News From Indonesia

Cigarette advertisers in Indonesia know that if it is cool, it sells.

Posted in Uncategorized by artemisays on April 25, 2009
 Cigarette advertisers know social acceptance is key to youth marketing, and without legislative restrictions, say anti tobacco groups, ‘cool’ is being used to target Indonesian youth.
Tobacco manufacturers appeal to youth by producing 'teen movies'

Tobacco manufacturers appeal to youth by endorsing 'teen movies'.

  Tobacco Control said advertising appeals to youth by understanding both culture and markets. 


This is why cigarettes are branded for particular socially and culturally divisible market segments. 


“Advertising at once sells products by reproducing culture and associating these products with core traditional values, and by producing culture by promoting commodities, such as cigarettes, as icons of cultural change, modernity and globalisation. Cultural knowledge is necessary for an understanding of the deeply nuanced statements and images embedded in advertisements that refer to a wide range of social values, group aspirations and anxieties,” Tobacco Control research reported.


Indonesia does not have legislation to prevent tobacco manufacturers from ruthless advertising; therefore children become slated as consumers to increase the market of tobacco users.

At present only 1-3 percent of Indonesian women smoke, compared to 62 percent of men.

This explains prolific male orientated advertising and a culture of smoking that young boys learn as a masculine expression.

While young females are now appearing in advertisements that appeal to the image of an educated modern woman, it is both males and females Tobacco brands commonly sponsor concerts and sports events in Indonesia, popping up in diverse forms and accessing youth through brand awareness and association. 

The under 20 age group in Indonesia has mass market potential and is currently being accessed via popular culture. 

Today’s young consumer may be well placed to read the codes and conventions of most explicit advertising such as dubious connections made between athletes and smoking, but an otherwise media savvy generation is unreservedly exposed to more and more innovative marketing campaigns via pop culture and social communications. 

Advertising to youth revolves around image , identity and social acceptance.

Ingrained social and cultural practices help to hook the consumer, then branding ideally creates loyalty and positive identification, such as when associated with favourite artists or sporting stars.

However, last year in July, Phillip Morris International (PMI) withdrew its sponsorship of Alicia Keys’ concert in Jakarta upon the request of Miss Keys and of critics who said the marketing appealed to children.

This January, lobby groups such as Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, as well as Indonesian health leaders and public health leaders from around the world, called for PMI to withdraw its sponsorship from the Marlboro Rock in Orchestra concert series.

Dr Mary Asunta, Senior Policy Advisor for South East Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said, “Promoting tobacco to a nation where half the population lives on less than $2.00 a day is scandalous. It is outrageous for Phillip Morris to continue trapping Indonesia’s vulnerable youth by sponsoring music events in such an unabated manner.”

Phillip Morris International did not withdraw sponsorship of the event.

In a Jakarta Post article, Sampoerna’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr Yos Ginting, said PMI and Sampoerna, which is a subsidiary of PMI, have been consistent in supporting efforts to prevent children from smoking.

“Issues surrounding tobacco, such as youth smoking and public smoking, are best addressed through government legislation or regulation,” said Mr Ginting.

The central Jakarta District Court is in agreement, last week dismissing a request to government from the Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YKLI) to ratify the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

Mr Sudaryatmo, a lawyer on the YKLI team, said judges considered it a matter of policy that could only be settled through general elections, but they will appeal the dismissal at the High Court.

It remains usual for children as young as ten to be seen in public smoking, or selling cigarettes among the traffic.

There is both little policing to prevent this and an ingrained social acceptance of smoking through a prolific culture of production and consumption.                                                           

 Tobacco manufacturers in Indonesia wield huge political and economic power that enables them to market to children, while still resisting responsibility and liability.

They are the fourth largest source of government revenue behind oil timber and gas.

Tobacco Control states that tobacco manufacturers employ about 11 million workers in Indonesia, the largest employer after the government.



Jakarta Post

Phillip Morris International

South East Asian Tobacco Control Alliance, Dr Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor

Tobacco Control

World Health Organisation


One Response

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  1. rstz said, on April 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Great article! It’s all got a familiar ring to it though hasn’t it?

