Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Project 52 (23/52): On "What's Your Mix?" (And Why It's Much Ado About Nothing)

.:Project 52 (23/52): On "What's Your Mix?" (And Why It's Much Ado About Nothing):.

Does this offend you? Unless you're a mathematician, probably not.

Yeah, I still don't understand the mathematics involved that results in a lady with 80/20 blood lineage, but who am I to question the mathematical process involved in determining these things?

I touched on this briefly in my blog yesterday, and while I was quick to join poking fun at the whole thing, I certainly didn't feel outraged by the ad, to say the least. Having worked in advertising in some capacity or some other for so many years, I tend to feel for the guys who made this campaign, because clearly, they had the best of intentions when they made this (Not that intent is ever an excuse for anything.). This was probably 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, and that's why we arrived at this copy...

Hmm. Needs a little more Godwin...

There were unfortunate implications there, but the intent is clearly the reverse of what the knee-jerk slacktivists are trying to say: more than Pinoys needing a mix of foreign blood to be a success, the copy of the ad implies that foreigners need a mix of Pinoy blood to be a success. It seems like people were 90% furious, and 10% reading when they decided to get worked up over this.

Semantics aside, I'm sure the copy writers for this campaign didn't intend to channel Voldemort and notions of a brown Aryan race when they made this. Clearly, the campaign is simply about mix. Fil-Am rappers do this all the time when they talk about the intertwining of cultures, and how they have to deal with it every single day.

50% milk, 50% coco puff?

Despite all that, whether they meant to say that success is brought about by having a mix of foreign blood, or by having a mix of Filipino blood, it definitely sends the wrong message and yet again reeks of the kind of Filipino Patriots® I frequently poke fun at: the Pinoy equivalent of the redneck American whose only counter-argument to every single thing wrong about their country is, "if you hate it so much, then why don't you just leave?"

While one can be proud of one's heritage, one's heritage in and by itself is not a cause for pride. The achievements of every Filipino, great or small, in no way reflects upon our own achievements. The beauty of it is, it works the same way with every Filipino's failures. We make our own luck. What a fascinating concept!

Is it something to get all worked up over, though? No, I honestly don't think so. I'm just 50% amused, and 50% meh when it comes to the whole "issue" because outside of bad copy writing, this isn't nor should it be a national pride issue. At all.

Look. I know it's very delectable to pretend that Bayo was trying to undermine Filipino pride by insinuating that we need to have foreign blood to be worth anything, but not only is that a very uncharitable reading of the issue at hand, it's also missing the forest for the trees: having Filipino blood shouldn't give us a free pass to success, nor should having foreign blood. It really boils down to what we do as Filipinos that define our ability to succeed, far more than our ethnic heritage.

This is much ado about nothing. There is no need to crucify Bayo as though they are upholding colonial mentality when they are clearly (and unfortunately) trying to imply the reverse: a kind of brown Aryan bloodline that guarantees nothing but prosperity to anyone who is lucky enough to have Filipino blood in them. In fact, the campaign talks about "mix," but at no point does it attempt to say that anything "pure" has less merit.

If anything, I can imagine a far worse backlash if they tried to so much as put primacy in someone being a "pure" Filipino. It goes against the concept of their ad campaign, but that's what you get when you try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Clearly, fashion mix and ethnic mix don't mix with each other well. The "palahian" uproar from the feminist sector should make that immensely clear.

When you have random xenophobic Filipinos hating Solenn Heussaff or Jinri Park or Grace Lee for daring to identify themselves as being Filipino, you kind of feel a wee bit weirded out by the double standard when we take every chance to remind South Korea that Sandara Park of 2NE1 used to be a TV and movie star in the Philippines, and the sheer amount of sourgraping this nation engages in everytime the Azkals lose a game. Our standards of calling someone "one of us" are just so arbitrary it makes my head spin sometimes. It's 50% funny and 50% pathetic.

Sometimes, you could almost imagine Erik Spoelstra wondering why all the Filipino support went to Jessica Sanchez in American Idol.

"LeBron, you're not eating a pretzel, so stop choking, dammit! Pinoy pride!"

Besides, if a throwaway ad campaign from a brand is enough to make you call your own Filipino pride into question, then maybe the basis for your pride doesn't run quite deep enough as your wounded pride (Or is it ego?) leads you to believe it does.

Was Bayo's campaign a good one? 50% yes and 50% no (Okay, this percentage running gag is annoying even me, so I should stop now.). Logistically, it was poorly worded and insensitive to the implications of their poor choice of words. Whether you read it as a gateway brown Aryan statement or as a further affirmation of colonial mentality, it completely undercut the inherently good message of the campaign: it's good to mix. It's just that there's that nagging feeling of, "but what if you don't mix?" Is it bad? Is it better? Inquiring minds need to know!

