How truthful are those Villar and Erap ads?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-02-23

When your Chair Wrecker’s February 11 column appeared, our TRUTH IN POLITICAL ADVERTISING proposal became a popular discussion point. The advertising industry’s Advertising Standards Council (ASC) — which we proposed Comelec (Commission on Elections) to tap — became a focal point for enforcing TRUTH IN POLITICAL ADVERTISING.

It is a logical choice. They are advertising professionals and they have been in this undertaking of screening ads for decades if one were to include its predecessor — the Adboard. They are also neutral to the political combatants and being professionals, they easily volunteer to inhibit from participating should there be a conflict of interest or a closeness issue with a political combatant. In the old Adboard and the current ASC, they inhibit from participating without any controversies arising.

In last Friday’s very interesting discussion on Teleradyo between anchors Ted Failon and Pinky Webb and PANA (Philippine Association of National Advertisers) president, Ms. Margot Torres, the operating guidelines of the ASC were reviewed as these could be applied to the screening of political ads. Torres explained how claims, especially assertions of product superiority, have to be substantiated or else the ad will not be allowed. It was also explained by Torres that an advertiser can challenge the product claim of its competitor and if their challenge is substantiated, then the ad is pulled out.

However, your Chair Wrecker does not agree with one element in the present guidelines of the ASC, as it will be applied, if ever, to political ads. That is that practice of disallowing direct comparison advertising.

In Philippine advertising, we avoid direct brand/product comparisons. If ever, you’ll hear only a reference to “the leading brand” or “the other brand” if the one referred to is not a market leader.

Direct comparison advertising is practiced in many countries like the United States and Western Europe as it allows the consumers to be fully informed. It is very odd that here where there is a lot of lying, cheating and deceiving all over the place — we are shying from direct comparison advertising.

Thus, if the Comelec and the ASC will cooperate to endeavor and ensure that there is TRUTH IN POLITICAL ADVERTISING, your Chair Wrecker proposes that this ban on direct comparison advertising should be lifted. The reasons the Advertising Standards Council have for banning direct comparison advertising cannot apply to political advertising simply because the voters have to know both the truthful positive things as well as the truthful unsavory things about the candidates if they are to elect good leaders.

This current presidential campaign has proved the immense impact of political TV advertising. Look at what Manny Villar’s reported over P1 billion advertising spending did for him — placing him in a statistical tie (Pulse Asia, January 2010) with Noynoy Aquino who has been leading the presidential race since entering it last September 2009. Villar had outspent Aquino by a ratio of 5 to 1 in the fourth quarter of 2009 according to the AGB Nielsen Monitoring Report that was announced last Thursday.

In the case of Manny Villar, it is not just the obscene level of advertising spending that ought to be questioned but the content of his ads as well. Those checks in one of his TV ads proclaiming the many so-called accomplishments and generous acts of Villar should be verified and proved.

Villar’s claim of being born poor is refuted by his own online bio. His online bio stated that his father was employed by the government while his mother was a seafood (shrimps, crabs and fish) dealer in Divisoria. In the 1950s, when life was easy, an employed father and a seafood dealer mother (not fish vendor) would suggest a middle class standard of living.

True enough, Villar took elementary schooling at the Holy Child Catholic School and High School at the Mapua Institute of Technology — both private schools. We know that the poor can only send their children to public schools. There were a total of 11 in the Villar family and yet by Villar’s own admission in his earlier TV ad with Boy Abunda interviewing him — they used to eat canned corned beef. With the minimum wage at P2 daily in the early 1950s, how can a poor family of 11 eat canned corned beef which costs around P1 per can?

Many are asking if Dolphy really knew Manny Villar that well to be endorsing Villar’s integrity. If the ASC was in place, this could be challenged. A good friend texted me this joke: “Dolphy announced that he did not endorse Manny Villar’s integrity. Dolphy explained that he is a comedian and his job is to crack jokes and make people laugh.”

Villar is not alone. The most recent Joseph “Erap” Estrada TV ads are making it appear that the 1998 Estrada presidency was the epitome of Philippine peace and prosperity. Unless, your Chair Wrecker’s memory has been affected by several operations undergone from 2002 to the last one in November 2009 - the Estrada years were the exact opposite of what his TV ads are projecting.

As the Brits are fond of saying, some people are getting away with bloody murder!

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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