When ads work and don’t

PR EXPERT Jonas Campos observes that one reason that political ads failed to work for some party-list groups is because they used the wrong “channel.”

Campos is not trying to spark yet another network war. Rather, he is referring to party-list group ads that did not carry the organization’s message or advocacy and instead showed the faces of mainstream politicians or carried a major party’s slogan.

Nielsen lists at least 13 party-list groups that had “shared” or tandem ads with presidential candidates Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III and Manuel ‘Manny’ Villar Jr. , vice-presidential bets Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay and Manuel “Mar’ Roxas II, and reelectionist Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr.

These include nine parties that are likely to win: AGHAM, Akbayan, Alay Buhay, An Waray, Bagong Henerasyon, Buhay, Butil, CIBAC, and PBA.

The remaining four parties are AAPS, Bandila, Kaakbay, and PEP, all of which have dim chances of having seats in Congress.

The “shared” TV ads of these 13 groups amount to a total P403 million, or two-thirds of the overall ad expenditure of party-list groups.

Campaign analyst Ronald Jabal theorizes that party-list organizations may have seen an opportunity to boost their campaign through the endorsement of a national candidate. This, he says, is classic “transference,” or when the charisma of the more established candidate is extended to the group that he is endorsing.

Jabal, though, allows that the endorsement could backfire and leave viewers thinking that the party-list group is not “genuine” because it even had to tap someone else to help it in its campaign.

But Jabal is actually among the analysts who believe that at least in the recent elections, the mainstream candidates were the ones who were helped by the party-list groups. (See: Top 2 bets piggyback ads on ‘poor’ party-list groups)

Republic Act No. 9006 or the Fair Election Practices Act allows each candidate a maximum airtime of only 120 minutes for TV ads, computed per station, during the official campaign period. By pairing up with party-list groups, several mainstream candidates were apparently able to extend their ads’ airtime on TV.

Political science professor Dr. Grace G. Jamon also highlights the fact that party-list groups as representatives of marginalized sectors would not have the resources to spend on TV ads that cost between P250,000 to P300,000 per primetime spot even after discount.

And yet PBA Party-List that has world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao as its chairman has spent P80.56 million on ads – the highest ad cost among all party-list groups. Kaakbay is next with P69.77 million, followed by Agham Party-List and Akbayan with P60.37 million and P52.99 million, respectively. (See Table 1)

All four groups have “shared” ads with other national candidates.

PBA, for instance, have ads that feature celebrities Dolphy, Willie Revillame and Pacquiao endorsing Villar. The name of the party-list group is only shown at the last frame or the end tag of the ad.

The same child in Villar’s “Dagat ng Basura” ad is also featured in Agham’s ad. Villar, in this ad, is seen talking for the party-list group.

Akbayan’s ad meanwhile shows images of Aquino interspersed with other images. The frame “Noynoy Aquino and Akbayan Party-List: Ipapanalo ang mamamayan” is shown at the end of the ad.

As for Kaakbay, its tandem ad with Enrile opens with the lines “No. 15, Enrile, Senador” and “No. 151, Kaakbay Party-List.”

Nagagamit sila, nagpapagamit din sila (Party-list groups are being used, and they allow themselves to be used (by other politicians),” comments Jamon. “It’s mutually beneficial.”

Still, Jamon says that sustaining the advocacy on making sure that candidates remain within the legal limits is very important. “Circumventing the law is not obeying the law,” she says. –Karol Anne Ilagan, PCIJ, May 2010