, February 08, 2023

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Frequently-Asked Questions about Advertising


  •   5 min reads
Frequently-Asked Questions about Advertising

On exactly his 50th year in advertising, Vincent R. Pozon -- Vince to most, 'Koyang' to adfolk, 'Tatay' to his students and present staff -- has decided to start a series of articles where he answers questions often asked of him.

This article commences that conversation. He hopes it can be of value to the young and the newcomer.


Could we start with a working definition of advertising?

Koyang: Advertising is the release of messages directed to a pre-defined target audience. They are well-thought out so the purchased airtime or space is not wasted, and well-wrought so the attention of our target is captured.

What can you really expect advertising to do?

Koyang: Create consent. That is all and that is everything. In the two seconds a billboard requires of your attention, in the time a Facebook post runs down your feed, in the lifetime of a TV spot or a photo on Instagram, in the five seconds preceding the YouTube video you’re about to watch, and just right before your hand flips the page of this newspaper, the marketer needs to create consent for his position, product or service, candidate, idea, advocacy.

Could you describe the role of the creative person in creating advertising?

Koyang: The creative person is a technician. The copywriter is schooled in the technology of preparing, packaging and presenting messages using words; the art director uses visuals and lays everything out in the manner dictated by strategy. The producer is concerned with cinematic language (does it flow well?) and the feasibility of the idea.

What is the hardest part about creating an advertisement?

Koyang: The part that precedes craft and creation: the strategy. In the agencies I have led, the strategy is primordial, is sworn to, put on a pedestal and regarded as bible. It guides every single aspect of producing a commercial -- every word to be used, even the way a particular shot is to be taken. The strategy is labored over until it is clearly defined, until it instructs every facet of marketing.

When is it time to start a new campaign?

Koyang: That is a sales and research question. When wear-out starts to take effect. A campaign that has been on air too long is, for all practical purposes, furniture. Invisible. But campaigns equipped with strong insights can last through decades. Marlboro Country, arguably the most effective campaign in history, would be airing today, unchanged, if the promotion of cigarette smoking were still allowed. Promil's The Gifted Child campaign, Clusivol's Bawal Magkasakit, Bonamil's Batang May Laban endure despite changes in mother companies and ad agencies.

What is the role of celebrities in advertising?

Koyang: A two-second shot of Michael Jordan in a Gatorade commercial is an excellent use of a celebrity, while 30 seconds of him in a Coke spot isn't. I prefer that an advertisement tiptoes into the viewer's bedroom and then whacks him on the head with the message. The viewer must see the message -- first. The celebrity, the music, the cinematography -- all should merely assist the delivery of the message. When people talk about the celebrity in a recent ad, they are seeing the material, and not the message. I call that an “attention-vampire."

Have you had campaigns with celebrities that didn't work?

Koyang: I have a presentation on the topic, celebrities that failed spectacularly, for advertising we did, celebrities chosen before the advertising stories were settled.

Why did they fail?

Koyang: A celebrity endorser is not a story. It is an implement in telling your story. Unfortunately I have met many marketers who think affording a celebrity is the key to success.

What is the role of humor?

Koyang: Humor is not tenor or preferred decor; it is best seen as a vital element in the piece of communication. It is employed as an actor would be, and directed well, for humor is more difficult, and ham acting can sabotage the delivery of your message.

Humor is not called in for the sake of 'having a funny commercial'. If the punchline has nothing to do with the product, if it does not highlight or add emphasis to the benefit you can derive from it, then it has no role in the ad.

Is it the same on television?

Koyang: Same, except that it is more expensive to indulge a writer's wit or funny bone.

Below are three commercials where humor is not just relevant, it is in the design.

FOR POLYMAGMA, an antidiarrheal medicine of Wyeth's Whitehall division, humor isn't a punchline but a means of delivering the message.

AN AD WE CREATED to promote reading. UniversiTV was Estima's television network to help the young of the country.

WHO NEEDS A REASON to have great food delivered? ArmyNavy is a resounding success, "beating highest pre-Covid sales figures with less branches open."

Rosser Reeves said that the most dangerous word in advertising is originality. What is your reaction to this?

Koyang: I do not know the context of the statement, but Rosser Reeves was a businessman. And I believe that if you start out looking to create something original, you're already off-track.

You begin working from the starting blocks, and there are none other than the strategy, or the objective. The freshness of the idea will come from the uniqueness of your proposition.

If you see the business of marketing as precisely that, a business, then the topic of originality recedes to the background. One's concern is to sell. If one's sales pitch is derived from the intrinsic values of the product, and if one understands the uniqueness of the market conditions prevailing, then you can not help but be unique or original.


Vincent R. Pozon

Koyang entered advertising after a year of college, 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?”). 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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