Putri Prameshwari & Ismira Lutfia
If foreign antismoking activists had not criticized the tobacco sponsorship of US singer Kelly Clarkson’s concert in Jakarta next week, would Indonesians even have noticed?
Given the prevalence of tobacco advertising throughout the country, probably not.
Ricky Pesik, secretary of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Association of Advertising Agencies, said “tobacco companies remain some of the biggest spenders on advertising.”
Figures from Nielsen Media Indonesia back this up, showing that tobacco firms were in the top 10 of advertising spenders in all types of media in the first quarter of the year.
The report shows advertising for clove cigarettes was among the top five, with Gudang Garam the third biggest buyer of television commercial slots with total spending of Rp 73 billion.
Ika Jatmikasari, associate director of Nielsen Media Indonesia, said makers of clove cigarettes spent Rp 377 billion ($42 million) in the first quarter of 2010, 8 percent more than the Rp 349 billion spent in the same period last year.
LA Lights, the canceled sponsor for Clarkson’s concert, was among the top 15 for cigarette advertising in the first quarter of the year for its clove cigarettes, with manufacturer Djarum spending billions of rupiah.
But with companies facing more restrictions on placing advertisements in the mass media, Ricky said they were shifting their advertising budgets to sponsorships instead, such as of concerts and other events that provide “an interactive channel for the product with the consumer.”
“There’s a concept of ‘brand experience’ introduced by sponsoring events,” he said.
The report shows that there has been a 35 percent decrease in spending on advertising clove cigarettes in all types of media, including a percent decline in television commercial spots and a 53 percent decrease in print media advertisements.
The chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), Seto Mulyadi, said the move to withdraw LA Lights’ sponsorship for the concert should be the impetus for Indonesia to ban smoking in public spaces. “Not only music, but other events, even sports, are often sponsored by cigarette producers,” he said.
Many events in Indonesia, the world’s fifth-largest tobacco market, are still sponsored by cigarette companies, including the country’s main football league.
Tobacco companies also sponsor several music festivals and often are seen handing out cigarettes at those events, even though they are mainly handed out in areas restricted to people aged 18 and older.
Seto said activists should use the momentum of LA Lights’ sponsorship withdrawal to step up the antismoking fight.
“This is a good momentum, along with the Alicia Keys concert a few years ago,” he said.
Two years ago, a tobacco affiliate of US-based Philip Morris International, which dominates Indonesia’s tobacco market, removed its logo from advertising promoting an Alicia Keys concert in Jakarta after the singer publicly denounced the sponsorship and apologized to her fans.
A study by Komnas Anak in 2007 found that almost half of the teenage smokers polled said they had taken up the habit because of advertising. The study also found that tobacco companies had sponsored 1,350 youth-oriented events from January to October in 2007.
Indonesia, a country with about 240 million people, has yet to ratify the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty that became law in February 2005. The framework’s 152 ratifying nations have to implement effective methods to reduce tobacco use.
The Ministry of Health is preparing two bills regarding cigarettes; one to ratify the UN framework and another on controlling the negative health effects of tobacco. A spokesman for the ministry’s legal division said the bills had been given priority to be passed by the House of Representatives.
Indonesia sells a pack of cigarettes for less than $1, making it one of Asia’s cheapest markets, compared with Singapore, where a pack costs $5.