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February 09, 2009

REINERIO A. ALBA

During a lunch with friends, conversation drifted to television and eventually to favorite or memorable TV commercials one remembers. There was a brief pause and then the answers came flooding in.

The first replies had everyone instantly in stitches. One mentioned the TV commercial of Ola detergent bar and proceeded to sing the song at once complete with the wave of the hands. Another butted in with the song from White Castle whiskey TV commercial that had the guys in the group chorusing about the signature red two-piece suit worn by the woman riding the white horse. The others in the group looked on in puzzlement, quick to say that it was a Jurassic piece of ad for them. In an instant, hands were all over the necks of the ones “in denial.”

Admittedly, being asked about one’s favorite TV commercials through the years inevitably opens trunks of memories. Preacher Pierce Harris could not have put it more aptly when he wrote in his column at the Atlanta Journal that memory is like a child walking along a seashore—“you never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.”  

Surfing through some of the local message boards revealed such “treasured” memories. In one such message board, we encounter people happily recalling TV commercials made for 680 Home Appliances and the ditty “why don’t you shop around with your friends…” or of the Bear Brand “Look at my mole” grandfather. These are mentioned in the same breath as the TV commercials by both La Germania and Tecnogas ranges. There is also the rubbing alcohol ad that popularized the lines: “Di lang pampamilya, pang-Sports pa!” In another, there is a mention of the deathless ad of lion-tiger katol where this white guy delivers the memorable line: “sa lion-tiger katol, lamok ay laging teypok.”

The Lion-Tiger katol ad is a proof that local ad agencies had been capitalizing on humor early on and the revival of this has been noted by John Hunt, film jury president during the recently concluded Cannes 25th year International Ad Festival held in Cannes, France. “I’ve seen more humor back in advertising. Maybe we’re allowed to be a little lighter, which I think is a happy return from a few years ago when you felt guilty if you laughed.”

It serves us to remember that in 1984, it was humor, too, that clinched for the ad of San Miguel Beer the very first Creative Guild Television Ad of the Year award. The TV commercials showed, among others, the late Bert “Tawa” Marcelo, Rico Puno, and the late boxer “Flash Elorde” right in the middle of deciding on the best “pulutan” to order that would go best with their beers, firing off with suggestions of “inihaw na pusit,” two plates of “kalderetang maanghang,” three large bowls of “crispy pata” until, at last, Elorde butted in to tell the waiter “Bigyan mo kami ng isang platitong mani.” (Give us one plate of nuts.) The line “isang platitong mani” became a favorite catchphrase among Filipinos when placing their orders at restaurants that it even became the title of a local movie.

The Philippine Advertising Counsellor that created the said TV commercial was obviously in tune with what advertising guru David Ogilvy himself preached. Ogilvy cited “slices of life” and “dashes of humor” as among several elements that make TV commercials register in the minds of the market it is trying to capture. Taking more than a hint, San Miguel Corp. pulled a stunt anew in 1988 and came up with its Gold Eagle Beer commercial hit involving Christopher de Leon and the late Jay Ilagan in a billiards game—who wouldn’t remember the lines “Abangan mo sa right corner pocket, sumakay ka pa!” (Wait for it at the corner right pocket. You can even ride the stick.)

One such TV commercial that capitalized on humor was the Fita biscuits ad where a guy gave half of his biscuit to an old lady who turned out to be a fairy. The storyline concluded with the guy being rewarded with half of a red sportscar. Seen on another level though, there is definitely more than humor to the said commercial as TV audiences related to the value of generosity ingenuously floated in the said ad. Value-laden ads, obviously, almost always score a ten from TV audiences as evidenced by the easily recognizable dialogue in a TV ad between a grandfather and his supposed granddaughter:

“San ka ba galing, Gina?”
“Lo, Karen po…”
“Kasi, ang tagal na nating di nagkikita, Gina”
“Lo, Karen po….”
“O sige, kain na, Gina.”
“Karen po!”
“Ito, para sa paborito kong apo… si Karen!”

Back on the table that lunch time day with my friends, one was quick to contribute the hit 45-seconder Sarsi cola commercial in 1989 that came with a song that opened with the lines “Hindi ka ba natatawa, o kaya’y nagtataka? Ganoon nga ba’ng talaga? Pare-pareho na lang ba?…” (Don’t you find it funny, or don’t you wonder? Are things really that way? Is everything the same?), praising its production values as well and the way it played up the Filipinos’ sense of pride. Others in the group claimed the TV commercials like the Jollibee’s “Isa pa, isa pang chicken joy” ad, the Carlo-infatuated hotdog-eating girl, or the Coca-cola “ito ang beat sabay-sabay” ad as belonging more to their milleau. Everyone was in agreement though on the popularity of “Tolits” of the Tide commercial series or of “Aling Oba” of the Surf  commercial series. The “queens” in the group were not to be left out and threw into the discussion the PLDT commercial involving “Billy”and further raved about the Pond’s commercial involving two guys holding hands in public.

Having had our fill each of an afternoon of discussion and remembrances of TV commercials we all have grown to love through the years, we headed back to our own work desks convinced of the creative energy involved in TV commercials and the power of the same not only in involving us individually in the products being sold but, more importantly, in reflecting and hearkening to otherwise forgotten aspects of ourselves as well.