Tobacco Brands – Trust Long Gone

19 August 2016

No tobacco brands appear in the latest survey of Asia’s top 1000 brands conducted by research company, Nielsen. In this survey of consumer brand perception, the main question asked was: “When you think of the following category, which is the best brand that comes to your mind? By best, we mean the one that you trust the most or the one that has the best reputation in this category.”

Twelve years ago, in 2004 a few tobacco brands still appeared in this 1000-brands perception survey – Marlboro (No.18), Dunhill (96) and 555 (163). By 2010, all three tobacco brands fell in their ratings and by 2016, tobacco brands have disappeared altogether from the top 1000 trusted brands in Asia. This tells you something about the reputation of tobacco brands.

Indonesia remains the only Asian country that has not banned tobacco advertising. However, marketing experts themselves are now criticising the tobacco industry for exploiting sports and the arts to promote itself.

Campaign Asia Pacific called out Gudang Garam’s advertisement for Indonesia’s 71st Independence Day on 17 August as “simply outrageous” and that the ad “rings false”. The writer, Mathew Miller, is stinging in his attack on Gudang Garam’s advertisement which uses images of healthy activities. He said, “When a young man in the video finds himself face down in the mud during a training run, my first thought is that he must have collapsed from lack of oxygen due to his smoking habit.” Spot on!

He goes on to say, “But it gets worse. What really sets off my evil detector is several shots of teenagers—children—playing football. Yes, children, in a film sponsored by a tobacco purveyor.”

In yet another critique of another Gudang Garam advertisement, the writer Ad Nut calls on the company to come out of its “1980s stupor” and stop its ‘storytelling’. Yes, marketing executives are now seeing what tobacco advertising actually does – something the public health community has been saying for ages.

In the past the larger advertising industry has fought bans on tobacco advertising.  It has claimed an ad ban will cause the whole media industry to collapse. Indonesian advertising executives have even testified to this in a Constitutional Review court case in 2008 which sort to ban tobacco advertising on television.

In reality tobacco brands do not prop up the advertising industry in Indonesia. In 2010, when overall advertising registered a double digit growth (23%), tobacco was not even among the top ten advertisers. In 2013, no tobacco brand was among the top 50 advertised brand in Indonesia.

The evidence is clear and Indonesia must act to ban tobacco advertising.

For information on ban on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship in ASEAN see here