Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The death of an Indonesian copywriter has generated a surge of anger in Indonesia, turning the young woman into an inadvertent symbol of the grueling, workaholic culture of the advertising world.

Shortly after working a mammoth 30-hour shift, Ananda Pradnya Paramita, 27, a copywriter for Young & Rubicam Indonesia, fell into a coma Saturday at a South Jakarta pizzeria.

Paramita, who referred to herself as Mita Diran on social networks, was taken to a hospital, but died the following day.

Her revealing final post on Twitter, “30 hours of working and still going strong,” has prompted accusations that her agency pushed her over the edge with its work demands.

On a corporate message of condolence posted on Young & Rubicam Indonesia’s Facebook page, commenters accused the agency of exploitation and criminal negligence.

Geets Harris, an associate creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, joined the thread to criticize advertising executives for what she said was their myopic preoccupation with the bottom line. Her employer, Ogilvy & Mather, is owned by the British multinational advertising agency WPP, which also owns Young & Rubicam.

“Advertising culture must change,” she wrote, adding that she knows “many creatives who visit hospitals more often than they do the client.”

Harris later sent an open letter to Young & Rubicam and WPP in which she proposed an 11-point plan to improve conditions in the advertising industry. The creative director urged no more than two hours of overtime per day and the elimination of short deadlines.

Young & Rubicam Indonesia has stressed that the agency adheres to the country’s labor law, which prohibits more than three hours of overtime per day.

“Up until now, we’re still trying to find out what really happened internally,” said Sie Zin Lie, a Young & Rubicam spokeswoman. “We are deeply affected by the loss of Mita, and we pray for the family to have the strength to be able to get through this difficult time.”

Daniel Tjoe Sunaryo, 32, a former creative director who worked in a Jakarta ad agency for 10 years, said that in the industry, “whatever you do is never enough.”

Sunaryo recalled spending nights at the office to meet deadlines — he has since quit to become a yoga instructor — and said that within ad agencies there was a sense of pride about being a workaholic and pushing beyond the limits.

Paramita’s own Twitter feed paints her as a vibrant but sleep-deprived young woman who was also familiar with long hours. In her posts, she joked about moving her bed to the office and of her diet of coffee and energy drinks.

It is unclear whether the copywriter’s death was related to her workaholic lifestyle, but those in the industry say it is unlikely that she was forced to work 30 straight hours.

Cynthia Agustina, a commercial producer who has worked closely with advertising agencies for more than a decade, said that while all-nighters were an occupational hazard, conditions had improved in recent years.

“I don’t think she just pulled a 30-hour shift because she had to, but also because she wanted to,” Agustina said. “And I don’t know any company that says, ‘I don’t care what you do, just deliver.’”