I have to admit I'd read about and heard about how criminal the cigarette marketing landscape was in Indonesia but you never really fully take it in until you actually see some of it because people tend to exaggerate. But no, there I was on a shuttle bus from the ferry terminal to the resort and I saw the first of a series of outdoor ads pass by.
I couldn't get a decent shot from camera as the bus sped along but here's what I can describe to you from memory of one of the more shocking executions:
Two young boys (I'll be kind and say they looked like 14 year olds but that's debatable) are in a competitive game of tug of war against an unknown team (the other end of the rope disappears into the bottom left corner of the billboard). The sweat and strain on the boys faces make them out to look like they could be winning while the slight hint of muscles on their arms show that the two are not your average skinny 14 year old weaklings. Up above their heads is, of course, the product shot.
Couldn't decipher the Bahasa Indonesia copy but the cigarette maker is Sampoerna and judging by the light blue packaging of the pack it must be for a lite brand suitable (??) for the younger demographic but being positioned as cool and macho enough so you don't think its for women.
Where did I see the giant billboard? As we passed a nearby school and headed into a small road where makeshift convenience store huts littered either side of the road - and where the cigarette brand amongst others can also be found.
About 6 or maybe even 9 months ago I read a great article from BusinessWeek which reported about Philip Morris International's race to win market share in developing markets around the world. That article cited some interesting figures like:
- The company bought local kretek maker PT HM Sampoerna for $5.2 billion in 2005, which has since helped it grow from less than 10% of the cigarette market to nearly 30%.
- In 2007, PMI had $2.7 billion of sales in Indonesia and spent $220 million on marketing and related costs.
- Almost a third of the population is under 15, and nearly 50 million people smoke.
- According to a recent study funded by the Bloomberg-Gates initiative, smoking rates are rising fastest among the young, with rates among Indonesian males age 15 to 19 up 139% between 1995 and 2004. Data tracker Euromonitor International predicts 10% more Indonesians will take up smoking by 2012.
And although Malaysia is certainly more relaxed about smoking laws than Singapore, there are more marketing restrictions here in place when compared to Indonesia. If I am not mistaken, Dunhill hasn't been allowed to sponsor football tournaments for a while now.
As for me, I'll admit that I am no saint (everybody hates being preached to anyways) and that I used to smoke regularly and am still prone to occasional drags when the mood sets in ( I still find pleasure in having a smoke on a rainy day with a teh tarik in hand).
This latest anti-smoking ad from MOH takes a pretty hard line and it's hard to watch. It did leave an impression on me but I am still not sure whether the gruesome facts work on the majority of smokers. The spot was created by Spencer Azizul.