Director: Henry Frejas/Publicis Manila
Client: Nestlé Philippines
A spectre is haunting our TV screens, the spectre of Nestlé corporate social responsibility.
In Nescafé Classic’s new advertisement curiously entitled “Manifesto,” the multinational company Nestlé teases Filipino consumers through what one reviewer dubs as “a thought-provoking and inspirational” 60-second television commercial which purportedly awakens (bangon) and revives the Filipino sense of community, patriotism, and development.
Created by Publicis Manila, “Manifesto” combines a smooth musical score, a dramatic, quaint suburban feel of the images, and an appealing script to sell Nescafé coffee, distinguishing between ordinary paggising (waking up) and its more loaded synonym pagbangon (rising) with reason and purpose. The viewer is presented with the idea that the latter act is more meaningful, on a whole other level from the regular ritual of waking up. One should/does not merely wake up, but rather rise each day with inspiration, like a phoenix rising from ruin. The marketing subtext, of course, is the implied correlation drawn between the “better act” of pagbangon and drinking the brand; that by drinking Nescafé Classic each time one rises, one is driven to get up, keep a moment of reflection and ponder “for whom one rises.”
Para kanino ka bumabangon?
Para sa anak. Para sa kaibigan. Para sa ‘di mo kakilala.
Para sa bata. Sa isip-bata.
Para sa marami. Para sa sarili.
‘Pag may Nescafé Classic na puro at tunay, sumasarap ang umaga.
Para hindi ka lang basta gumigising.
Bumabangon ka nang may dahilan.
Dahil pag tinulungan mong bumangon ang isang tao, parang buong bayan na rin ang bumabangon.
Bangon na sa Nescafé Classic.
The question para kanino ka bumabangon (for whom do you rise?) also attempts to represent the individual’s dream of progress, change and development for oneself, one’s community and one’s country. This objective is very much in line with the optimism that accompanied the Noynoy Aquino administration’s promise for change and development. “Manifesto” director Henry Frejas in the same review admits the “timeliness of the theme” with the “palpable resurgence of the Filipino pride.” (Weh?)
There are however a number of problems with the theme of “Manifesto” and its flaunted inspirational/nationalistic value which need to be questioned if not corrected. Otherwise, taking the message of the TV spot as it is would gloss over the fact that “Manifesto” is still, just and primarily an ad, a cultural product propagated to sell a commodity which can interestingly be both the instant coffee and the liberal communitarian values (a.k.a. corporate social responsibility) espoused by multinational and transnational companies like Nestlé. The viewer-consumers unfortunately are not as often reminded of Nestlé Philippines’ appalling record of workers’ rights violations, numerous cases of unfair labor practices and the alleged perpetration of the murder of the Nestlé workers’ union president Diosdado Fortuna. Thanks to mainstream mass media, who are wont to forget, even exclude (due to reliance on advertising revenues from Nestlé and other big businesses) these nonetheless important issues.
One such problem is the distinction made between paggising and pagbangon, which is the core conceptual play of the script. At first glance, the bias on pagbangon as active, practical, and change-bringer (over paggising, which is passive and routinary) is almost radical and progressive. And while it is true that pagbangon connotes action and practice—which in the final analysis is more desirable even to Marx (see 11th thesis on Feuerbach)—the subjective relegation of paggising to a mechanical act dangerously puts the two concepts in opposing ends, when paggising in the political and philosophical sense is integral to pagbangon. Political movements refer to it as the stage of enlightenment. Radical praxis would pertain to paggising as synonymous with pagmulat, the stage of education, for arousing the subjective forces, arming them with a deeper and more holistic understanding of the world and its systemic perversions, and finally drafting a more plausible (and scientific) road to change. Without this stage, the act of pagbangon or practice is doomed to fail because of its empiricism and lack of Reason.
This indifference to an enlightened subject thus, renders the ad’s project to motivate progressive action from the viewers futile. If it ‘inspires’ at all, it does no more than challenge the viewer in finding reason and meaning in living within the current order. As such, it simultaneously effaces the deeply-entrenched harshness of a third world existence. According to the director, the commercial’s cast are real people performing their real occupations. But in complete contrast to the “real” images in “Manifesto” the reality is that an ordinary Filipino sips coffee upon waking, not for “introspection and serenity,” but to prepare oneself for a job where one barely earns enough to live decently. Local coffee producers for example, portrayed in Nestlé ads as smiling natives, are in rapid decline as Nescafé practically monopolizes the industry, sharing 92 percent of the total market. Alongside this, the “new” government is obstinate in adopting the same old policies that favor developed countries by 1., offering cheap labor and a favorable investment climate by systematically undermining bargaining powers of workers through ‘industrial peace’ and unabated repression, and 2., by providing tax exempts and other privileges to foreign investors while on the other hand slashing the budget for social services.
Next is the (mis)appropriation of question “for whom,” which reverberates in the entire script. In the critical school and practice, the question “For whom?” presupposes that contradictions in a class society exist either between the individual good and the collective good, between the dominating and dominated group, or the exploitative and the exploited class. The question thus serves as a basic test of whether one’s praxis upholds the interests of the marginalized towards an egalitarian end. “Manifesto,” however, uses the question “for whom” as plain rhetoric, and later presents a set of eclectic answers—as though anything and everything in the world is in agreement with one another! What underlies the ad therefore is not the nationalist, patriotic value previously attached to the question of “for whom,” but a faithful adherence to and active propagation of liberal pluralism (where the end of all action should serve the individual, as in the series of “para sa…” ending in “para sa sarili”), and the belief that revolutionary praxis can be replaced by charity work and corporate social responsibility (“dahil pag tinulungan mong bumangon ang isang tao, para mo na ring tinulungang bumangon ang bayan”). And these messages further dilute the inherent antagonisms (i.e. between workers and management) perpetrated by monopolists such as Nestlé while at the same time making Nescafé Classic even more palatable to the Filipino consumers by posturing as communitarian and patriotic.
Of course, it would be naïve to expect a commercial of a food giant like Nestlé to be critical of the order that maintains its dominance. Suffice it to say that “Manifesto,” in its attempt to transcend the plain marketing of its product, also appropriates previously revolutionary and mass-appealing rhetoric to effectively inculcate the values and ideologies tolerant of the injustices of the hegemonic order. Until such time when the people become triumphant in claiming power in the economy and politics, nationalist ideals in commercials, no matter how well-crafted, will end up serving the multinationals’ best interest: profit.
Para kanino ka bumabangon? The entire advertisement may be compressed in a single reply: Para sa Nestlé. #
Entry filed under: Advertising, Coco Martin Heidegger, Filipino films, Short films. Tags: advertisement, Bangon, capitalism, coffee, commercial, corporate, corporate social responsibility, Henry Frejas, labor, liberal values, liberalism, Manifesto, multinational, nationalism, Nestlé, Nestlé Philippines, profit, Publicis Manila, spots, transnational, tv spot, tv spots, values.