While the authorities later admitted they were unaware of the meme, netizens cheered over the unexpected appearance of their beloved character.
The Stockholm region has accidentally moved into meme territory by informing about the availability of vaccines using a viral image.
Over the weekend, Stockholm announced that vaccination slots had opened for people aged 75 and over. To illustrate the age group, an image of an older man was used that had previously become a cult meme known as “Harold Hide the Pain”.
”We did not know that it was a meme before we were made aware of this”, Region Stockholm press officer Hanna Fellenius told national broadcaster SVT. “We became aware that it was a meme via an email to the editorial staff”, Fellenius explained.
The picture was published at noon on Sunday and was replaced on Monday morning, SVT reported.
“Our assessment is that the publication for a few hours of an image that is not in itself misleading or inappropriate does not damage confidence in the COVID-19 vaccinations – which is our most important priority right now”, Fellenius explained.
The unlikely appearance of the popular meme in a serious context made netizens jubilant, as many cheered for “Harold” doing his bit to combat the coronavirus in Sweden.
Nice to see Hide the Pain Harold doing his bit for Sweden’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. pic.twitter.com/ObBgK9OTNt
— Colm Fulton (@ColmFulton) March 30, 2021
Region Stockholm did not know that this was the Hide The Pain Harold meme when they used it to inform the public about vaccines 😂https://t.co/09bgnAjlY1
— Amir Sariaslan (@AmirSariaslan) March 30, 2021
Stockholm is using hide-the-pain Harold to promote booking for your covid vaccine if you’re born between 1942 and 1946. pic.twitter.com/tzXg1dLcCE
— Ollie Crafoord (@OllieCrafoord) March 28, 2021
Þetta er of gott: sænsk yfirvöld settu af stað auglýsingaherferð fyrir bólusetninguna og notuðu óvart Hide the pain Harold sem kynningarmynd https://t.co/RnqAnW9UWi
— Dr. Elín (@ruxpin) March 30, 2021
”This is too good: Swedish authorities launched an advertising campaign for the vaccination effort and accidentally used Hide the Pain Harold as a promotional image”.
The meme came about by chance through stock photography. “Harold”‘s real name is Andras Arato, a retired electrical engineer from Hungary, whose characteristic expression of repressed pain came about when he got tired of smiling for the camera.
Several months after the shoot, Arato began finding his images used in a variety of other contexts, well outside of the stock photographs he agreed to. While he admittedly initially considered taking legal action, Arato later decided there was not much he could do and instead embraced his meme celebrity and the “Harold” persona, establishing a home page for the photographs. As “Harold” Arato has since starred in numerous commercials, including the Russian beer Klinskoye.