The ’60s to the late ’80s were the golden years of Philippine advertising. I was in the right place at the right time. I was compulsively active as president and chief creative officer during those years.
The three schools of marketing—Procter and Gamble, Unilever, and Colgate-Palmolive—were world-class clients practicing their craft with a clear knowledge of and focus on the Filipino customer.
Marketing heads and brand managers were making their plans, autonomous from their parent companies in the US. The local customer is king. Marketing plans were tailored for the local market.
Competitors fought to occupy a bullish and sustained awareness in the consumer’s mind. To achieve this art and data, form and function worked harmoniously.
In the US, Madison Avenue, New York, marketing managers on client’s side and the creative genius in the agency were likewise working in complementary roles.
They produced role models of advertising, which were landmarks and veritable success case studies.
Leo Burnett demonstrated the power of image advertising in his Marlboro Country campaign. It turned an erstwhile filter tip cigarette, perceived as the smoke for the wimpy and effeminate, into a masculine brand for the macho.
Marlboro Country featured tattooed cowboys, galloping stallions, the wide Arizona dessert—may dumadagundong na tunog cowboy adventure music track. Overnight, Marlboro became the macho cigarette, the fantasy of men fulfilled. Marlboro became the largest selling cigarette brand for men in the world.
David Ogilvy introduced the element of mystique to communicate the classy image of Hathaway shirts. His print ad showed a very distinguished “man in a Hathaway shirt.” Lo and behold, he wears an eyepatch.
Is he a prince? A British lord? Or an eccentric millionaire? Hathaway shirts became instantly known.
Ted Bates created a mythical character—the Ajax White Knight—to carry the brand’s selling message. For Ajax detergent, the Ajax White Knight came galloping, his lance zapping off dirt in the laundry pile. Ajax became the knight in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress (our housewives).
Bill Bernbach revolutionized advertising with his “Think small” idea for Volkswagen. Bill turned the ugliness of Volkswagen into the virtue of thrift.
By selling practicality and efficiency, Volkswagens sold like hotcakes. Truthful artistic advertising finally arrived. Bill became the guru of creativity.
During those times, Philippine advertising was doing parallel creatives with Madison Avenue models. One of the attractions of local copywriters was the language of American advertising. Many mistook English as the medium for glossy and finely crafted advertising. But they sounded like Filipino English. There was dissonance between the images and the idioms. The awkwardness of copycats showed.
Later, our creative directors and copywriters discovered the ease and clarity of their tasks when they began to “Think Filipino, Feel Filipino, and Talk Filipino.” This simple approach to create great advertising for the Philippine mass market became the rule.
Many viewers of advertising, 60 years old and up, will surely remember these classics in Philippine advertising.
Philprom – “Ang Inumin ng Tunay na Lalaki.” This was one of the most popular TV/radio ads created for Ginebra San Miguel by its agency Philprom. The TV ad was jingle-based, its music vibrant, attention- and retention-getting. It gives praise to the Filipino working man, engaged in muscular jobs in the different regions of the country. It ran for many years, making Ginebra the undisputed leader in the hard drinks segment.
Ace Advertising (now Saatchi and Saatchi) – “Utos ni Mayor.” This commercial was created for Tide detergent. A blockbuster featuring the late comedy stars Pugo and Chichay, it was responsible for changing the centuries-old practice of sun-bleaching (ikukula) clothes as a critical requirement for washing clothes.
Tide claimed, “no need to sun-bleach” for cleaner, whitest wash. Tide became an instant market leader right after it was launched. Housewives quickly shifted from hard bar to powder detergent. “Utos ni mayor” was the top recalling ad in the history of Philippine advertising.
Seamark (Southeast Asia Marketing Consultants) – “UFC Tamis Anghang Ketsap.” In the ’60s, UFC banana ketchup was a lower priced product compared to the premium US brand Del Monte tomato ketchup.
Verbatim quotes on consumer surveys kept mentioning tamis (sweet) and anghang (hot) as the taste description of a banana ketchup.
The product was advertised for the first time with a new product identity—UFC tamis anghang ketsap, a distinctive choice for customers who enjoy the zesty taste of spicy and hot ketchup. Sweet and hot being appetizing to Filipinos and Asians made tamis anghang an instant success in a new category. It also captured a huge market share in Asian stores and supermarkets abroad.
PAC (Philippine Advertising Counselors) – “Iba Ang May Pinagsamahan.” This was a huge market size builder for San Miguel Beer! It was the first advertising to take advantage of the group dynamics of bonding among Filipino males. The commercials portrayed peer friendship as the fun and satisfaction behind group drinking. It brought San Miguel to the mass consumer level, erasing the previous beer drinking consumption portrayed in community socials. With “Iba Ang May Pinagsamahan,” beer drinking became truly mass-based. With beer consumed widely, beer gardens mushroomed all over to accommodate a big demand for group drinking.
Basic Advertising – Jollibee’s “Langhap Sarap.” This advertising is the most celebrated and admired for its role in creating the most successful local and global brand to emerge in modern times.
Langhap-Sarap was a masterful use of consumer insights based on Filipino and Asian culinary ways. Using local spices and condiments in cooking aromatic and appetizing food gives sensual signals. It differentiates Filipino food from bland and neutral tasting food.
Langhap-Sarap is one of those immortal advertising campaigns that’s irreplaceable. It’s got vivid appeal for current and new generations of fastfood lovers.