Social media influencers have a particular responsibility to ensure they are endorsing what is ethical and moral, especially considering their vastly youthful and heavily impressionable audiences. Those who make the conscience decision to provide sustenance to the tobacco industry via social media enable its continuous growth, as online promotional material is becoming exponentially more effective.
A recent study into the intensity of tobacco promotion behaviours revealed the frequent use of obscured use of images and hashtags, that may not directly advertise cigarettes (Astuti, P.A.S. et al 2019). Despite the recent crackdown efforts of Indonesia’s communications minister Johnny G. Plate to ‘cull cigarette advertising content on the internet’ (Silviana, C. Potkin, F. 2019), there remains an alarming amount of events catered to Indonesia’s youth, heavily sponsored by tobacco companies. One of Indonesia’s largest tobacco manufacturers Gudang Garam has cultivated ‘PROJAM’, which is a skateboarding and BMX event, with an Instagram following of 38.8k. Promoting exciting activities with messages such as the heroic way: #caraksatria and friendship: #temenanitu and featuring the unmistakable ‘PRO’ logo in almost every photo, surrounded by full of life and energetic scenarios. There is no doubt here of the companies clever infiltration to the youth of Indonesia through this online means.
@projam.id Instagram page with use of #temenanitu meaning friendship (Projam.id, 2019)
Designers and creative culture makers, along with every other individual, can determine their own moral standpoint in support or disapproval of the tobacco industry and have the ability to utilise their stance and influence for the better or worse. Influencers can be an agent for change by being open and honest with their sponsorships, which can spark a chain reaction, and create opportunity for sincere discourse among tobacco companies, influencers and their audiences. The dangers of enticing the next generation of smokers through non-overt ads as seen below have only seen the beginnings, and it isn’t easy to predict how far this can be taken (Garcia, F. 2019).
Subtle cigarette ad. The brand wasn’t tagged nor mentioned in the Facebook post. (Amin, A. 2018)
Indonesia’s political stance is one of the most significant barriers for change amongst designers, creatives and stakeholders, as there are few restrictions on tobacco advertising in Indonesia, as the nation is yet to sign the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Bachelard, M. Stark, J. 2012). Meaning that no matter how hard designers alike try, the unwavering endeavours of the tobacco giants will remain. However, through the careful consideration of their intended audiences and how they react to different mediums, designers and creative culture makers located in Yogyakarta and surrounds, can work to spark positive change for the long term.
Amin, A. 2018, Have it all’, Facebook, 6 April, viewed 20th December 2019, <https://www.facebook.com/hangriii/posts/one-of-the-best-things-in-life-is-realizing-youre-perfectly-happy-without-the-th/608485879499734/>
Astuti, P.A.S. Kurniasari, N.M.D, Mulyawan, K.H. Sebayang, S.K. Freeman, B. 2019, ‘From glass boxes to social media engagement: an audit of tobacco retail marketing in Indonesia’, Tobacco control, vol. 10, no. 11, pp. 1-8.
Bachelard, M. Stark, J. 2012, ‘In Indonesia, big tobacco hasn’t got a worry’, The Sydney morning herald, 26 August, viewed 20th December 2019, <https://www.smh.com.au/world/in-indonesia-big-tobacco-hasnt-got-a-worry-20120825-24tlu.html>
Garcia, F. 2019, ‘How the tobacco industry targets young people with social media influencers’, Dazed, 13 February, viewed 20th December 2019, <https://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/43290/1/big-tobacco-smoking-industry-young-people-social-media-influencers-instagram>
Hurt, R.D. Ebbert, J.O. Achadi, A. Croghan, I.T. 2011, ‘Roadmap to a tobacco epidemic: transnational tobacco companies invade Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312.
McCormack, A. 2018, ‘Big tobacco are using Instagram influencers to advertise cigarettes, advocates warn’, ABC triple j hack, 3 September, viewed 20th December 2019, <https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/big-tobacco-using-instagram-influencers-advocates-warn/10195712>
Projam.id, 2018, ‘Collision’, Instagram, 29 March, viewed 20th December 2019, <https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg5HGstl4Es/>
Silviana, C. Potkin, F. 2019, ‘Indonesia cracks down on online tobacco ads to deter young smokers’, Reuters, 14 June, viewed 20th December 2019, <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-tobacco/indonesia-cracks-down-on-online-tobacco-ads-to-deter-young-smokers-idUSKCN1TF0J0>
Witabora, J. Adidharma, K.S. Luzar, L.C. Meilani, M. Soedarso, N. 2016, ‘Usability, design, and content issues of mobile apps for Indonesia cultural art promotion: A Balinese mask’, Humanoira, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 427-439.