Arriving in the U.S. from Manila in 1970, I quickly noted some of the major differences between the two countries. I had never seen an Interstate before. Nor had I seen a mall; all we had was a small shopping center.
Today, the Philippines has made some “progress.” Although the roads are still poor compared to the U.S., Metro Manila is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to malls.
The Mall of Asia, on Manila Bay, is one of the 10 largest malls in the world but only third largest in the Philippines. With 1,000 stores and 360 dining options spread over 4.4 million square feet, it’s larger than the Mall of America’s 500 stores and less than 100 dining options over 3.8 million square feet.
But more than the physical differences, I also noticed the cultural differences. The cultural difference is apparent in television commercials. In the Philippines, family and friends are at the top of the cultural totem pole. The next two positions are taken by eating / food and music. So TV commercials tend to embrace these priorities.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve selected some Philippine TV commercials which demonstrate my point. As you watch them, think about how American TV commercials for similar (and in some cases identical) products present their message.
Many of the commercials are in Tagalog or a mixture of it and English but you should be able to understand the commercial. And, I’ll summarize it as needed.
The American McDonald’s commercials I’ve seen focus on price. Here’s a Philippine McDonald’s commercial of a granddaughter and her memory-impaired grandfather. Notice her expressions throughout the commercial.
Here’s another Mcdonald’s commercial that focuses on relationships. If you don’t say “aaaaw…” at the ending, you have no romantic impulse.
What is McDonald’s selling? A super-sized portion of feelings with burger and fries on the side.
This airline commercial is also based on family / friends while targeting the notorious “Filipino time” in which punctuality is not observed. Notice the scene where the main character brings the top part of his hand to the forehead of an elder person. This is a Filipino token of honor and respect.
The American commercials for Aleve feature folks who want to go back to it after trying another brand. But this Philippine Advil commercial uses a family setting to deliver its message that one Advil is as strong as two of something else.
The “dark” side of relationships is the focus of this two-part glue commercial:
Filipinos especially appreciate good sense of humor. This biscuit commercial combines that with a nod to the generous nature of Filipinos.
This “Bingo” biscuit commercial also employs humor.
The Internet is so easy even your Lola (grandmother) can use it!
Philippine highways may have a long way to go to catch up to U.S. standards. But U.S. commercials have a long way to go to catch up to Filipino ones. Maybe if U.S. commercials emulated their Filipino counterparts, folks wouldn’t turn away from the TV when a commercial comes on.