We’ll Be Right Back After This Commercial Break

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.

Mall of Asia on Manila Bay

Mall of Asia on Manila Bay

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.


9 responses to “We’ll Be Right Back After This Commercial Break

  1. This was great!!! And I most certainly did say “Awww…” at the “First Love” McDonald’s commercial. Years later, they recognize each other because they are dipping French fries in their hot fudge sundaes. Wonderful! So sweet!
    When I used to be a manager for McDonald’s (circa 1987 to 1993) we were always very proud of our commercials. We would have manager’s meetings monthly and if a new commercial was out, they would “preview” it at the meetings. It sounds corny, but it was very motivating.
    It seems to me that since then, they have slipped badly. The commercials are no longer sweet or clever or anything else worth mentioning. They’ve probably switched ad agencies several times since those good old days. Now it seems that the only point is to mention the brand name, maybe with an annoying jingle attached. Even the jingles used to be better…remember “You deserve a break today”?
    Of course, even then, the food sucked, but not as much as it does today. I was there when McDonald’s began making the transition to microwaves (which we were not allowed to call microwaves) and holding cabinets holding pre-cooked food, all in the name of speed as opposed to quality.
    That was the genius of good marketing; you could get people to become attached to a product and a “lifestyle” and a sense of belonging.
    I love advertising, and wish I’d thought of it as a career when I was young enough to do something about it.
    If you ask me, no one will ever top the Budweiser Clydesdales commercials. My advice to them is, don’t switch ad agencies.

    • I do remember “you deserve a break today” but I never understood from “what” although maybe it was designed for each person to come up with their own “break”: from the kids, or whatever.

      As for microwaves, one of the reasons I like Burger King if I’m going to have that instead of Five Guys, is that whenever I go to BK they cook it fresh. And it’s broiled, not fried.

      I thought about mentioning this in the post but didn’t: the commercial for McD’s $1 iced coffee is exactly the reverse of what they do in the PI. In that commercial, the guy who brought back the coffee for his roommate seems to take advantage of the latter’s ignorance that the coffee is on sale and will allow him to pay full price. What a “friend…”

      I’m thinking about doing a post in a few weeks about Filipino store and other signs, which are often clever plays on popular phrases. Such as the styling salon that calls itself: Hair Force One.

      • Well, sc, you can’t get too concrete about the meaning of that jingle. The beauty of it was that it was vague. The important message was that you deserved it, it didn’t matter what you deserved a break from. It highlighted that you were an important person. Marketing genius.

        • Well, that commercial failed with me then because I did not think I was important because of it. Besides, complimenting is one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book. Not gonna work with me!

  2. To quote from the Oracle

    “Don Draper: Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK. “

  3. Very pertinent, pt!

  4. Hi, oh i love this post. I watched tv mainly because of the funny ads. I noticed that US commercials are boring and lack of creativity, focusing on discounts and numbers to dial LOL

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