In Indonesia, volcano victims, most of which are suffering from breathing disorders, are being treated inside a tent sponsored by Sampoerna. Americans may not see the irony there, but how about if I tell you that Sampoerna is owned by Phillip Morris and is one of Indonesia’s largest tobacco companies.
It’s not unusual for corporations to pitch in during times of crisis, but what’s got people riled up is the use of corporate logos on rescue vehicles, uniforms and tents. And it’s one thing for the local telecommunications company to pitch in, but a cigarette company?
Indonesia is a country of smokers so it’s even more ironic that the Sampoerna aid station is a smoke-free zone and unlike the relief workers of WWII, they aren’t handing out cigarettes to the masses. But according to an article in Global Post, some people find their presence to be disconcerting.
Sampoerna says their motives are completely altruistic, which leads locals to wonder why then they have logos plastered all over the site.
Statistics show that consumers respond to “cause marketing” but is there somewhere we draw the line? Suppose McDonalds had paid for the equipment that was used to rescue the Chilean miners? Would it be okay to put Ronald McDonald’s face on the side of the capsule? Would it be more acceptable if it was Toyota, what about a fuel company? During Katrina, Tide sent around mobile washer trucks and gave our free laundry detergent. In comparison, that doesn’t seem so bad.
We all want to encourage corporations to help out in a time of crisis, but should knowing they did a good deed be their own reward? Should they be allowed to put their company locals over aide stations and ambulances? And if we do allow advertising in a disaster zone, do we allow it for anyone who pays the price?
What do you think? Is this a case of advertising creep that’s actually creepy or is Sampoerna simply doing the responsible thing by providing aid during a national crisis?