Monday, February 27

And now the shampoo commercials...

This happen to you? You are riding an almost jam-packed jeepney and rubbing elbows with complete strangers. Still, you try to enjoy the rare gush of city air hitting your solemn face, until… long strands of hair lash your cheeks like cat-o’-nine-tails! And you angrily ask: What creature does this scourge come from?

As you identify the culprit, the jeepney’s hi-bass sound system coincidentally sings “Straight… at natural, at ‘di mahal… Mukhang sosyal…” No wonder that girl next to you unnecessarily flaunts her hair, at the expense of you being tortured. You might like the smell of it, but can’t she just tie it in a public jeepney, for crissakes? You are just plain unfortunate. The monster that owns the whips called “long, straight, beautiful hair” is right next to you.

How unlucky can you get? But all of us are unlucky and unconscious victims of this commercial folly. Need I say more?

Try watching primetime TV, that is, from 6:00 to 7:00 in the evening, and count all the shampoo (and conditioner) advertisements shown. I did this experiment, and I got 20! That means, there is an average of one shampoo advertisement for every three minutes! Well that really doesn’t come as a surprise; everybody knows that. There are even three 15-second commercials of the same shampoo that are being shown one after the other. (That ridiculous series with a ridiculous catch-phrase: “Girls get it” – No wonder I don’t).

Okay, let me set things straight. I am in no way against long hair. (Ano’ng paki ko sa long hair nyo; inggit lang ako dahil ako’y kalbo?) What is sad about these advertisements coming on air like clockwork is the large but wrong influence that they have on the TV-watching population. A 2003 study by McCann-Erickson confirmed that media has become a “surrogate partner” to the youth, which spends 8-14 hours a week watching TV. Majority, if not all, of this crowd, are not aware that these commercials shown to them are oftentimes being absurd and one-dimensional.

Take the shampoo commercials. They all claim that their product can take care of your “black and shiny” hair and keep it “long, straight and beautiful.” Some even come with very bad Taglish slogans like “Buhaghag-free” or “parang cinellophane” or “buhok na straight at may body”. And why always say “99.9% dandruff-free” when no one can count dandruff flakes? Why say it’s “natural” when all the hair in the ads are obviously digitally-manipulated?

The effect of these commercials are worrying. The audience that are frequently bombarded with images of absurdity and wrong concepts of beauty eventually accept the “ideologies” that they get from the commercials. These ads dangerously manipulate the minds of TV viewers into thinking that their products should be bought. Shampoo commercials, for instance, teach that women (and even men) must have a certain type of hair and look a certain way to be beautiful.

And if these commercials continue to sing foolish songs like “Balik freshness, balik bounce” and employ pretty faces and dancing girls just to endorse the products, then the youth will regrettably learn “short-circuit decision-making”. The product with the most enjoyable dance steps or the prettiest endorser will have to be bought.

But something can be done even if these irresponsible profiteers go on with spending billions on advertising their products. You read that right, they spend billions. Advertising research agency AC Nielsen reports that in Philippine media, 10 billion pesos a year is shelled out for hair care ad expenditures (that’s where all the shampoo music videos come from); 6 billion for skin care (whitening the Ati, for example); and 3 billion for oral care (aah… the maker of the Toothpaste Commercial Smile).

Then again, something can be done. We can all be more conscious and concerned with our choices. By practicing responsible consumerism, we can stop these advertisements from polluting our mind with short messages of what’s cool, what’s in, what’s beautiful. We should beware of those commercials that fool the consumers.

And then we can enjoy riding a jeepney without being whipped in the face.
(To be published in the Wesneco Torch March 2006 Magazine)

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