By L.S. Mendizabal
I will not say how the ad goes because if you have been on social media the past week, you know the one. You’d also know that it has caused quite a stir among netizens with their reactions ranging from “Brilliant! Genius!” to “This is gross!” preceding an emoji that’s about to puke. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google “RC Cola Commercial” and proceed at your own risk.
Full-blown reviews, analyses of and speculations about the ad have been circulating on Twitter and Facebook, and boy, are they some of the most entertaining, ridiculous things I’ve read in a while after Panelo’s speech for Duterte’s birthday. But what does the viral commercial really mean according to its creators? Gigil Advertising Agency co-founder Herbert Hernandez explains that they wanted to convey “a mother’s unconditional love.” “The mother poured her all for her [adopted] child. Even if they are not related, she loves him,” he says in an interview with ABS-CBN News. Um, okay.
Some who actually adopted or were adopted didn’t get this particular message from the ad, saying that it made a joke out of the social stigma that comes with adoption, with others also pointing out an undercurrent of colorism in it (the adopted kid was portrayed by someone with darker complexion and textured curly hair). I happen to think that being offended by this commercial is completely valid and inevitable. Clearly, the ad, despite what its creators may tell us, was designed to shock, provoke discussion, possibly enrage some people and generally sell the product. Whether we like it or not, it has succeeded in its objectives. We probably won’t be able to look at a bottle of RC Cola (and our mothers) the same way ever again. And I bet more households are now going to be reminded of it come merienda time. With its lower selling price compared to its competitors’, why not?
Then again, why do people drink soda, instant coffee or beer in the first place? Why do we have to choose from a hundred brands of canned food? Why do we whiten our teeth—and as a matter of fact, everything—or want the next technology in phones and cars? The commercial’s tagline, “Basta!” seems to justify all our “needs” as dictated by consumerism.
The viral ad and other bizarre TV commercials of late bring fetishism of commodities here in the Philippines to the next level, a whole genre of the ludicrous and the occasionally disturbing. Expect more “shockvertising” and rage marketing in the coming months, akin to popular TVCs in Japan and Thailand. Fresher, more creative, out-of-the-box ideas will flourish and compete for our money in exchange for products we don’t even need.
Since most of the advertising these days is online, middle class Generation Z seems to be the biggest target audience. These kids practically rule the Internet, sharing memes, trolling one another, engaging in online “bardagulan,” and some such. There’s no limit to the weirdness they are capable of absorbing. After all, this is the generation that invented “Hakdog,” an expression that means literally nothing and merits no logical explanation.
It seems that the joke is lost on those who dare read deeper meanings into the RC Cola ad. We are so taken aback by its graphic, horror-like qualities that we fail to see the sexism in traditional, more visually pleasant TVCs where it’s suggested that a mother should aspire to smile all the time in the midst of hardships, immaculate in appearance, her hair perfectly coifed, always at her husband and children’s beck and call; or the exploitation in ads that depict farmers and workers creating their products to be absolutely blissful beings, thanks to good ol’ Filipino spirit of resilience and an optimistic Eraserheads song playing in the background.
Sex and sexism sell, so does resilience porn. Surrealism seems to be the next frontier for local advertising. I’d be lying if I said that the RC Cola ad’s irrational dark humor didn’t make me laugh. But more importantly, it also gives me hope that we are indeed at the cusp of the dying of late capitalism. Ah, basta! #
Abellon, B. (2020). “From the makers of the viral RC Cola ad”. ABS-CBN News. Retrieved from https://news.abs-cbn.com/ancx/culture/spotlight/11/30/20/from-the-makers-of-the-viral-rc-cola-ad-these-equally-goofy-commercials
Cruz, A. (2020). “Some netizens think RC Cola’s new ad is insensitive”. Preen.ph. Retrieved from https://preen.ph/118794/rc-cola-ad-insensitive-netizen-reactions-bn