Billboards can also get controversial. Early this year, underwear advertisements of the Philippine Rugby Team were pulled out as they were deemed indecent and unsuitable for public view. It caused government officials to propose stricter guidelines in billboard advertisement content especially in major roads in Metro Manila. This week has seen another billboard controversy this time, about race.
BAYO, a Philippine clothing brand has launched its new advertising campaign just in time with the opening of a new school year. Its main slogan “What’s your mix?” allegedly encourages consumers to be more daring and playful with their fashion styles. The billboard advertisements released for the campaign typically show a model wearing ordinary (borderline boring) matching outfits with a bold text in the middle stating the model’s lineage. 50% Australian and 50% Filipino, 60% African and 40% Filipino. The brand’s tagline has, apparently, gone too far in including race as part of its “mixing and matching” campaign – an area advertisers dare not tread due to the potential backlash if not communicated well. Sadly, such was the case for this advertisement campaign.
Ordinary Filipino commuters were puzzled about the advertisement’s message. Do we have to be a mix of other nationality to be considered beautiful? Is race a matter of mixing and matching? Why on earth do they have to put the percentage sign if it’s not about discounts and sales? The “What’s your mix?” Manifesto BAYO has released also didn’t do much in justifying the visual advertisements and was actually the target of criticism for its incoherence and grammatical errors. As if tweets and posts weren’t enough, netizens who have all the time in the world just had to add insult to injury and create memes.
I come across at least one of these BAYO billboard advertisements everyday and I can only think of sad words to describe the ad concept. What an attempt! If only it was properly executed, the campaign wouldn’t cause this much stir. I’m a proud supporter of the brand to be honest. Its years in the market attests to its success as a fashion brand – a feat which is rare for a Filipino company. It just bothers me that despite years of being in the business, they still don’t get their major target market. Filipinos are very insecure and majority would often go out of their way to alter their physical features and feel beautiful. Our notions of beauty are in the polarizing end once compared to our natural physical features. You can count with your fingers the highly successful celebrities who are 100% Filipino in the local showbiz industry and you can only shake your head with the uncountable number of Filipinas who are doing everything they can to bag a foreign husband (for themselves or for their daughters) thinking it would be their ticket to a good life.
That deep-rooted insecurity plus the general sensitivity of Filipinos when it comes to subjects related to Pride and Nationalism, is a sure formula for a tabloid controversy.
As a Filipina-looking Filipina (I really have to go out of my way to say that eh?), I think we can do away with these kinds of advertisement strategies and stick with just selling the product without having to involve race, gender, class what have you. At the end of the day, these advertisements are after income anyway, and they don’t need to pretend to promote a cause for the sake of profit. Because consumerism is consumerism and the last thing you want to see while wasting your life stuck in traffic is a poster, the size of a two-story house, telling you that you’re not beautiful enough for the sole reason that you are what you are.
As of this posting, BAYO has succumbed to cyber lynching and has released a statement of apology which promised to take down the billboards of the campaign.