OK. What will they think of next?
I know there is an entire science where people dedicate their lives to turn them into full-fledged and profitable careers to convince the public to buy this, buy that ... not this, but that. Considering the kind of economic crunch most if not nearly all of us are experiencing (except for Manny Pacquiao and the selected few whose houses are featured from Tatler to Yes Magazine), the world of advertising has never been more competitive --- if not neurotic.
You still need proof?
Drive down the stretch of EDSA, baby. If that is not a visual overload, I do not know what is.
I do remember in my younger and more vulnerable days, those precious years when I still had use for styling mousse and a blow dryer, there was a skyline on EDSA. Yes, you could still see the sky and not this proliferation of gargantuan billboards trying to outdo each other and creating such a mental frenzy to anyone still capable of functional vision.
I couldn't help but remember the most memorable scenes from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, filmed decades ago but slowly but surely becoming a part of our everyday reality. All the subliminal messages bombarded into our brain cells that we become so completely oblivious of carbon monoxide belched out by those evil buses who are going to gas us out of this incarnation.
We have become so desensitized by so many mammoth photos of the Presidential Baby Sister endorsing everything from wristwatches to washing machines or even insect-killing electric fans! Dios mio! Or the Pambansang Kamao himself endorsing everything from beer to your favorite sawsawan vinegar. Betcha by golly!
And, of course, we all remember that big brouhaha about the series of giant billboards lining the other side of EDSA going northbound from the Guadalupe Bridge. Who would have thought that a mayor would make such a stink-o branding the wall-to-wall photos of crotch-worthy rugby players a hazard for drivers? Well, yes ... if he who is behind the wheel is busy assessing the battle of the bulges. One thing you can say about Bench: it certainly knows how to grab public attention. After all, it was through the ad campaigns of Ben Chan's clothing and now lifestyle line that Richard Gomez became an icon --- and Jake Cuenca became the poster boy of extra-tight skivvies, right?
The sensation caused by so much flesh and so little underwear was enough for the company to launch bi-annual fashion shows at no less than the Smart Araneta Coliseum. This fiesta of briefs and bras is like a nightmare version of a Victoria's Secret Fashion show where you do not have a select number of angels strutting their stuff down the ramp but the entire cast of Dante's Inferno parading down the ramp in glammed-up interpretations on What You can Do with a Pair of Briefs and a Lot of Guts.
In a marketplace too crowded with each product screaming, "Buy me! Buy me!" the bottom line is that you gotta have a gimmick.
Amid the boom of real estate development, where our country is trying to impersonate Hong Kong and Singapore in the proliferation of high rise residences, SM Development Corporation has adequately taken the same route of using celebrity endorsements to push their projects.
I mean, I love (and I mean this from the bottom of my heart) Anne-Bisyosa herself but to make her and Kim Chiu as the muses of condos is something I am still trying to figure out. (I am also still trying to decipher why there was a billboard with Krissy, adorable Baby James-morphed-as-toddler-Bimby and our favorite indie actor turned telenovela prince Coco "Da Yammy" Martin huddled together. I have to make a research paper on semiotics to make sense out of that one.) Throw in Matteo G. in the fray as well. It must be representing the young and exciting lifestyle --- but I doubt if anyone within the age range of Anne, Kim or Matteo can afford these condos not unless they are Anne, Kim and Matteo.
Or better yet, the most celebrated ice cream product in the market today had everyone cooing and swooning over the taste of their favorite flavors. Is yours almond? Belgian chocolate? Truffles? A great part of this sudden craving to take a bite of these ice cream bars has got nothing to do with cooling off with the onslaught of summer. It had everything to do with the high-end launch that had all of Manila's most recently photographed denizens of the society pages ( call them the "A"-set, Honey ... the beautiful people who make a living out of existing in a beautiful manner and to be seen as nothing else but such) taking a delicious bite.
I laughed when one of my cheapskate friends (definitely not invited to the launch) made a comment about the cost per bar of the newly launched product and described it as Pinipig Crunch without the pinipig. But then again, said friend of mine could not distinguish Lady Godiva truffles from a mini-bar of Chocnut. "Pasensiya ka na," he said with utmost sarcasm when another friend commented about his somewhat low-end taste having been born and raised on the wrong side of the City of Makati, "Hindi ako sanay kumain ng mamahaling ice-cream. Masaya na ako sa Scramble." Point well taken except for the fact that my other friend reacted: "Scramble? Wat dat?"
So it is not enough that you have monumental launches or sponsor crowd-pleasing events. As Mommy Rose of Gypsy Rose Lee would say, you really gotta have a gimmick. And now it is a battle of the ultimate gimmickry.
In a few days, for instance, at the island resort of Boracay --- you can be rest assured that the sanctity of the Lenten Season will be venerated by events sponsored by cigarette companies, telecommunication corporations and all the beverage products associated with summer.
Part of the fun of escaping to the island is to be part of the splashy events where everyone can come in their board shorts, bikinis and Havaianas then crawl back to their resorts with mouth frothing, fine white sand on their faces and not remembering what happened the night before.
All the while, the narrow passageways between Stations 1 to 3 of Boracay will be filled with promo boys and girls whose main duty (at about P3000/day pay) is to flash their abs or their bobbing bosoms to convince folks that it is OK to have shots of nicotine
or booze while watching the sunset and listening to house music. They charm you, flirt with you ... then convince you to get a prepaid card where you can have unlimited text messages. Fair enough.
Can anyone really imagine Boracay in the summer without all the advertising?
So it is now a matter of really pushing the envelope right at the edge of the table. What else can advertisers do to sell their products without falling in the same trap that has been done for the past twenty years? Well, trust creativity ... and the art of being tongue-in-cheek.
When you start mounting fashion shows in supermarkets on a weekend ---with clothes straight from the racks of a designer like Randy Ortiz or directed by Jackie Aquino --- you know that some strange mindset is operating somewhere. When a detergent bar like Champion decides to show how potent their stain-removing power can work on beloved clothes, uh, you wonder --- what were these people thinking? Simple. They staged that fashion show while housewives were busy trying to spell broccoli.
Well, who are we to say just how far people would go to sell their product?
It is no longer merely what ... but how you can catch the attention of a blase audience who is so used to voyeurism that their lives have been diminished to that of a housemate in Kuya's house. But when you have models sashaying down supermarket aisles wearing transparent plastic overcoats and splashing catsup, mustard, mayonnaise and God knows what else they had in mind --- you know that this has gone beyond crazy. And all this is done to show how Champion can remove stains that easily.
This had people applauding and perhaps You-Tubing the entire event without completely understanding how downright surreal life has become. But then ... whatever. If you build, they will come. If you amuse, they might just buy. And if they buy, you have made your point. Better yet, you created that important event that had your product remembered.
OK. I get it. In a crowded marketplace, you can't just be good. You also have to be better in being crazy.
And being crazy can be an entire science itself.