    The posting was insightful because it identified not only the cultural circumstances at play here that are energising the uptake of smoking in Indo, but also the realities of those vested interests in business and government who are presiding over this ongoing public health train wreck, making the whole thing possible.

    In what one might bravely suggest are those more highly developed policy making economies, and in this case focusing on Australian, there’s a lot being done to undo the generational damage done to the health of communities by tobacco – and real inroads have been made. Via the development and implementation of various pieces of government legislation and other countering health promotions initiatives, smoking has been on the decline for at least two decades in Australia. Tobacco is now widely viewed as being a far from an ideal product choice. Most importantly, in the key adolescent group where new recruitment is traditionally being made, increasingly tobacco is being seen as either uncool, or more simply, just as a waste of money that could be spent on something else. I suspect the money is being redirected to such things as mobile phones, iTunes, fashion, leisure, sport and lifestyle gear.

    Smoking is fine I guess, if you can perhaps put aside issues of passive smoking, it is after all personal choice, but is it? Only with these caveats, prior to addoption: only if you’re old enough, or able to informed enough, or both, to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of the product and the likely product addiction that goes with it, and similarly; only if you’re able to ‘deregister” from the hidden product contract when you’re no longer willing or interested in maintaining the relationship with that product.

    Obviously, this product doesn’t work that way. It’s a nastier version of your first mobile phone contract you sign-up for as an adolescent, against your parent’s best advice, and you’re never, ever, going to get out of it.

    Returning to Australia, the great majority of Australian’s are happy to see big tobacco in decline and generally agree with any interventions that have occurred.

    So we reflect on this experience and others are welcomed to draw upon such pockets of hindsight.

    Looking to the Indonesian example, the lessons learnt elsewhere aren’t likely to have an impact on rates of smoking adoption anytime soon. With the supposed divide between the interests of government policy makers and those in big business being notoriously at one in a country like Indonesia, those interested in public health and the general wellbeing of their fellow citizenry have a long and bitter campaign ahead of them. One that common sense might suggest is probably winnable, but it might be fair to also suggest it will also take generations for the white caps to send big tobacco packing. There’s so much money at stake for the chosen few in business, government, and in this case, even probably the military.

    While not unique to any culture, individual self interest over the wider needs of the group will be hard to turn. There just isn’t effective protective mechanism bought about via the Indo democratic process and subsequent government administrations to effect powerful public health policy on behalf of the wider community. Quite to the contrary, as eluded to in artemisay’s posting, the very government that’s there to act with their best interests at heart are likely to be a large part of the problem.

    Mind you, self interest and ineffective or exploitative government institutions aren’t just a unique feature to Indo.

    The cultural issue is a biggie too. The ease with which business’s Admen can build upon masculine stereotypes in this patriarchal society represents opportunity plus. Tobacco Inc. dust down and role out the marketing communications techniques used in the 1950’s and 60’s in places like the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Europe – to great effect. You can bet they even use the same slogans – like shooting ducks in a barrel.

    And as the post suggests, and then there’s the young, looking not only within their culture, but outwardly to other cultures for role models to construct their sense of self upon. Here they often see not only alternate product constellations to dream and die for (sic), but also a new sense of style and modernity, a refining of where the lines are drawn on gender roles, opportunity, choice, and one can only assume, aspiration – the definition of what it might be to be successful and desirable. Here again, tried and tested communications techniques are pressed into action, overlaying or embedding the smoking lifestyle, outlawed elsewhere, within this desirable and thus, influential youth consumerscape.

    Imagine, you say only 1-3 per cent of Indo women smoke? (Well that’s what they self-report). How ripe is this group for the picking? And with any shift in gender roles that might take place with the greater emancipation of women – bring it on big tobacco might say.

    So here we go again, as an outsider, its like watching that train wreck all over again. However, this time, its excruciatingly being played out in slow motion.

    Indo’s got plenty of smart people with good intention no doubt, and this country is after all, in some respects, a country going through its own form of social adolescence, developing in its policy sophistication. They will make their own mistakes on a whole range of issues one can only expect, but they will be their own mistakes and they will own them willingly. It’s just a shame it has to be so sometimes?

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