Filipino TV and advertising must be some of the most witless in the world. The television, which I absorbed on long bus rides in from the airport, seemed to consist mostly of shampoo commercials. Sometimes there would be three or four in a row. At least 50% of TV advertisements were haircare-related. The other 50% represented what is known in the business as “fast moving consumer goods”, ie relatively cheap household items. There were ads for (heavily) processed foods, skin whitening creams and detergents (and of course hair conditioners) but none for, say, cars or electronics. One washing up liquid commercial saw a modelesque woman in a white lab coat pass a ‘germometer’ over a garment, making a high tech buzzing sound to show that there were “zero percent germs” left. This was met by a round of gleaming smiles from her fellow ‘lab assistants’ all around.
Occassionally a brief segment of programming would appear, as an afterthought, amid the lengthy commercial breaks. On my two-hour trip back to the airport this consisted of a drama? sitcom ? titled “Tweets for my Sweet” which took up pretty much the whole two hours. In it, three fresh-faced, ridiculously fair-skinned girls were running a coffeeshop. This episode, they had just won the lottery. There was no reference, other than the title, to ‘tweeting’ in it anywhere. The acting was poor – but then no worse than “Home and Away” – but the thing that struck me most was the lack of any ‘drama’, the actors just wandered in and out of flimsy sets, talking goodnaturedly to each other about, seemingly, not much. None of the actresses looked Filipino at all and one clearly could not speak Tagalog because whenever another character addressed her she answered back in English. She was probably some kind of Sandara-like (see above) light-skinned import. Everyone in the bus sat glued to the people on the screen, who looked nothing like them.
The weird thing is though that somehow, despite this, the show kind of sucked me in. I even found myself youtubing it when I was back in Hong Kong. Just looking at those fresh white faces, with their lustrous, well-conditioned hair, had a strangely relaxing effect. Its almost as if the lack of drama is the point. In a country full of everyday conflict, people long to be soothed instead.
This billboard is fairly representative of the level of Philippines advertising. Its slogan is “don’t be a loser (buy our product)”. How nuanced.