The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Monday, February 06, 2006


© Duncan Graham 2006

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for: The chance for revenge.

OK, revenge isn’t a great virtue in any faith. Many consider it a vice. But there are redeeming factors. Dispensation is available.

We’re talking about the Indonesian advertising business. It would be nice to say ‘the Indonesian advertising artform’ because that’s its potential.

But its grand possibilities are squandered when selling cigarettes – a job not found in most other countries because it’s illegal. Consider the manufacturer’s brief:

MEMO: PT Plagiarist Partners Ad Agency.

FROM: PT Global Addictions Inc.

“We make a toxic product that kills millions. It causes cancer and a cruel death through heart and lung disease. It will turn your sex life arctic and cripple your offspring.

“Many say it’s the gateway to narcotics - but that’s ridiculous! We’re right behind the government’s anti-drug campaign.

“Meddlers in the free market have imposed onerous restrictions on promoting our legal product. We can’t show people actually smoking or the cigarette itself.

“A stupid health warning must be included in any promotion. This is clearly wrong because it frightens people.

“Despite these negatives we want you to show that lighting a smoke will reverse the facts - and make life happier, more exciting, important, adventurous and sexually gratifying.

“Money is no object. Over to you.”

MEMO: Mega Bucks, GA

FROM: Dup Licitous, PP

Hi Big Man – got your order – cool! Like Menthol, ya? Ha, ha! We put our crack team straight on the job. After several all-night sessions in a Blok M bar (account attached) they lit up some hot ideas I just know you’ll love:

Concept One: A mob of kids (certified over 18 though they look years younger) having a great time in a way-out setting. Guys and girls. They’re wearing cybernet gear like you’ve never seen, hanging about with camphones, laptops - all the latest. Words in English, like MILD and NEW GEN, you know the sort of thing to give prestige. This’ll slay them in the aisles! The only thing lacking is a fog of nicotine, but they’ll get the picture. Kids today are s-m-a-r-t.

Concept Two: A trendy chick in low cut number flaunting big boobs looks as though she’s really having it on. Hair wild. Dress white, like, you know, virginal. Caption: “Finally I found my G Spot”. Got it? Don’t worry about the morality cops – they can’t read English and are too busy perving Playboy!

But cewek2 will get it in spades ‘cause they take Cosmopolitan and watch Was Was. With less than two per cent of Indonesian women smoking, and even fewer getting satisfaction, this is one great growth market.

And how about this? The anti-fun squads reckon smoking causes infertility, right? So checking population growth is a public service, right?

Concept Three: We stack coffee cups so they look like a filter cigarette, complete with smoke / steam, and we call it - Cappuccino In Sticks! If do-gooders complain we’re breaking the rules – take ‘em on, hard and strong. The controversy will rocket sales into the stratosphere!

Let’s face it: What’s wrong in helping sell coffee, even if no one can pronounce cappuccino and never drinks the stuff?

Whaddya think?

MEMO: Hi, Dup

FROM: Mega.

Great! We’ll buy all three – they’re killer ads! But the Board’s worried about pushing birth control benefits. We need new generations of consumers to maintain growth and keep our overseas shareholders grinning.

Otherwise – go for it!


If you find the industry offensive and its campaigns obnoxious the chance for revenge is in your yellow-stained fingers.

Take a leaf from the anti-drugs campaign: Say No To Smokes.

That way the tobacco tsars will go broke and the ad agencies turn their “talents” to something harmless.

Sadly there are downsides: Thousands of mainly poor people will live longer straining the government’s welfare budget; doctors and nurses will have fewer patients and less income; grave-diggers will be underemployed; tobacco farmers and factory workers will lose their jobs and the government tax base will shrink by billions.

In fact the whole economic system could go up in smoke.

Now who’d take responsibility for that?


(First published in The Sunday Post 5 February 06)


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