, May 22, 2024

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The Client Did Not Like the Campaign and He was Right

  •   5 min reads
The Client Did Not Like the Campaign and He was Right
DERIVATIVE ART by the author

By Vincent R. Pozon

A campaign to elect Fidel V. Ramos politely rejected

Tabako did not like what I presented. That I remember very distinctly. This was early 1992, in their campaign headquarters along Pasay Road in Makati. I was fumbling with acetates. I suspect that I was hardly visible to the small audience, which included the general, as I was avoiding casting a shadow on the screen from the glare of the lamp from an overhead projector.

I was elaborating on the communications strategy, proffering that there was only one way to go in the business of "Selling the Soldier", that all roads of reason lead to a story of strength and discipline and will.

Now an inviolable precept in the science of communications is that one does not veer from the product, and the product was a general, graduate of West Point, former chief of staff of the armed forces, former secretary of national defense, founder of the Philippine Army Special Forces, a unit trained in counter-insurgency.

A soldier through and through

He is said to be the only man to have held every rank in the Philippine army from second lieutenant to commander-in-chief.  In his words, "I fought the communists as part of the battalion combat teams, I went up the ladder. Battalion staff officer. Company commander. Task Force commander. Special Forces group commander. Brigade commander. All in different periods in our country. Huk campaign. Korean War campaign. In Korea, I had to assault a fortified position of the Chinese communists and wiped them out… We were in Luzon. We were in Sulu. During the previous regime, Marawi incident. Who was sent there? Ramos. We defended the camp, being besieged by 400 rebels."

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The soldier wanted to go down another road

Running for president, he wanted to differ from the Credible Product Difference — that he was a soldier, and from the accepted Consumer Belief -- what we know of soldiers and their predilections and strengths.

The new brand we immediately saw after he won.

One of the first things he did after winning was visit Malaya, a newspaper critical of his candidacy. Malaya had on its front page a pre-Edsa photo of Ramos in drag, source of photo unknown. The photo was taken during a Palace event; Ferdinand E. Marcos and guests were laughing. (For balance, Malaya put out an aerial shot of a property allegedly owned by Mitra, an opposing candidate. Source unknown).

The new president had meryenda prepared. The staff dubbed it "The Lugaw Offensive". "FVR was charming; Jake (Macasaet, the publisher) was fawning and fumbling," remembers Joey Salgado, one of the desk editors.

And then he made peace with the country's various armed rebel groups, kickstarting the process by creating a National Unification Commission. Upon the recommendation of the NUC, which was headed by Haydee Yorac, Ramos granted amnesty to the rebel military officers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) led by Col. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan and Capt. Proceso Maligalig.

He signed into law the Republic Act No. 7636, which repealed the Anti-Subversion Law. With its repeal, membership in the once-outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines became legal.

He signed the peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari in 1996, which created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and a period of relative peace until its disestablishment.

It was also during his presidency that the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law was signed, which provided a mechanism to monitor human rights abuses.

I was told that effusive praise came for Ramos from progressive minds. One may disagree with his economic policies, of opening up the country extensively, but he did put us back on the economic map, a requalification of the country as a potential for investments after the doldrums that was the Marcos regime.

The soldier was nowhere to be found in the campaign, save for photographs and footage taken before he booted out Marcos. One of his slogans was ED SA 92”, referring to his nickname and to the revolution he helped propel.

THE GENERAL took off his military uniform for a barong Tagalog metaphorically /Rappler

The product that is the general stepped out of the shadow of who he was and became a brand known for peace. Peace on all fronts. While his many distinctions and medals may have been sullied by his being executor of Martial Law, he was reborn almost without forge as liberator, as defender of democracy, a man who actively sought to resolve conflicts and insurgencies of many decades, someone who ate coups for breakfast, coups launched by military men with more expected soldierly preferences and ways. He became “Stabilizer in Chief”. The democratic air we breathe today is a legacy shaped in large part by his contribution.

After sitting through the presentation, Gen. Ramos had Gen. Joe Almonte inform us, which I remember he did very politely in a room full of books, that the offer to help was appreciated but the new government (meaning after Ramos won the election), would require our services more. I found it to be a very courteous rejection. I have a vague recollection of a book being given to us.

A strategy fraught with risk

For advertising practitioners, what Ramos did was unthinkable and unwise. To want a change so drastic, to move away from his military background and adopt a more civilian persona in order to navigate the political landscape and win buy-in, take off his uniform for a barong Tagalog metaphorically, and expect to succeed in a matter of a few months, was a marketing risk.

But he did succeed. I am happy that he did not listen to this adman and his technology.

About the Author

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?”). 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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