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“Like a Sales Promotion Girl”: Cigarettes, Communities, and Social Media Marketing in Indonesia

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Marina Welker, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University

In Indonesia, cigarette companies get around marketing restrictions by contracting vendors and inducing influential youth to do promotional work for them, sometimes for free. Philip Morris International’s subsidiary Sampoerna aggressively promotes its machine-rolled clove cigarette brand A Mild, the bestselling cigarette in Indonesia, through live music shows, photography competitions, art exhibits, and even camping trips. Based on participation in these events, as well as interviews with participants, influencers, DJs, MCs, Sales Promotion Girls, and event organizers, I analyze how Sampoerna cultivates community groups that perform face-to-face and social media labor to service and extend the A Mild brand, which it associates with values and aesthetics that are conventionally coded as transgressive, activist, and anti-capitalist.

This event is part of the Ronald and Janette Gatty series.

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