Decoding the Context

The feeling of accidentally meeting someone who orders the very same meal as yours in a fastfood restaurant is fanciful. For a neat, fine and middle-class-looking guy, an encounter with someone whose look is probably at par with his economic status, and probably standard, might be a moment to be treasured. He would persevere to prove his passion for her, to the extent of seeing her at the altar exchanging vows with someone else.

This, according to Philippines’ biggest fast food chain Jollibee, is unconditional love.

In its attempt to join this year’s valentine’s bandwagon, the company released a few “true to life-based” videos (like the one I described above entitled Vow at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kAOvTFA5rs) to advertise its corporate way of looking at relational concepts like love and sharing.

Vow alone, released last February 9, went viral on Facebook and YouTube with over 500,000 shares and 890,000 views respectively as of 16 February. This well-orchestrated propaganda deserves a critique because it deals with popular youth consciousness in the context of fantasizing valentines in the digital space.

Nothing is spectacular about this genre of advertising because it merely lives up to the Western capitalist abstraction of beauty, sexiness and love.

Remember how a multi-million dollar body cologne product for men, used its scent to woo women in the late 1990s-2000s? It released a series of television and YouTube advertisements in different languages to portray how nerdy looking men can titillate the sexiest and most charming women on Earth and elsewhere through a single spray of its product.

Another leading global fast food chain, also used the same tricks of advertising to attract a crowd so fascinated with a romantic, almost heart-breaking but still shallow and capitalist-oriented media propaganda (see my column McDonaldization of the youth and global capitalism).

The successful proliferation of globally-engineered style of advertising in the local market wherein one’s values system is determined by the imperial power of the West is problematic.

For one, it is as good as saying that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder anymore because its signifying concepts like thinness and flawlessness rest upon the popular global standards.

And this is the precise logic of globalization.

Its proponents would argue that developing societies should embrace the dominant global trends in order to position itself at the periphery of economic and cultural power. Simply put, be like us to become one of us.

Through its euphemism of globalization wherein the global remains the flavor of the market, but this time, with some local ingredients in it, the spectre of globalization is perfectly alive.

And this I surmise is the force that drives Jollibee into propagating what it projected to be a viral phenomenon online.

Same as the Western advertisements that parade the bodily appeals of men and women, the sole capital needed to instigate a phenomenal hit is through a combination of almost-perfectly crafted models, fanciful and melodramatic sounds and “true to life” short script, as can be seen in “Vow” among other episodes of the ad that target couples, young and old, children, and anyone who just wants to romanticize an illusion for a moment.

Then, the symptoms of alienation are in place.

When the company compels its audience to buy into something that is imaginatively unreal, the concept it tries to promote remains abstract and only adds to our burden of fantasy. It drags us out of what is real and antagonizes our sense of critical being.

The media products in the form of corporate advertisements are becoming homogenous. Of course, one can argue that these global products are a representation of multiple cultures in a way that the language and artists used vary according to the audience it aims to allure. This is true in some advertisements of global brands like McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Apple.

But the social constructs that these companies represent are essentially governed by a single rule of profit. Hence, it negates the very same idea of diversity, multiculturalism and oneness that these companies aim to promote because we cannot standardize a relational concept, say, unconditional love, within the confines of the market trends.

And what is more alarming is the kind of thinking that these products intend to manufacture, that is, a commodified sense that can easily dismiss the false promises of globalization and capitalism.

Once we are trapped within the frames of this fantasy, the only way to go about it is to either amuse ourselves upon the command of Western capitalism or become critical readers of media texts who can put forth a position that not all popular are relevant, and, not all relevant are known and popular. Simply put, most of what is popular in the dominant media nowadays are apolitical and thus irrelevant.

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