The World: Insider's View - Philippines

Advertisers must stop settling for cheap, irritating and poor-quality ads and instead use humour to appeal to Filipino consumers, David Guerrero writes.

Globalisation is neither as quick nor as total as everyone seems to think. Take media independents. It was probably a very sound idea in mid-80s London. Cut to today's Manila and you'll find a market that has only just "caught up".

Of course, the latest thinking from the best agencies in the US and UK is that it would be a good idea to bring media back in-house. And put creative teams inside media agencies. Brilliant. And a great case for not following any trends, ever.

But here we are, and this is what it is leading to: the TV networks (eager to fill their 24-minute-an-hour commercial quotas) are realising that creative agencies are no longer their customers - the media independents are. So they do not have to fear upsetting them. Which means offering larger clients "free" ads (shot on Betacam, seemingly in one take, with a celebrity or two thrown in). Takers so far include Unilever, Procter & Gamble and many more.

Then clients (often, for some reason, chocolate-biscuit brands) go straight to production houses with freelance creatives, who take refuge in total anonymity while cranking out jingles that repeat the product name 50 times in 30 seconds ("Choco Bix, Choco Bix, Choco, Choco, Choco Bix"). And media agencies are doing the same thing.

The scary bit for creative agencies is that savvier media independents are commissioning research to prove that the "Choco Bix" approach actually works better than the painstaking, two-day shoot that traditionally precedes the consumption of 30 seconds of airtime.

It is fragmentation, but not as we know it. The media vehicles are constant and traditional - with the exception of the ubiquitous SMS - but the content is coming from everywhere. This is all predicated on quality not being much of an issue. And the industry only has itself to blame.

The prescription is an obvious one. Either agencies become demonstrably better at producing ideas that work better than "Choco Bix", or they'll end up scrabbling around for more ways to cram in more bix for your buck.

Effectiveness awards should help to change minds.

In an effort to speed that process along, we recently commissioned and presented a study on the kind of humour that works best for Filipinos.

We have a population of 80 million people, about 30 million of whom live below the poverty line. Yet surveys show that "pinoys" are the happiest people in Asia.

Humour is hugely important in helping people deal with their daily problems.

And an advertiser that can provide it is already building a long-term relationship with its audience. Confronting honest truths and using visual gags work well, too.

At the rate we're going, it is the agencies that need to see the funny side.

- David Guerrero is the chief creative officer of BBDO Guerrero-Ortega.

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