Indonesian copywriter Mita Diran dies: Mixture of long hours and excessive energy drinks blamed

Mita.jpgThe Indonesian advertising industry has been stunned with the news that Y&R Indonesia copywriter Mita Diran has died after working more than 30 hours straight. Overwork has been blamed for her death along with drinking too much of a strong local energy drink called Kratingdaeng.

Two days ago Diran tweeted "30 hours of working and still going strooong."

Venus Buzz quotes her father, Yani Sharizal, saying that his daughter was in a coma after working continuously for three days, and that she had been working over her limits. She died shortly after.

Here is Y&R Indonesia's statement that they posted on their Facebook page:
Dear friends and colleagues in the advertising and marketing community,

It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that we have to inform you we have lost our friend, sister, and work colleague, Mita Diran, earlier this evening. Mita was a talented copywriter with a gentle smile who will always live on in our hearts.

We have been to Mita's family residence tonight and expressed our sincere condolences on behalf of Y&R Group Indonesia. It is a great  loss and we wish Mita's family the faith and strength in each other in going through this extremely difficult time.

Tomorrow, December 16, we will close the office for the day to pay our last respects to Mita at her funeral at Jeruk Purut cemetery at 10 AM. Let us all take a day of silence tomorrow and give Mita's family the support and prayers that they need, from the bottom of our hearts.

Sincerely, Y&R Group Indonesia

The industry's thoughts and prayers are with Mita's family and friends.


Richard said:

RIP little lady. No unreasonable deadlines, bosses and clients in heaven. And certainly no redbull.

Very sad said:

This is truly tragic.
My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Occupy Madison Avenue said:

The rise in employee productivity, according to Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, over the last decade has been 3 times the rise in compensation. In human terms, this benignly named rising productivity often means crushing workload and punishing hours. In the last 20 years, the proportion of employees working 50 hours or more each week has jumped by 50%. More than 1 in 3 employees like now struggles under this load. In the same 20 years, the 1% wealthiest doubled their share of national household wealth from 20% to close to 40%.

overworked underpaid said:

Very sad. This industry needs to take a good hard look at itself. I've never worked at an agency that has been adequately staffed. Long hours and weekends are no longer the exception, they are the norm.

Jim said:

With complete respect and condolences to Mita's family, perhaps this could spark some debate around how agencies are currently operating, the way they resource and the expectations they place on employees.

Dying for advertising. Really, we need to take a good, hard look at things.

Irony said:

'Tomorrow, ... , we will close the door for the day to pay our last respects to Mita ...'


too much said:

Just terrible news and it's not the first time.

Our industry needs to have a good look at itself. Working late is just expected and normal. It's the responsibility of CEO's and CD's to put a stop to this before it happens again. I bet if their employees got paid overtime they would.

R.I.P Mita.

No rest for the nice people said:

Deep respect and condolences to the family and friends of hers.

How many times have we worked a similar amount of hours, or more than several weeks straight at sixteen plus hours a day without a break? In my early twenties I remember pulling a 72 hour stint, the energy drinks were a white powder with no liquid.

For what? Profit? For someone else? It's not just killing the golden geese, it's slavery.

Our families and friends outside of advertising don't understand why we miss Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries. And that also demeans people's lives too, sometimes, on our shores, to the point of death or massive burnout.

Any agency head reading this should take note. Happy cows not only produce better milk, they make far superior milk to dead cows.

So sad, yet unfortunately until someone steps in, this looks like the expected rather than the exception for years to come.

Outraged said:

My girlfriend worked herself to the point she started getting dizzy and sick. Not wanting to appear to be weak, she kept going. Now I care for her. She has cancer, stress induced, at the ripe old age of 27. Stress kills. Overwork kills. For anyone who is being whipped to the point of feeling slightly crazy, stand up for yourself. Say no. Fuck traffic managers, fuck your cd, fuck that idiot suit. It's not worth it.

Work done under those conditions will never help your career. If you can't work or function as a human being, you have no career. And the bastards will steal the credit for everything you do anyway.

Go home on time, switch the phone off and be human. Because you'll have far less time to do that if you don't.

Angry said:

Y&R should partly stand responsible for this. How and why did the management allowed this to happened? Someone from Y&R should explain how could they allowed someone to work 30 hours straight?!!!? fuck!

