DBA Dissertation Compiles the History of Finnish Marketing Industry

MBA Sari Haavisto will defend her dissertation completed under the Aalto Executive DBA – Doctor of Business Administration program on November 5th, 2021. The dissertation, which sheds light on the history of the Finnish marketing industry, focuses in particular on the development of advertising and media agencies from 1883 to 2020.

Photo: Junnu Lusa


In her over 700-page long dissertation Sari Haavisto discusses the changes in the Finnish marketing industry during its nearly 140-year history. The study explores how changes have affected industry practices and the current marketing practices and how lessons learned in the history can be utilized in the future.

Haavisto, who has had a long career in media, advertising agencies, and large companies, divides the history of the Finnish marketing industry into seven periods, during which certain narratives reflected in the industry's operating methods and development have prevailed. Her research shows what an important role the marketing sector has played in Finland's economic growth and in the development of society, for example.

Periodizations of Finnish Advertising and Marketing Industry, Haavisto 2021
1. Courageous convincing 1883-1919
2. Glory and reasoning 1920-1938
3. Defending Finland 1939-1944
4. United and torn 1945-1970
5. Capturing media and liberating creativity 1971-1990
6. Old giants fail and newcomers win 1991-2006
7. Technology overwhelms 2007-2020

The dissertation also focuses on the phenomena associated with the industry's work culture and demonstrates that the success of advertising and media agencies is dependent on staff: not only on the well-known people but also the ones outside the limelight, whose skills have not always been sufficiently valued.

However, attitudes towards staff have varied over the decades. While between the 1920s and 1940s agencies invested in staff training, during the recession in 1990s and the corona pandemic in 2020, many offices laid off their staff.

“Marketing strategies and measures are created in the interaction between the customer and the staff. Therefore, it is important for companies to ensure good human resource management practices and the ability to build positive relationships,” says Haavisto.

Advertisers, advertising agencies, and the media contributed to the development of the industry and, for example, the spread of television

The book begins in 1883. At that time, Finland's first advertising agency, Finlands Allmänna Annonsbyrå Källgren, was established. Among other things, it sold poster spaces for railway stations.

Finland's first marketing professionals tried to convince business people, based on scientific information received from abroad, that advertising was worth doing. This work was continued from the 1920s onwards by “ad men” (“reklaamimiehet” in Finnish), who founded their own club of advertisers in 1928. The members of the club included not only advertisers and founders of advertising agencies, but also artists and members of the press. As a result of their cooperation, marketing gained a strong foothold in Finland, and long-lived agencies emerged in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s.

Although the industry was male-dominated, there were also women among the industry pioneers. One of them was the milliner Augusta Blomberg, who published her first advertising film advertising spring millinery as early as 1914, decades before advertising films became more common in Finland.

The dissertation shows that over the years, media representatives, advertisers, and advertising agencies fervently argued about the challenges related to the industry. At the same time, they jointly influenced how the industry, marketing training, and the business of advertising agencies developed.

“To ensure that the agencies were provided with knowledgeable staff, the operators jointly established the School of Sales and Advertising (“Myynti- ja mainoskoulu”) in 1930. H. J. Viherjuuri, who worked in the industry, began teaching advertising at the School of Economics in 1933,” Haavisto tells.

The parties also had a wider impact on the phenomena affecting society as a whole, such as the spread of television in Finland. When the advertising television company Oy Mainos-TV-Reklam Ab, or the current MTV, was founded in 1957, a significant part of its owners were advertisers and advertising agencies. “Finland was a pioneer in this matter. There was no commercial television in the other Nordic countries at the time.”

In the 1970s, media related services differentiated from advertising agencies into independent media agencies. Around the same time, many long-lived, powerful advertising agencies collapsed and new agencies specializing in visual production of narrower marketing consolidated their position. In the 21st century, on the other hand, digitalization has changed consumers' use of media and thus also affected the services of marketing agencies.

The study emphasizes the role of media agencies as a factor in shaping the Finnish marketing industry. Media agency professionals have played an important role in deciding how to make effective use of media in advertising and how to get the most out of marketing technology.

Link to dissertation


Defense of DBA dissertation

The DBA dissertation of Sari Haavisto, MBA, "Evolution of Marketing Thought and Practice: History of the Finnish Marketing Industry 1883–2020" is examined by Aalto University School of Business at 12.00 on Friday November 5, 2021 in Tapiola hall at Aalto University Töölö.

You can follow the defense over Zoom.

Professor Rami Olkkonen from the University of Turku is the opponent and Professor Henrikki Tikkanen of Aalto University School of Business acts as the custos.


DBA dissertation orders and further information on research

Sari Haavisto
DBA Candidate
Tel. +358 40 508 5539


Aalto University Executive Education Ltd

Aalto University Executive Education Ltd offers thought provoking leadership development services (Aalto EE), professional development services for specialists and managers (Aalto PRO), creative solutions covering the whole life cycle of entrepreneurship (Aalto ENT), and finance sector specific skills and knowledge (Finva). Aalto University brings to our offering a multidisciplinary approach, together with innovative learning methods; this provides a unique combination of practical expertise with the latest research.

Aalto University Executive Education’s strengths lie in its global operating model and diverse offering. In addition to Finland and Singapore, Aalto University Executive Education Ltd offers education programs worldwide. As a part of Aalto University, it holds three respected business university accreditations – AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS – which places it among the top 0.5% of institutions in the world.


What is the Aalto Executive DBA - Doctor of Business Administration program?

The Aalto Executive DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program is designed for experienced executives who wish to complete a doctoral degree alongside their work.  This working-life oriented program involves applied research. The DBA, which is recognized around the world, is offered by several leading institutions, such as Harvard Business School.

Like the Aalto Executive MBA and Aalto MBA degree programs, the DBA is not part of the Finnish degree system. However, it is conferred by the accredited Aalto University School of Business. The Aalto Executive DBA program can be completed, alongside work, in three to six years. This fee-based program was launched at the beginning of 2013.

Henrikki Tikkanen, Professor of Marketing at Aalto University School of Business, is the academic director of the DBA program. Read more on the program website.


Further information on the Aalto Executive DBA program

Mikko Laukkanen
Academic Director, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus.Adm.), Aalto University Executive Education
Tel. +358 10 837 3732

Henrikki Tikkanen
Professor, D.Sc. (Econ.), Aalto University
Tel. +358 50 5734174