And now, a word from a former advertising girl

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2020 - 12:00am

For 32 years I worked in advertising. I made attempts to get out, believe me, but I always got pirated back. I always said yes to the offers because they doubled my salary. Remember, I was a single working parent who supported her whole family. I needed the money.

All those years I thought we might have been the most misunderstood profession on the face of the earth. Sometime back I came across a book titled Advertising: The Uneasy Persuasion. I bought it and read it. It spoke exactly about my feelings — that, as a profession, we were greatly misunderstood.

I looked up the word “advertising” on Google. All the entries said it was about people trying to sell products to people who wanted them. That’s a statement that I edited because it was more elaborate than that, and it did not say why advertising existed in the first place.

Advertising as we know it today began with the invention of the printing press. Let’s say you owned a printing press and wanted to print a simple 10-page magazine that gave information to people who, you hoped, would buy it. Let’s say you charged P5 for each copy of the magazine. The number of people who buy your magazine makes up your circulation figure. Let’s say 1,000 people bought your magazine for P5. You would have P5,000 in hand. But it costs a lot of money to own your printing press, to buy paper and ink for your printing, to pay for your binding. You would not make enough money to stay in business.

One of the fellows you talked with came up with a bright idea: Why don’t we sell parts of the pages to the people who are trying to sell their products? They can put a picture of their product and write whatever it is they want to say about it so people might buy. We can charge them more. That way we can cover our costs or maybe even make a profit.

So they tried that system. Initially it was a little difficult but when the product manufacturers saw that there was a lift in their sales, they knew the system worked! Later on the other media — radio, movies, television, now the internet — followed suit.

So media advertising has as its main, almost invisible function to provide the media networks with money for their operating expenses to fund the shows they offer. What are operating expenses? The cost of doing business: salaries and benefits for all the people who work there, equipment and its maintenance, the costs of production of a show, the talent fees of all the talents who are featured in their dramas. All those costs are covered by advertising revenues.

The other function of media advertising is the production of the material used to attract people to try the product being advertised. That was provided by advertising agencies. The biggest account I handled was Coca-Cola at McCann-Erickson. We had pattern material, meaning ads that were produced in New York then sent all over the world to wherever Coca-Cola was sold. We could use those or we could produce our own material. We did both, plus we were the ones who launched Star Force, a group that introduced then young talents, the most memorable being Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera. Those were, for me, the memorable days of Coca-Cola.

How did you determine the success of advertising? If you made a strong positive impact on the audience, you were successful. This was told by the sales figure. I remember when I came into the Coca-Cola account we had 30 percent of the entire number of soft drinks sold in the Philippines. We doubled that figure. When I left, Pepsi had 30 percent; we had 60 percent. The remaining 10 percent was shared by the other soft-drink brands.

Why am I writing this now? So many people are unhappy over the state of affairs in this country. The leading network’s franchise has been cancelled for reasons only the government understands. If they are thinking of setting up another network, it will take time for them to get off the ground, to be as successful as ABS-CBN was. You don’t just step into someone’s successful shoes and immediately inherit his success. But I guess the dark powers that be will use their powers to force advertising support, which they will need to make the new network strong and successful again.

That’s what ABS-CBN had. It had the people’s trust. It had a long relationship with the masses who loved its shows and with the advertisers who needed the attention of those masses. But then, maybe I am being naïve in my belief that we will continue as a democracy where freedom of speech is held in high respect. Maybe we are slowly but surely slipping into a resurgence of martial law but called by some other amorphous name.

We must be alert and very careful about that.

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