Villar's program segment buys take electioneering a notch higher/lower

If you haven’t seen or heard a single Manny Villar ad, then you either don’t live in the Philippines or you’ve been hiding under a rock. Even if you don’t own a television set or a radio, chances are you’ve heard the neighborhood children break into his ubiquitous jingle.

To say that his ad spend is big is probably an understatement. A Nielsen report shows Villar is ranked No.14 among the Top 20 national advertisers during the period of October-December 2009, with an approximate ad spend of P543 million in that period alone. That does not include what he has spent this January and what he will spend as the official campaign period starts.

However, we are not here to discuss whether his ad spend is obscene. Let’s leave that to the political and economic experts who’ve already said a mouthful about this issue.
For this article, we’ve chosen to ignore his TV and radio ads even though many voters can already hear them in their sleep. Let’s instead talk about his “groundbreaking” segment buy on Eat Bulaga called “Stop My Hirap.”

As game shows go, the mechanics are simple enough. Audience members were encouraged to write on a piece of paper what they would do if they won PHP25,000. Michael V then randomly draws one winner everyday, who then spins an orange electronic wheel to determine the lucky contestant’s prize.

In the beginning, the segment didn’t  actually name Villar, but it was quite obvious to the public because of the use of signature orange and white scheme, and the “check” hand gesture that appeared in Villar ads. So it was no surprise to everyone when his image and slogan “Sipag at Tiyaga” eventually appeared at the end of the segment.

According to Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform (IPER), this was a major development in campaign strategy and is the first of its kind. He wasn’t in favor of it though because it’s already bordering on scandalous. “He’s spending around ten times as much as his nearest rival,” Casiple explains.

An activation manager from a leading advertising agency says that this portion buy is utilizing media in a more complex way, more than just the traditional PR, advertising and "speeches and shaking of hands" method. On the contrary a senior accounts manager from an upstart communications agency says that these are still the same old “appeal to the poor and their emotions” strategies that traditional politicians use, but packaged in a media-savvy manner. She believes that Villar didn’t need to ride that bandwagon because it is over-used and people are tired of it already.

We have to admit that “Stop My Hirap” resonates strongly with his campaign strategy.

From the very beginning, Villar has aligned himself with the poor, despite his current financial status, because, as he claims, he earned everything through “Sipag at Tiyaga”. And what better way to reach your target audience than to buy a segment of an immensely popular noontime show and exploit the aspirations of ordinary Filipinos who join contests such as this.