Finnish consumers?

The response of the Council of Ethic in Advertising is one matter but the comments from readers on different newspapers are just as revealing.

The lion’s share of those responses about the Fazer gigolo didn’t see anything racist or wrong with the commercial and agreed with the Council of Ethics in Advertising that it was humorous.

Writes Pantterit on parhaita: ‘That was a really funny commercial.’

Funny? Certainly if you are white.

Read more comments (in Finnish) on Lappeenranta-based daily Etelä-Saimaa.Näyttökuva 2014-11-10 kello 12.38.31

Why does Fazer think that the way to Finnish consumers’ heart is with the help of ethnicity and race? In 2007, after mounting pressure from the EU, it stopped using its infamous golliwog on its licorice brand and in it stopped using a Chinese man or women in one of its products in 2011.

Migrant Tales filed a complaint to the Council of Ethic in Advertising because the commercial promoted stereotypes of southern European men. Stereotypes are the breeding ground from with the fruits of intolerance feed off.

The decision by the Council and the reaction of many readers clearly shows how little weight migrants and minorities continue to have in Finland.

I for one will be one person who will boycott Fazer products and I hope that many more will do the same.



  1. Joonas

    I’m interested: do you believe we never should make fun of stereotypes or if we can occasionally, when and where is the right place to do so?

    • Joonas

      You probably know that most popular TV-shows (Simpsons, Modern Family, South Park etc.) are making fun of many different kind of stereotypes, even the writers are not part of the minority group. Should they be forbidden to do those jokes then? Surely they get some complains about it, but most people are smart enough to understand the difference between racism and satire. Same thing goes to the advertisement; you have to be very uptight not to see that people are not laughing at the character or thinking all southern men are like that, but are laughing at the ridiculous stereotype it is presenting. And I find the fat, pale Finnish guy is as big joke as the “gigolo”.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      There are ways to be subtle about things but the Fazer gigolo to me is a flashback to the 1970s, when there was, and still apparently is, a racist stereotype about these types of men. You might think its funny but some, like me, don’t.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Joonas, take a look at Fazer’s record: golliwog on licorice brand until 2007, the stereotype China man that caused some outrage in Sweden in 2011 and now this one with the gigolo, which has its roots in the Finland of the 1970s.