In 2012, the Indonesian government introduced a tobacco control regulation. Three years later, Indonesian tobacco consumption grew by almost 800,000 metric tonnes…
Advertising is meant to be attention grabbing. It’s meant to showcase innovative ways in which a message can be portrayed and ultimately influence a viewer to become a consumer. These designs and campaigns however are not always used to sell virtuous or ethically responsible products, as embodied by tobacco advertising in Indonesia. It is obvious that the designs incorporated into campaigns such as Surya Pros’ Never Quit, have been thoroughly thought through, and engaged in a rigorous process of iteration to obtain the final outcome, highlighting the fact that all design is not benevolent. Despite the fact that the designers and creative directors behind these enormous tobacco brands may not be smokers themselves, it is undeniable that they are contributing to the detrimental ramifications of tobacco related health issues as a result of their work. “Cigarette advertising visibly saturates Indonesia” (C. Reynolds, 1999), and acts to sway impressionable minds and “using advertising to encourage younger people to smoke”.
It is this culture of unrestrained design that raises questions of the benevolence of design and to what extent Indonesian designers will push the boundaries of ethical and moral responsibilities. Despite the fact that powerful tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) have “known for decades that kreteks are highly carcinogenic” (R.D. Hurt, 2012), government policy embodied in the Roadmap of Tobacco Products Industry intended to increase its tobacco production by 12% between 2007-2012, using advertising as a means to achieve this. In 2012, the Indonesian government adopted a “tobacco control regulation that included some limitations on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship”, but rather than subduing tobacco ads, gave rise to a new type of aggressive advertising that was arguably more successful than previously.
By banning imagery of cigarettes or tobacco on television, print or digital media, tobacco companies effectively gave tighter briefs to creatives to navigate around these barriers. Rather than depicting personalities enjoying themselves smoking, tobacco companies such as Garam played further into ideas of masculinity and made an explicit link between smoking and being a man; ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’ were many teenage boys views about smoking (N. Ng, 2007). Smoking has effectively been designed as the norm in Javanese and Indonesian culture, and non-smoking something different or an anti-culture. While the notion of psychological advertising is the antonym of benevolence, it opens a new direction for design to explore. Designers are presented with the opportunity to somehow design ‘out’ smoking culture in Indonesia while thinking sustainably and responsibly.
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