Monday, December 5, 2011

Coca-cola, pathos, and the Philippines

  As a rhetoric and communications student at a Canadian university, I am trying to incorporate my academic life to my real life so I can apply what I have learned in school and put it to good use.

  Coca-cola, an international well-known beverage company, released a campaign ad for the holidays. Watch the clip and tell me what you think about it: 
  What do you think? Did it move you? Were you about to grab a tissue by the time the ad ended? Did you feel your emotions swaying when you saw families reunited again? If you answered 'yes' to most or all questions, then the ad served its purpose: to persuade the audience through their emotions. This, my friends, is pathos, one of the three appeals or styles of rhetoric introduced by Aristotle to capture the emotions of the audience. Who says rhetoric only applies to textual discourses? Visuals such as photographs and advertisements are considered rhetoric as well, especially ads which are used to persuade (or dissuade) the audience to buy the (or not buy the competitor's) product. When I was watching the ad, its first few seconds practically screamed 'pathos' at me that I kind of lost interest halfway through it that if I was a target audience of the ad I wouldn't be interested in it. 

  However, I don't mean to offend OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) in this post, nor in this blog (and I will never do in the future). I may seem insensitive just because I'm a permanent resident (and potential citizen) of Canada while they are contractual workers but we share the same situation: we live and work in foreign countries. Middle-class and poor Filipinos who have lived in the Philippines their whole lives have no idea what it's like to live or work in a foreign country. I can't say for the rich or privileged and upper-middle class Filipinos, because some of them may have only traveled to foreign countries for a vacation but not move permanently to live. My point is that OFWs lead more difficult lives than most permanent residents or converted citizens that I know. Just look at each of the persons who were qualified for the "Happiness Project". The agency picked them because they're OFWs and they have been away from their families for years. For who else can the agency show in their ads but hard-working Filipinos who have been away from their families for a long time? The general audience can relate to Joe, Leonie, and Joey because most of them have OFW relatives and Filipinos are into close family ties. So what does the ad agency do? The three narrate their life on how sad and lonely their lives are in a foreign country (and I agree with Leonie when she talked about winters.) and how much they miss their families. Their sad narratives are enough to tug a Filipino's heart--the target audience of the ad. And because they were picked by Coca-cola for their 'project', they were given the chance to go back to the Philippines again after being gone for a long time. And no doubt, it worked. Most comments I've read about the ad were touched by their stories. Another person said this ad shows the resiliency of Filipinos on how Joe, Leonie, and Joey (and the rest of the OFWs) are able to sacrifice their lives for their families. But the best comment I have read? People saying that they're 'proud to be Filipinos' or that they're glad they're a Filipino. Because of what--that Filipinos work abroad, save every dollar, pound, or euro, brave the cold and harsh winters only to send money to the Philippines (whom some are ungrateful for the blessings)? Enlighten me here on the last bit because I didn't quite catch it. There was even a comment where the person said that if anyone didn't cry at this ad then they're insensitive. At least some comments were sensible enough to realize that this is still an advertising.

  What I only observed while watching this ad was that there are still more than 11 million Filipinos (and counting) who had to sacrifice their time and lives to work in another country for their family because of poverty. These OFWs are even dubbed as "new heroes" or bagong bayani of the nation--and they should be. For a culture that is strong on family values, they would find it difficult to be far from their families even for just a year. The ad focuses on the idea of sadness and homesickness an OFW feels instead of the reality that they are separated from their families because of the economic condition of the Philippines. Doesn't that say a lot about the country? What's even worse is that these OFWs have been away for almost or more than a decade which shows the progression of the country. Let's admit it, Filipinos work abroad for a better life because the country disappointed them with its political leaders and governance (to name a few). They would never have left in the first place if they had a good life. And until they find that the government will provide them jobs, they will continue working abroad far from their loved ones--a sacrifice they're willing to do.

  Should I mention that at the end of the day, despite the emotional appeal of it, the product being endorsed is Coke?

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