Smoking is Cool

The advertisement chosen for the Culture Jamming assignment is a cigarette advertisement by Gudang Garam, a cigarette company in Indonesia. The billboard is used to promote their Surya Pro cigarettes. The image used by Gudang Garam to promote their cigarettes is of a muscular man with tattoos with his shirt off along with a slogan that reads “Never Quit”. The man in the advertisement poses in an athletic pose. The eyes of the model in the advertisement shows intense focus. This advertisement associates smoking with masculinity by using this image. Surya is trying to tell their consumers that if they smoke their cigarettes, they will be “manly”. I believe that the billboard is targeting young men who feel that they are not viewed as “manly”.

This advertisement targets those who feel that they are not accepted for who they are if they are not “manly”. Because of advertisements like these, people who live in patriarchal societies may associate smoking with “manliness” and start smoking so that they can fit in. Unfortunately, younger people may not necessarily know the risks associated with smoking, but because of societal pressures, they start smoking so that they can look more attractive in the eyes of people around them. Throughout history, smokers are viewed as “manly” and “rebellious”, and that view gets passed on to younger people, which is why they emulate smokers so that they can be like them.

Another issue that I find with this billboard is that the tobacco company presents a false image to their consumers in the pursuit of profit. Tobacco companies are earning large profits at the cost of the youth’s health. Because we live in a capitalistic world, companies are willing to sacrifice ethics to earn more money.

I personally feel that this billboard misconstrues the idea of manliness and what it means to be attractive. Manliness is defined by the majority of people as being rebellious, which I think is outdated. I would define manliness as being comfortable in one’s own skin without caring about what others think defines a person as manly.

My take on the advertisement uses the same billboard with the original image used. However, I added additional pictures to make it look like it has been tampered with using images of the harmful effects of smoking. The slogan “Never Quit” has also been crossed out and replaced with a question asking, “Is This Still Cool?”. The question that replaces the original slogan is meant to question those who look at the original advertisement and thought to themselves that “smoking is cool”, or “I can be manly if I smoke”. The images that I used to paste over the original billboard shows the damages that smoking can cause. Overall, the changes are meant to question a person who have thought about starting to smoke so that they can be considered manly. It is also meant to ask the person if suffering from the harmful effects of smoking would also be considered “cool”.

The images that I have chosen are meant to show what the big tobacco companies are not willing to show to the public, that their products harm the consumers. Not only are the tobacco companies not showing the consumers what their products do, but they mislead them by showing them a false image of what their products can do. In the pursuit of monetary goals, these tobacco companies resort to creating false images that can potentially persuade someone to engage in a harmful activity such as smoking.

One thing that I wish to show people through my version of the advertisement is that we should be wary of the intentions that companies have when trying to sell us things. Companies tend to only present the good things associated with their products. A lot of the times, we tend to only see advertisements at surface value, meaning that we do not question things further. We should be critical whenever companies present things to us so that we can know if it benefits both the consumers and the company.

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