Post A: Disguising Promotion as Goodwill

In Indonesia, the tobacco industry plays a key role in influencing not only the general public but also politicians and policymakers through so-called ‘CSR’ activities which are cleverly disguised methods of increasing brand reputation. These activities include sponsoring students with many scholarships which would make them feel indebted to these companies and it also improves public perception of the tobacco industry. This has allowed the tobacco industry to become a major part of Indonesian society which makes it difficult for tobacco control lobbyists such as Vital Strategies to tackle the Wicked Problem of Tobacco. (Crosby et al. 2019)

The tobacco industry’s form of corporate social responsibility has been criticised by many as masked tobacco promotion instead. Tobacco control supporters contend with this by claiming that the tobacco industry is not doing its part in adequately raising awareness around the dangers of smoking especially when it comes to the harms of passive smoking.

The least transparent of these activities are festivals and even religious events which are sponsored by the tobacco industry as this allows them to curry favour with the general public as well as the government. This also allows further strengthening the cultural significance and sense of nationalism associated with tobacco as “by getting involved in Indonesian socio-cultural activities, the tobacco companies have presented their tobacco products and smoking as the nation’s cultural heritage.” (Tandilittin & Luetge 2015)

Aspiring designers are also made complicit in this form of ‘CSR’ through the Djarum Black Innovation Award which started in 2007 and gives young innovators a platform to submit their ideas for a prize. This has allowed the promotion of their cigarette brand “Djarum Black” in another explicitly implicit manner. (Tandilittin & Luetge 2015)

Image result for djarum black innovation award

All of this allows for establishing a brand identity that positions them as ‘cool’ in their major demographic, the youth. No matter how much they try to deny that they are not targeting this demographic, the following advertisements speak for themselves; portraying idealised lifestyles that celebrate youth, culture and innovation.

(Dunhill, 2013)
(Dunhill 2019)

However, this form of overtly covert promotion is not limited to Indonesia as the tobacco industry has also exploited loopholes in Australia through sponsoring fashion design events. (Byrnes 2002) This idea of ‘cool’ that the tobacco industry has been promoting for decades aims to captivate a young audience and has successfully enraptured generation after generation; you do not have to look further than the vaping epidemic. However, hope is not lost as design activism and the engagement of all stakeholders passionate about tobacco control will be the key players in tackling the Wicked Problem of Tobacco in Indonesia and globally.

Stakeholder map that aims to highlight key players and their roles and capabilities.


Byrnes, H. 2002, Fashion’s smoking gun: top designers’ functions sponsored by cigarette company, The Sydney Morning Herald,11 August, viewed 16 December 2019, <>.

Crosby, A., Dunn, J.L., Aditjondro, E. & Rachfiansyah. 2019, ‘Tobacco Control Is a Wicked Problem: Situating Design Responses in Yogyakarta and Banjarmasin’, She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, vol. 5, no. 4, viewed 7December 2019, <>.

Dunhill 2013, Dunhill Fine Cut MILD Advertisement, video recording, YouTube, viewed 16 December 2019, <>.

Dunhill 2019, Iklan Dunhill Mild Live Learn Lead, video recording, YouTube, viewed 16 December 2019, <>.

Tandilittin, H. & Luetge, C. 2015, ‘CSR activity of tobacco companies in Indonesia: Is it a genuine social responsibility?’, Online Journal of Health Ethics, vol. 11, no. 3, viewed 16 December 2019, <>.

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