PM Marin's Instagram story prompts product placement fuss

Prime Minister Sanna Marin talked about how much she liked her new Finnish backpack in an Instagram Stories video.

"I have a nice, new backpack from the Finnish [firm] Pihka Collection which I am using for the first time," Marin said in the video. Image: Jouni Immonen / Yle

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) posted a video on her personal Instagram account praising her new black backpack while tagging the bag's manufacturer Pihka Collection.

The video raised questions in some circles about the appropriateness of a high-ranking public official's apparent promotion of a company or product.

"The first meetings of the day have already been held here at (the PM's official residence) Kesäranta and now we're headed towards the Government Palace. I have a nice, new backpack from the Finnish [firm] Pihka Collection which I am using for the first time," Marin said in the social media video (siirryt toiseen palveluun), which also tagged the company's Instagram account.

Pihka Collection employs a handful of people and operates in Tampere and Helsinki. About 481,000 Instagram users follow Marin's account, which often shows photos of her carrying out official duties but also features the PM in less formal settings.

Sofia Salmi, Pihka Collection's owner and CEO, said Marin's post was a pleasant surprise.

"It feels really great. I was quite taken aback when I saw the post. She did shop here but we could not have expected that," Salmi said.

Yle asked Marin's special adviser Pirita Ruokonen about the video. She answered by email.

Sanna Marin promoted the Pihka Collection backpack on Instagram. Was it a paid collaboration with the company, or does Marin do this sort of collaboration with other firms?

"The Prime Minister does not participate in paid collaborations with Pihka Collection or any other companies," Ruokonen said.

Does the Prime Minister receive Pihka Collection products for free?

"The Prime Minister has not received the product in question free of charge, but paid for it out of her own pocket," the special adviser said.

Who manages the Prime Minister's Instagram account, Marin herself or someone else?

"Both Marin herself and I manage the Instagram account," Ruokonen answered.

What did the Prime Minister want to achieve by promoting a Finnish bag?

"The Prime Minister thinks that Finnish companies and products deserve a thank you," the adviser wrote.

Do you see any problem with the Prime Minister using her visibility to promote a particular company?

"It is good to support Finnish work and know-how. Many members of parliament as well as ministers prefer to wear Finnish designed and produced products. The Prime Minister also prefers Finnish designed and produced products and wants to support Finnish companies and entities so that they can receive international attention. It is good for Finland for Finnish companies to do well and succeed," Ruokonen said.

The Prime Minister's Instagram account has recently shown more of Marin's free time activities as a [regular] person. Why?

"The majority of the posts on the Prime Minister's Instagram account are about her role as Prime Minister. Since it is a question of her personal account, she also has the possibility to post content about her daily life and free time activities. Politicians are people, too," Ruokonen said in the email.