A Wake-Up Call said:

Surely this should serve as a wake-up call to the Industry (especially in certain AsiaPac nations), that we need to seriously reign in the ethic that says unless you do 12+ hour days you are not doing your job. Most east asian colleagues that I talk too tell me that working well into the evening is the norm, as is working in the weekends - there is no work/life balance in this equation, everyone is stressed and everyone is exhausted. The question must be asked - is this an effective use of your time and skills? There are numerous studies that say that productivity drops significantly after a certain length of time - so how efficient are those extra hours tacked onto the end of a normal 8/9 hour day, how smart are the late night creative solutions, how productive are you actually going to be? This is serious, someone has died, and why - to crack a brief, write some copy for a looming print deadline, pull a last minute pitch together. We are all in this together, we should be looking out for each other, protecting our colleagues from tyrannical motives of profit over people. I agree with previous commentators and would add that we senior people in advertising especially need to stand up for our younger colleagues - those who are trying to prove themselves in this industry by clocking up ridiculous (fatal) hours on the job - they need someone to watch out for them, cause they won't know to do it for themselves. Just say No. RIP Mita

Fuck it said:

There's never a good time in this industry to look after yourself.

So just do it.

Take that holiday you're owed (you know, from your 47 day stockpile).

Take that day they said they'd give you for working two weekends straight.

Chuck that sickie (especially if you're feeling sick).

Bugger off early if you're twiddling your thumbs waiting for your CD to walk out first.

Drop your kid at school in the morning before work and roll in at 9.30am.

We work too hard.

Life's too short.

My thoughts go out to the family of this poor girl.

Enough!! said:

I'm a creative at one of the Y&R offices and my "normal" working hours are between 12-16 hours a day including weekends. As everybody is saying, we work that hard for NOTHING. We work that hard just to make the rich people richer. We are not changing the world here!!!... I hope this is a wake up call for all of us to stop letting the industry and the fear to loose our jobs, treating us like we were machines.
Just think about this: while we are working 16 hours a day loosing our real live inside an office, the VP's, CEOs, CFOs, CCOs, etc are enjoying their lives and their families with all the luxury. And we are working twice as hard, and earning 10% or less of their salaries.

All coming home said:

As sad as this is, even sadder is how many people reading this could count on two hands the amount of times they've had to work 30 hours straight or more in the last four years.

Given this precedent, holding people back beyond their will shouldn't be a bad thing, or a weekly necessity, or even an 'inconvenience for all concerned.'

The precedent sets this at attempted murder and nothing less.

Just say no said:

That's so sad. Her poor family.

And it's so hard to say no when you're living in the agency culture. Even if you finally have a quiet day, you feel guilty for walking out the door while others are still slaving away.

I finally had enough of it about 6 months ago. I left the industry after 17 years to work client side and the cultural difference is amazing. Work/life balance is a priority here and most people leave at 5pm.

If you're reading the article above and feeling it could so easily be you, consider getting out while you still can. There are creative jobs on the other side of the fence that don't come with the pressure to win awards and ignore family and friends for the sake of some ads.

Done with that said:

A sad and utterly needless loss of life, indicative of a cultural problem present and perpetuated by agencies and the industry rags.

It’s precisely this problem that drove me to start freelancing earlier in the year. Yes, I’m still in the industry - but the freedom and autonomy (and the ability to charge for weekend work) that came with that decision was immediate and enormously liberating. Never again will I allow illogical and antiquated workplace expectations take priority over my own health and relationships outside the microcosm of agency life.

Will that kill my chances of winning awards? Probably. But the older I get, the less I give a fuck. It’s time we asked ourselves how much the approval of our peers is actually worth in the end. It’s not like they’re going to list off your award wins in your eulogy – and if they do, what a fucking joke.

I concur said:

The industry purports to be creative and innovative the reality is the opposite. Far more conservative and corporate industries have better work cultures with more respect for the individual and their families.

This stupid culture of everyone pretending we're so lucky to come up with an idea is a sham. We do a job - it isn't the best job - it isn't the worst job.

We are our own worst enemy. Until we stand up for our selves it will continue to be this way. But it's pretty hard to do that when you've got a mortgage and a family and one income... and they know that.

My sincere condolences to the family. A tragedy.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently said:

In the last 12 months half a dozen people I know in the industry have burnt out or been stressed out badly. Not just regular 'I'm freakin' busy' stress, serious medical problems. In account service, creative and management, in a variety of agencies. It's not hard to see why.

Technology is speeding things up. Clients expect things faster and bigger. 10-15 years ago you'd get two weeks, maybe a month to present a campaign or sometimes a single ad. Sheer luxury. Most campaigns now require digital, social, PR, mobile, activation as well as all the traditional media. In half the time. A brand campaign in a week. Why not? Three new ideas over the weekend. Sure.

