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Indonesian agencies will not shun tobacco clients on moral grounds, says agency boss

Cigarette ad in IndonesiaAd agencies in Indonesia are unlikely to shun tobacco clients on moral grounds, or because spend in the category could fall when new laws on how cigarettes are promoted are enforced next year, a senior agency executive has said.

Indonesia is one of the last countries in the world to allow tobacco advertising on television and is one of the least regulated markets.

However, tougher rules on cigarette ads that will become law by June 2014 will mean tobacco companies will “be more cautious” in how and who they target, Henry Saputra, chairman of ZenithOptimedia and Publicis Indonesia told Mumbrella.

But as long as they are permitted to by global corporate guidelines, agencies will not choose to avoid tobacco brands for moral reasons or because of the prospect of dwindling spend, he said.

Network agencies with tobacco clients in Indonesia include Lowe, JWT, Hakuhodo, Leo Burnett and Bates CHI. Some agencies such as DDB have a global policy not to work with tobacco advertisers. Saputra’s agency does not work with a tobacco client, but used to.

“Tobacco advertisers will be more cautious than before, because penalties for flouting the rules will be quite heavy. They will be selecting media more carefully, using activation ahead of above-the-line advertising,” Saputra said.

Tobacco brands are among the biggest advertisers in Indonesia, and spend is unlikely to fall much – if at all – because of the new regulations, he noted.

The new rules prohibit tobacco brands from showing pack shots in TV ads, and ban them from taking out full-page print ads – three-quarter page ads will the largest size allowed. The front or back cover of print publications are out of bounds entirely.

Billboards will have to be positioned parallel with a road; they can’t face traffic directly. Use of the descriptions such as “mild” and “light” will be banned.

“To be frank, there haven’t been many changes to existing regulations on tobacco advertising,” said Saputra. “But there has been some progress. Government tax revenues from tobacco are huge, and there’s a compromise between that revenue and the need to implement new restrictions.”

More than two-thirds of Indonesian men and five per cent of women smoke in the world’s fourth largest tobacco market.

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