, June 15, 2024

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If Advertising is the Engine of Commerce, Jun Urbano Was a Master Engineer

  •   6 min reads
If Advertising is the Engine of Commerce, Jun Urbano Was a Master Engineer
Screen capture from 'Mga kwento sa likod nang pagawa sa SMB commercial ni FPJ'
By Vincent R. Pozon

The news read, "MANILA – Actor-comedian Jun Urbano or Manuel Conde Jr., more popularly known as ’Mr. Shooli,’ passed away on Saturday, December 2."

But I know him from another lifetime, as friend, filmmaker and director of wildly successful advertising commercials. Jun Urbano was sought-after, specified by clients and agencies. Jun was the enduring 'flavor of decades:' "I did commercials for Coke and Pepsi, Tide, Ajax and Superwheel, Milo and Ovaltine, San Miguel Beer, Beer Hausen and Lagerlite, Camay, Lux and Ivory, at marami pang magkakalaban na brands na ginawan ko ng commercials sa loob ng 35 years. Para nga akong 'putatching' o street walker, binubuti ko ang serbisyo para siya ay masayahan at bumalik." 

AN AD WE WISH WE WROTE -- Isang Platitong Mani for San Miguel Beer.

GOLD EAGLE, another memorable Jun Urbano beer commercial.

Early in my career, I sat at his feet: I was a sponge, wide-eyed and learning during shoots.

A lesson that burned into my mind was an understanding of the camera.  Not verbatim, but recollecting in essence from a conversation in Tagalog: "the camera is the head of a man, a person on the set, peering into the scene. He leans forward, tilts his head; he is interested and wants a better view. Remembering that, the stance, the height, a human being’s bodily limitations, aids in discipline, ensuring adherence to the narrative, preventing you from resorting to gimmickry to tell your story."

JUN URBANO and author.

Speed is the lesson he taught the industry

He shot as an auteur would, frame leading onto frame, developing the story cinematically. Instead of master shots and various angles and tighter shots with options for editing, Jun Urbano would shoot following an edit already fleshed out in his head. "Planado na sa isip ng director ang takbo ng commercial, kung ano-ano ang kukunan muna para maka tipid ng setup time.” For 'Isang Platitong Mani', an ad Our Brew considers as 'An Ad We Wish We Wrote', "nag-umpisa mag-roll ang camera bandang 6:30 ng gabi at natapos ang shooting bago mag hating-gabi. Ang bilis! Talagang ang bilis po!" exclaimed Banong.

This discipline he learned on the sets of his father, Manuel Conde, National Artist, acclaimed film director and satirist.

“Wala pang video assist!”

This he said with emphasis. “Kaya walang playback, kaya walang kukulitin na shots. Maghihintay pa ng tatlong araw bago mapanuod ang 'rushes' mula sa film lab." A video assist is a system used in filmmaking which allows you to see a lower resolution version of what you are filming. Its advent restrained the director's role and flexibility in making on-the-spot changes to the storyboard. Today, when we are making a commercial, we are approving or presenting for approval each slice or split-second during the shoot itself.  “Hindi ako sigurado pero yon yatang classic na ngayon na linya ni Flash Elorde na, ‘Waiter, bigyan mo kami ng isang platitong mani’ ay sa shooting na lang  mismo naisip!", remembered Banong. "Ang objective lang naman ng SMB commercials, eh, enjoy lang, magsaya kasama ang barkada, kaya hindi strikto sa mga copy points".

The old way is the way of movie-making, and is no longer viable for commercials. It was an era where the director was king. The magic was unplanned sometimes, impromptu, but magical nonetheless – spectacular and beneficial to the businesses of advertisers.

"Ay, ang sarap ng buhay ng director noong panahon na yon", Jun Urbano mused.


ONE OF OUR EARLY PROJECTS with Jun Urbano. The campaign, created by Greg Garcia, my boss then and chairman/chief creative officer of Hemisphere-Leo Burnett, the agency handling Procter & Gamble, was breakthrough in that it dismantled a perception regarding bluing of laundry. Why or how I was cast as talent, I forget. The lawyer pleading the case to a jury of housewives is Tessie Tomas.

The Comedic Heart of Jun Urbano

There was a death in his family. After cross-referencing dates, I am almost sure the passing was that of his illustrious father. I was with Hemisphere-Leo Burnett then, and we were about to meet on a project. I stopped him in the corridor between conference rooms, reached out my hand, and expressed my sympathies. His response, a feigned seriousness, was “same to you, same to you."

There was a robust reflex in the heart of Jun Urbano that made him want to trigger shock, and, at the very least, a chuckle from others.

Smitten with the country, he harbored concerns about its state and was always eager to employ his craft to influence people's minds. But how to do it effectively? He credited his father for teaching him the power of satire. "If you want your patient to get well, and he does not want to take the bitter medicines so he will get well, tell him a joke, patawanin mo, pagbukas niya ng kanyang bibig, saka mo ipasok ang gamot sa kanyang bibig."

And so was born Mr. Shooli. 

The man, known for his work behind the camera in ads and films, stepped into the frame, assuming the role of a satirist, providing social commentary. “Nakatulong yong pagiging natural na komiko ko.”

ON HIS LAST YEAR ON EARTH, he was celebrated and awarded with a FAMAS and a Gawad Plaridel. I am glad they were not posthumously given.

And so Jun Urbano managed to have two brilliant careers, leaving behind two legacies – a rarity. If only we could do half as much.

Powerful triggers for commercial sales

On his last year on earth, he was celebrated and awarded, receiving both a FAMAS and a Gawad Plaridel. I am glad they were not posthumously given. But after more than 2,000 successful pieces of communications, after providing industries with powerful triggers for commercial sales, there is one award begging to be bestowed upon him. That of National Artist. 

Bestowing an award as prestigious as the National Artist doesn't just honor the director and his meticulously crafted 30-second spots, it dignifies the craft itself. The undeniable potency of advertising, demonstrated through its effectiveness in promoting commercial products, candidates, and causes, often faces criticism and condemnation.

Advertising is vilified because it has the ability to change minds and hearts.

So let it be 'National Artist for Advertising' specifically for Manuel Conde, Jr. Paying tribute to a master engineer of the craft is an opportunity for the country to acknowledge the engine of commerce itself, grant the advertising industry the respect and recognition it deserves.

Vincent R. Pozon

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?', VP Binay's 'Ganito Kami sa Makati', JV Ejercito's 'The Good One'). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.

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