This pressure is coming from all directions. There are more award shows and more categories to enter. In 2004 there were 6 categories at Cannes. Now there's 16. Ten years ago effectiveness awards barely existed. Neither did case studies; you submitted an ad, or board at most. Nowadays, more effort often goes into the case study than the campaign, which has to be done on top of the normal workload.

And then there's the pitches.

Not to mention the procurement departments squeezing agencies tight, demanding more for less and forcing everyone to run lean. That means less resources, less money and less time.

Yet everyone's expectations remain the same.

Clients want the same results. Agencies want the same revenue. Creative Directors want the same awards. If not more. Is it realistic? Is it possible to sustain? I don't think so. If I'm seeing this many incidents it seems like others are too. So I want to know: is the industry burning itself out?

Fitri said:

The biggest culprits who who force creatives stay back late (sometimes even without knowing it):

• ECDs who want them to do scam for award shows. (creatives should ask themselves whose benefit this is for.) Meanwhile the ECDs themselves won't stay back in have to email them and they will have a look after playing with their kids at night.

• Planners who take ages to get a brief right....more often they are just messing with a clients brief just for the sake of their own egos. They waste a lot of time-- causing the creatives to get the brief much later, so then more late nights are necessary.

• Creatives themselves who spend all day on the internet, facebook etc under the pretext of looking for inspiration...I have known creatives who start work at 7.30 pm after wasting the whole day.

All these practices are if you really want to, you can have a life. You just have to make the right choices.

"No" is a powerful word said:

A few years ago this industry was swallowing me whole, every last bit of me. I was sucked in completely. On top of the insane hours and drive to be the most awarded whatever in the world, there was the partying, which felt compulsory. I will tell you this, it is not compulsory and neither should be the hours.

It got so bad that my marriage started to suffer and so did my health. So I saw a shrink. Yes, a shrink. What I learned was this, when you say "no" for whatever reason it may be, all of your worst fears do NOT come true. In fact, it's quite the opposite. In most cases you become more respected and more desired, because you have boundaries and there is a limited supply of you. And if this can be managed you start to do better and more rewarding work, because you are happy. If it doesn't work, then like everyone on here is saying, you need to walk away. If your company does not respect your need for emotional and physical wellness, you shouldn't give them any of yourself. Break the cycle. They don't deserve an second of your 'billable hours'.

I love the idea of unions and new rules around workplace hours but that will take time. In the meantime, we should pay this young woman and her family a bit of respect by learning to say "no". May her sad passing help the rest of us in creating a better future in this crazy business.

The truth of it all said:

The ad game is not overly creative once your CD or client fucks your idea square in the arse.

It's not prestigious or cool. And no, it's not cutting edge. It does not pay as well as most trades do. So wake up!

Employers are applying work pressure on staff based on what the industry was: not what it is today.

Think about it people - every hour you work overtime is working for FREE. No one with a brain, let a lone a creative one, does that.

Don't be weak. Don't be blind. Don't buy into this way of working. If you're any good, you can get your ideas across within a normal work day, give or take an hour or two. it's the hacks who have to replace great ideas with endless hours.

I really feel for this poor girl who was lead to believe that what she was doing was a smart way to prove yourself in the industry. To every abusive organisation, hang your fucking head in shame! And to think, most agencies boast about how important 'their people' are. FUCK YOU!

Interesting said:

Latest development from:

Djamal Aziz, a member of a commission dealing with manpower at the House of Representatives, said the House will summon a representative of the company to brief lawmakers, while it might bring the case to court if it can be proven that Mita was forced to work for more than 30 consecutive hours.

"A company is not a grave. It's a place where someone works and creates something for the company," he said.

Handoko Hendroyono, head of branding and advertising at the Association of Indonesian Advertising Companies, said the association will also summon a Y&R representative.

"We need to clarify whether her boss knew that she had worked for 30 hours," he said.

He did not deny, however, that competition in the advertising sector is tough, with speed and price being the two main factors considered by clients when hiring an agency.

Freelancer j@ union said:

Yup overtime works a treat.

Suit: we need you Saturday and Sunday.

Me: Ok, but my day rate is time and a half.

Suit: mmmm. I'll get back to you.
(Oh shit, this'll fuck my JCR and it's only a pitch)

Me: ok let me know.

Suit: just checked. We only need you Saturday.
(I'll check in for an hour at 11am and then tell me to email me at the end of the night. I'll have all day Sunday to check it over)

Me: perfect. I'll book it in.

