Talk about ambition: Reyka Vodka has decided to use Facebook Live to wish every single resident of Iceland Gleðilega hátíð, or "Happy holidays."
Iceland isn't a big country, but it does count over 320,000 residents—making this quite a job for Frikki, the man who's been appointed to do it. Luckily, he's had help narrowing down the list, in a campaign created by Red Tettemer O'Connell + Partners.
"Although there are over 320,000 people living in Iceland, the Icelandic Naming Committee has listed just 4,512 approved Icelandic names," says Frikki. "I will now read each name, wishing Gleðilega hátíð to each Icelander. Oh, and because Reyka is a vodka, these wishes are only for those of legal drinking age. So if I call your name and you are under 21, I am not talking to you."
In this video, he begins his laborious trudge through approved Icelandic names.
If you don't get this whole "approved names" thing, here is a primer: While foreigners can keep whatever names they have already, native-born Icelanders are not allowed to have names that don't conform with the Icelandic Naming Committee's list.
The purpose of the Naming Committee is to decide whether new given names that don't yet exist in Iceland are suitable for integration into the country's language and culture. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) New names must be submitted for approval, and are considered for compatability with Icelandic tradition and grammar, the likelihood they could cause the bearer embarrassement, whether the name matches the bearer's sex (with rare exceptions) and whether it contains only letters in the Icelandic alphabet.
There have been problems with this system, notably experienced by former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr, who wanted to drop the last name Kristinsson to disassociate himself from his dad, and name his daughter Camilla after her grandmother. (He finally opted for Kamilla, since C doesn't appear in the Icelandic alphabet, and was ultimately permitted to change his own name last year.)
Here is a second video of Frikki wishing more Icelanders happy holidays, completing his task to the surprise of all involved. He is briefly interrupted by someone waving a stuffed puffin around near his arm, which aggravates him mightily.
"OK. These things are flying rats," he snaps. "I know you guys think they're cute, but they're not. They're delicious, yes—but cute, no. Annoying. Terrible. They taste very good with vodka, actually, now that I think about it. Maybe I'll have some later."
The videos remind us of Sweden's "Call a Swede" campaign, probably because of the telephone, but also because of its interesting preoccupation with tying a campaign directly to the country's inhabitants.
There's also a smack of Norway's "slow TV" about it. Slow TV is a trend in which you watch hours of repetitive content, like the totality of a train ride from Bergen to Oslo, or the process of chopping wood.
In this case, we watch Frikki sloughing through a thick list of approved Icelandic names. As with slow TV, it's strangely calming, and there's something weirdly satisfying about watching a guy sit around doing something that's slowly driving him crazy.
Frikki fortifies himself with shots of Reyka as he burns through the rest of the list. Sometimes he is interrupted by phone calls—and, toward the end, cheering men with Viking helmets, and a girl wearing one of those swan dresses that Bjork made so popular.
These touches are clearly meant for non-Icelanders, but they demonstrate Iceland's own awareness of its cultural impact while exposing us to its dry, deprecating humor … and local food preferences.
As Frikki arrives at the end of his list, ticked off by a taciturn woman in a holiday sweater, he relaxes.
"Reyka has now wished everyone a happy holiday. I will now be enjoying a little holiday cheer of my own, if you don't mind," he says. Then the phone rings—someone ostensibly asking him to add all babies born since he started the project.
"I never agreed to this!" he shouts. "I'm not doing this. It's been a pleasure. Goodbye."
And off he goes. Happy holidays, Frikki. Enjoy that puffin.