Influencing Project Stakeholders; What we can learn from cigarette adverts

Posted by Peter on Aug 12 2008 | Articles

Smoking is cool

One of the key elements of project stakeholder management is the use of influence (“the ability to affect the actions, beliefs and attitudes of other people”) to ensure that people give their support to our projects.

Advertisements are an obvious example of how people can be influenced, and some of the most effective advertisements seem to be for the tobacco industry. Take a look at the huge hoarding above from the streets of Yogyakarta in Indonesia, with a close-up below.

Smoking is cool

So the image is of a healthy young man sitting at the top of a mountain, bird-of-prey subdued on his hunky shoulder, with a lion guarding him. Ciggy companies tag line “Pria Punya Selera” - with a meaning similar to “A Man’s Taste” in big letters. The only substantial writing at the bottom of the banner says “smoking causes cancer, impotence and birth defects” (or, roughly translated - “smoke these and die”). The ad is, of course, a huge success, with the company now having over 30% market share. The Indonesian government recently revealed plans to start limiting cigarette production to 240 billion sticks by 2010 in a tentative move to curb smoking in the world’s fifth-largest tobacco market, lifting the cap to 260 billion in 2015. That’s still a lot of baccy going up in smoke!

People are becoming more and more aware of the health issues associated with smoking, although they don’t seem to be stubbing out the habit as quickly as you might expect. Around 34% of Indonesia’s 237 million people are smokers, where taxes collected on cigarette production and sales are said to contribute about 10% of state revenues. It seems people are acting on the picture, trying to attain the cool outdoor lifestyle depicted above, and completely ignoring the (rather important) words.

Ciggy ads as far as the eye can see...
Gudang Garam’s arch-rival - LA Lights - stringing banners all over the place

Lesson learned:

  • Pictures and images are extremely important, with people even ignoring words, so we should use more pictures when communicating with our project stakeholders.

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