Suit late Friday: oh, hi, regarding Saturday, we should be fine to do it on Monday.
(We've got a junior to say yes to come in and do it for you.)

Oh, and replace suit for Traffic Manager or CD at your leisure.

Finally, don't take this as freelance is the answer to all your work life issues. It's just a different pill to swallow.

shame on our entire industry said:

This is a truly dreadful story.

Couldn't this poor girl's agency simply have said at some point, "You've done enough. Go home. Get some rest."

Y&R can't wriggle out of their responsibility here.

And nor can other agencies who are doing the same to their staff.

So many youngsters in our business are ruining their health and wrecking their lives for what? Just because some gutless boss or weak Account Director can't say to a client, "No, we can't deliver this tomorrow, we need at least two or three days or whatever it is. Other industries do it. Why can't we?

There is no excuse for this girls' death. It puts our entire industry to shame....

A tragic tragic death.

Australian ECD said:

I can only speak as a sample of one.

Firstly, if you've ever worked in certain Asian markets you would understand that while agencyland in Australia is in a difficult space, and demands a lot from all of us, it's nothing compared to some of the practices that go on in markets such as Indonesia.

Which is not to say plenty of people above don't have valid points, but spend a couple of weeks in a SEA agency and see what a sweatshop really looks like. A little perspective never goes astray.

Secondly, judging from some of the comments, quite a few of you have terrible bosses. If you truly believe that your ECD is a lazy hack who pisses off at 6pm to his beach house and leaves you to slave away for little to no reward, I sympathise. And for fuck's sake QUIT!! Maybe not right before xmas, but asap. Work for someone you respect.

Thirdly, there is no doubt that most of our current problems stem from the fact that agencies operate on some of the skinniest margins of any professional services industry in the world. As an industry, we have allowed this to happen over many years, and we're all paying the price.

We are all overworked, not because there's this huge pot of gold that we siphon off to global HQ or the ECD's beach houses… but because as agencies we don't get paid anywhere near enough for what we're expected to do.

(And yes, as an ECD I get paid pretty well, but maybe not as much as you'd think. But I spent 20 years working towards this, and I make money for my agency. I don't apologise for what I earn)

And finally, we are our own worst enemies. Agencies are staffed, and usually run, by perfectionists. We push ourselves hard, and have created a culture where the job is never done. What you do, you can always do better.

Personally, I thrive in such a culture, but also understand that others don't. The reality is, that if you don't get satisfaction out of working in a high-performance environment where you remain more than a little obsessed about your work 24/7, advertising isn't really for you.

How do we change this? It's simple: we need to charge properly for what we do. Not just fatten retainers, but make clients pay for the 13th and 14th and 15th change to the work. Not pitching for free like cheap whores would help, but in such a competitive industry I doubt that's going to happen.

If we charge properly, we can staff properly. And then, no-one will need to work themselves into the ground just to get through the standard workload. Working crazy hours should be reserved for special times, and for creative opportunities.

There's nothing wrong with working insane hours if you genuinely are getting something out of it… if you're in the midst of making something great. Because, let's face it, no-one ever did anything great without a fuckload of effort and angst and sweat and tears.

But people working themselves into the ground just to survive the week is totally wrong and completely unsustainable.

I'm glad this discussion is happening, but it really needs to be happening at a senior management level, and at a network level as well. I know in our agency, our senior management team is talking a lot about this right now (not that we hadn't previously) as we've never wanted to work our people to breaking point, ever. But it's bloody hard to avoid putting your staff through hell sometimes, when the entire agency/client construct makes it unavoidable a fair amount of the time.

One final thing: don't use energy drinks like poor Mita did. I reckon more people die from that shit than ever do from sitting at a desk too long.

Have a good Chrissy everyone.

Sad Truth said:

My heart goes out to Mita's family. This is truly a tragedy.

But sadly, we've all been in this situation. Working late into the night, over weekends and holidays is not only common in an ad agency, but has become expected.

While I'm glad that there is now a healthy debate regarding unrealistic agency hours, I'd hate to think that this is all this young girl's death will achieve - a debate. Real laws need to be put in. Existing ones need to be amended. The agency has to be accountable and be made to pay for what they've allowed to be done to this poor girl.

Chinaman said:

Well, Y&R Jakarta should do something like what Ogilvy Beijing did for one of their suit who died (overworked, stressed). Just set up a 'Scholarship fund' under the poor dead staff's is supposed to help the new generation of admen. Problem solve...and they get back to screwing the staffs again, in no time.

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