Not addressing that question properly apparently backfired on Bayo, on top of the common but irrefutable complaint about Filipino pride boiling down purely to bloodline rather than actual merits.

On the other hand, we're talking about Bayo now. A lot. Brand awareness is at an all-time high. Positive or negative as it may be, there is now a dialogue going on about what it means to be Filipino; about why we support the Azkals and Jessica Sanchez but turn our backs on Erik Spoelstra and Rob Schneider.

I can think of a reason why we do, though.

While the conversation starter is admittedly pedestrian in nature, now, we are beginning to understand that this discussion on identity is a very important discussion to have at this point where the world is becoming a global village more and more. For all the good and bad this globalization brings, how does one remain Filipino, and how does one demonstrate and inspire pride in our heritage? These things do not merely happen in and by themselves: the how is a very important factor that needs consideration.

What does it mean to be a Filipino? Is it our bloodline ala Jasmine Trias or Tia Carrere? Or is it more about our desire to identify with being Filipino ala Grace Lee or Erwan Heussaff?

What does it mean to be a success? Is Manny Pacquiao a success in boxing because he's a Filipino, or is he a success because he worked hard at it, and he just happened to be a Filipino? Does the latter take away from Filipino pride, or simply remind us that we need to look at Filipino pride in a more nuanced and all-encompassing manner?

If only for the fact that now, these questions do get asked, and hopefully, get closer to being answered satisfactorily, then yeah, I think Bayo did good, in spite of itself.

If I may be so bold as to suggest to whoever is running the advertising for Bayo, I think the easiest way to turn this around would be to ride the wave of your campaign's memetic value. Don't take the campaign too seriously, and revel in the absurdity of it, while encouraging the insightful dialogue you've already unintentionally instigated. The momentum is now in your hands to make something positive out of all this.

If I could paraphrase Lourd De Veyra, this all boils down to one simple thing: walang basagan ng mix. All this navel-gazing taken into consideration, though, I think it's still boss to poke fun at the whole "controversy"...

Thank you, thank you! I'll be here all week!


skysenshi said...

I don't think they intended to be racist. It's just really badly written. And I don't want to blame the ad agency for the bad copy...most of the time, it's the clients that request so many changes to a project that it becomes barely recognizable when it gets launched. Hay.

April Jan Stephanie said...

As much as I would like to agree with every thing you have said (because I totally get your point), I just have to ask you why you kept on mentioning Solenn and Erwan Heussaff as two of your examples in identifying with being Filipino instead of putting them in your example with our bloodline? In case you are not aware, they are half-Filipino half-French. Their mother was infact a former dancer of Bayanihan Dance Troupe, and they living here and in France ever since. So maybe you should not associate them with Grace Lee and Jinri Park. That's all.

Kel Fabie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kel Fabie said...

@Bea: true, but you and I are in agreement that this copy was badly written, whoever the culprit may be. Ifma significant number of people got the exact opposite ofmwhat you probably meant, I'm guessing you were doing something wrong.

@April: Agreed! The Heussaff's are indeed part-Pinoy. The reason why I used them as an example though was in their video "cover" of "Call Me Maybe," not a small number of people were calling them "fake Pinoys." Whatever that means. Thanks for your clarification and input. Much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making me see another side of the story!

Pilipinokuno said...

I enjoyed this. Make sure to tweet it. Bayo is trending at just this moment..

You're whole breakdown couldn't of been more fun and still level-headed/reasonable..


Kel Fabie said...

@Anonymous: I'm glad you dropped by here. I've seen so many indignant people over the BaYo ads, and I felt that this could've all been avoided if they either wrote their copy better or simply tried avoiding mixing ethnicity with fashion the way they did.

@Pilipinokuno: I'm glad you enjoyed this! I really think that with June 12 coming up, now is a good time to ask ourselves what it means to be a Filipino.

shallow said...

hello, marcelle, i really like your writing style.

anyway, i'm a pinay overseas, married to a "hybrid" of four different nationalities, so i suppose i should not be bothered by this ad. but there is just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. the writing is ugly?? i guess that's the first reason. next is the generalizing. that being part-anything is a sure formula for success. whether we see it from the pro-brown race perspective or the other, i don't like meaningless generalizations like this. especially since i don't belong to that "world class" group, so i admit it's more my vanity that's affected here.

i'm not sure if i'm even making sense.

Blog Mo Mukha Mo! said...

Yes, they should've stopped at the % tagline to let the masses inpterpret for themselves instead.of that poorly written essay. I think that's where the hateful comments started.

Kel Fabie said...

@shallow: You make a lot of sense! The generalizations they made were non sequiturs, and you're absolutely right to point out that what they were saying

@Photo Blog: Seeing as they're taking back their campaign now, I'd like to see where they go from here.

Kel Fabie said...

@shallow: ... that what they were saying made little sense. Sorry about that. :P