Indosat Terminates Its Advertising Agency Following Consumer Backlash


Daily newspaper Kompas this morning reported that Indosat has terminated the agency which made an ad that was considered offensive by the people of Bekasi. The advertisement, released in early January, sparked off a round of protests after it said it’s easier to go on a holiday in Australia than Bekasi.


According to Soejanto Prasetya, Indosat head of area Jakarta, the campaign was launched in December to promote its new roaming Internet package with a similar ad though it was later replaced to avoid complaints. Soejanto said for some reason it resurfaced on the 8th of January.

Bekasi residents held a rally outside of Indosat’s Bekasi office, breaking Indosat SIM cards and demanding that the company leave the city. “Indosat has insulted Bekasi residents. We don’t need an apology, Indosat should shut down and leave the city”, said protest organizer Adi Monel to the newspaper.

Meanwhile Bekasi mayor Rahmat Effendi is evaluating whether the advertisement would lead to a negative effect on investment and trade to the city and whether it was aimed at the city or the regency of Bekasi as he has no authority over the regency. “I am disappointed, on behalf of the Bekasi city government. But I am proud of the young people who have been so reactive to report it to the authorities. Their regional pride has arisen”.

Representatives from the company and the city of Bekasi have met on 9 January and the company apologized for offending the city although apparently that wasn’t enough as a number of individuals have reported the matter to the police and are filing a lawsuit against Indosat for defamation under the Electronic Transaction and Information Law which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison and Rp 1 billion in fine.

Bekasi politician Ronny Hermawan from the Demokrat party doesn’t think that this issue falls under defamation claims. While he is still waiting for Indosat to clarify what the company meant by the advertisement, he said that citizens should not be easily provoked by such ads.

He said that anger is justified if residents cannot get a room at the hospital, if kids can’t go to school because of lack of seats, or because their vehicles are damaged due to potholes. Forcing Indosat to leave the city, he said, will not solve any problem.

Chairman of Satucitra advertising agency Ricky Pesik said that this whole issue is due to someone’s bad sense of humor and that there’s no reason why the agency should be terminated. He said that in some advertising contracts there is a clause that places the responsibility on the agency should the client receive a significant negative backlash and it may have been part of Indosat’s contract. However, an advertisement cannot be published without approval from the client and the client should also take some responsibility in the matter.

“We apologize to all residents and the general public who felt ridiculed or hurt. We had no intentions of insulting or belittling, none whatsoever”, said Indosat head of public relations Adrian Prasanto to Kompas on Sunday. He said that the choice of Bekasi was because the name rhymed with Aussie, referring to Australia as one of the countries in which Indosat subscribers can enjoy its new roaming package.

It was only in November that Indosat announced the appointment of Ogilvy as its newest creative agency but the latest ad for the new campaign, which was launched on Christmas day last year, had put the telco in hot water.

It remains unclear if it was indeed Ogilvy that came up with the offending ad and therefore the agency that was terminated by Indosat as companies often have different agencies for different media channels or products. Requests for confirmation remains unanswered at the time of publication.