Article by Gian de Guzman and Bea Sancio
Art by Julian Paderes
On the surface, advertising is associated with selling products for businesses. However, this industry also promotes ideas and narratives.
In the world of advertising, a target audience serves as the mold for how these ideas— or, in politicians’ case, their self-image and platform— will be shown to the public. Every note and lyric of a campaign jingle and every line of an awe-inspiring rags-to-Congress-Chair journey are formed so that we perceive these people in a certain way.
Advertising is a craft that forwards ideas and speaks to people. However, one quality it shares with all fields is its tendency to be weaponized by the wrong hands and with ill intent. This means that it’s possible that advertising can be used to alter a person’s version of history, much like how advertising has influenced our view on fitness and productivity, which are daily elements of our lives.
Advertising is a craft that forwards ideas and speaks to people, and it’s a craft that the Marcos family has, unfortunately, practiced well. They knew how to perfectly fit their version of history into the mold of their target audience; they knew how to leave a mark.
To pique a target audience’s interest, an advertisement has to be unique.
Ferdinand Marcos made sure that he appeared to be one of the masses, to show that it is possible for the poor to be in power and help the poor. However, even before Marcos, there was Ramon Magsaysay who channeled this image as well. So, what else could Marcos have used?
The Marcoses used myths. Advertisements are effective when they speak to their target audience. To do this, advertisements resourcefully use what is relatable. Ferdinand and Imelda were immortalized in Malakas and Maganda paintings, respectively. The “Malakas at Maganda” origin story was one of the first learned during that time. It was a myth the Filipino grew up with; it is relevant and relatable.
What makes myths so effective? Not only are myths relatable, but they are also open to more vibrant narratives that the public can easily enjoy and understand. With this myth, Marcos and Imelda were able to brand themselves as the first inhabitants of what they wanted to call The New Society, one that is free of social ills. By falsely claiming a status of heroism through their woven narratives, they have proven the power of advertising; the power of a good story. Even up to today, these stories are what have kept Marcos’ image untarnished in many Filipinos’ eyes.
Even with Ferdinand Marcos no longer in office, his family and supporters continue to place the former dictator on a pedestal, lauding his achievements and outrightly denying any of his crimes as a means of preserving his “legacy.”
For instance, a number of suspicious Facebook “fan accounts” and pages have sprung up in support of Marcos. Many of which propagate false claims about Marcos, attempting to dispute his corruption and stolen wealth. One post by Facebook page Pinoy Rap Radio wrongly stated that former first lady Imelda Marcos “won every corruption case” filed against her. Despite this being false, it still gained a lot of traction with over 300,000 engagements before it was spotted, fact-checked, and taken down by Rappler.
The most pressing part about the existing Marcos propaganda is its deliberate attempts to pervade the current state of pandemic. The Marcoses have begun pushing their name to the limelight again because of the COVID-19 outbreak through the resurfacing of certain “brands” that they endorsed during Martial Law: the Nutribun and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), among others.
In the case of Nutribuns, San Miguel Corporation announced that they would be using Nutribuns once again to feed families who are currently facing hunger. Back in 1972, the Marcoses also took advantage of a crisis, a typhoon to be exact, to make the Nutribun part of their success story. However, there have been doubts as to whether this campaign was successful in curbing malnutrition at all. Nevertheless, Imee and Bongbong Marcos continue to claim that the Nutribun was successful in its goals even when there were no tell-tale signs of that.
As for RITM, Imee Marcos teasingly reminded Filipinos that it was her father who built the said institution. She emphasized the fact that almost all testing in the first weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak was done in RITM.
By banking on Filipinos’ sentimentality of these “brands,” the Marcoses are clearly seeking out ways for us to dissociate their family from their grisly crimes. We must keep a watchful eye on their fresh attempts at reviving the Marcos propaganda amidst the pandemic.
Now more than ever, there must be no room for opportunism in advertising, not when millions continue to suffer not just from the pandemic, but from the grave repercussions that the Marcos dictatorship brought onto our country.
In the same way that we keep a watchful eye on the Marcoses, we must be wary of the current Duterte administration in their own attempts to cover up their incompetencies.
Good advertising entails storytelling, but it also necessitates truth-telling. We owe our audiences that truth. Advertising can be groundbreaking, but never mind-numbing. Advertising can be disruptive, but never destructive.
We stand firm as believers of advertising that fiercely advocates the truth and that is in service of others, not one’s self.
Together, we say, #NeverAgain. Not on our watch.
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