Unsolicited advice from a retired ad man | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I spent 46 years in advertising, handling the biggest brands and the biggest clients in the Philippines. I retired in 2007. Here’s a summary of my views on the dynamics of consumer culture.


To excel in consumer communications, we must develop an intellectual agility to constantly understand consumer outlook and behavior as soon as technological breakthrough occurs.


But today’s high technology also produces throwaway ideas and instant gratification products. We must learn to distinguish what phenomenon is transitional, and what values are permanent. What’s veneer and what’s patina.


Before fuzziness blurs our sense of perspective, let us extol the basics once more. Consumer communications will always be sales communications.


Consumer individuality


The most meaningful insight in product positioning can be inspired by the individuality of a consumer, instead of commonality among consumers. To unearth sight, we must eyeball with a unique individual, developing within us a growing intimacy with our consumer’s present and future needs.


This customer individuality often hides a motive or an unmet want.


Once captured by advertising, the insight becomes original. This means that a fresh point of view was arrived at during the intimacy, to energize sales.


Embrace the culture


Culture assumes a dimension of race or nationality. Culture is what we are today. It’s the new civilization driven by the latest, most modern tools of man. Still there’s a culture of the past that hovers over the present, transferring to succeeding generations values that give dignity and coherence to human life, such as honor, family ties, social covenant and religious beliefs.


Then there’s a current culture of life upliftment and upward mobility generated by the richness and variety of consumer goods, the high quality of products and services available. To communicate well with consumers, we must be familiar with the psychology of progress, both locally and globally.


Consumer as native


Here, a person’s upbringing influences his attitude and behavior.


The place where he grew up will help shape his physical and mental condition. Street-smart if he grew up in downtown Quiapo or Tondo. The strong, silent type if he comes from Digos, Davao or Rosario, Batangas. Demanding and benchmarking if he comes from Forbes Park.


The rural topography or cityscape will determine the tempo of his movement, the produce and the cuisine will train his taste buds.


The consumer as native will expect that we touch the native in him, the spot where his core value stays firms as a staple of life, like rice for his body and catechism for his spirit.


Ride with the changes


Millennium media using cable, satellites and computers have visualized, for the rich and the poor alike all over the world, acquisitions that give more comfort, more pleasure, more mobility, more luxury in life.


Finance schemes have made it easy for people to afford things in advance, long before they can afford it. The aspirational is replacing fatalism in the lower class society. There’s nothing the rich can’t buy.


A new crafting must be learned to update our language for selling during the continuous technological and social change. The new consumers will get more discerning, more sophisticated, and more attracted to the realm of the imagination.


Make the product a winner


Advertising creativity is very different from the cubism that Picasso conceived, generating the biggest shock in the world of visual arts. But Picasso is not accountable to anyone, only to himself, as the ego king of impressionism. Advertising is accountable to the business. Its commercial purpose is sharply defined.


In advertising, we generate creativity around a unique product sell, not the other way around. Salesmanship and creativity don’t cancel each other out. But creativity that jeopardizes salesmanship is a crime against client’s business.


Advertising is endlessly coaxed to be original. But the crafting must succeed in echoing accurately the unique consumer benefit of a brand, whatever style or format is used. One must never commit the sin of arrogance, winning creative awards but inutile with the sales department. I know a CEO who cursed a winning creative director for the absolute blunder of zero sales.


E-mail the author at [email protected].



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