Lola Techie

This was my column yesterday.  I completely forgot about my deadline and only remembered when it was already up.  Since the column that I was working on the night before didn't work out (I didn't have the information I needed), I was forced to think of something and write it within 20 minutes.  This was it.  

There is no doubt that advertisements have become an integral part of our lives. They not only push products or services, they also serve as powerful annotations of the trends and temperaments of a particular period. Thus, some advertisements achieve lives of their own and become firmly embedded in our culture and in our psyche as a people.

I can also personally track my own development as an individual by using advertisements as some kind of bookmark for each important stage.

In fact, I can probably do so by using certain products with very strong brands. Coke, San Miguel beer, Close Up, Palmolive and other brands used to have a strong tradition of coming up with ads every year that were distinctive and memorable.

My earliest memory of a commercial jingle was that of a young Nora Aunor singing “It’s The Real Thing” for a Coke advertisement, thanks to a yaya who was a diehard Noranian and who would turn up the volume of the radio and shush us all to absolute silence every single time the song was played. There were subsequent Coke ads that stick to memory such as that one featuring a young Bing Pimentel on a bicycle around Baguio City, another one featuring a very young Lilet singing that anthem about how the youth is the future of the world, and then much later, Nikki Gil singing yet another popular song.

Television and print ads likewise launched the showbiz careers of a number of actors and actresses. Close up and Palmolive, for example, are renowned for having catapulted to stardom the likes of Dawn Zulueta, Gabby Concepcion, Alice Dixson, among many others.

What really makes an ad successful? I am sure people in the advertising industry have ready answers to that question—and ones that are based on some empirical data. I am sure they have various measures of success such as memory recall and sales.

My own yardstick is a little simpler. I like ads that are very well made technically; and ones with story lines that tickle the imagination, don’t indulge in hard selling, and promote the right values. Some ads are technically brilliant in terms of the visual and audio components but are often annoying because they insult the intelligence or are too preachy for comfort. Some are serendipitously funny (YC Bikini Briefs, anyone?). Others are just plain boring and uninspired.

But every once in a while, the advertising industry comes up with a brilliant idea that works on various levels.

The ad that is the current talk of the town is that one of Bayan DSL which features a techie lola (grandmother).

The first version of the ad had the grandmother simply talking to the camera, presumably chatting online with her grandson JR. She is shown berating JR for ignoring her, talking to her only when he needed advice on how to operate the computer, and not even “poking” her back on Facebook. I thought this was amusing because I do have a Facebook account but I can honestly say that I haven’t poked anyone yet.

A second version of the same ad has the lola talking about how she would announce on Twitter that he is no longer his favorite apo. My immediate reaction was: Mabuti pa si lola marunong mag-Twitter (How come she knows how to use Twitter and I don’t?)

The third cut of the ad, which is currently running, features the lola engrossed in an online networked game. In this ad, she is seen competing with people presumably all younger than she is and getting all emotionally worked up to the point of being pikon (short-tempered).

I must admit that these ads never fail to amuse me despite having watched them a number of times already. I thought this is the kind of humor that works on various levels. It’s very Filipino. It’s not offensive. And it’s not politically-incorrect.

The idea of a technology-savvy grandmother is not only amusing; it is heartwarming. We all cling to this stereotype that technology and old age don’t go together. I remember how awed I was the first time I actually witnessed a senior citizen texting—I wanted to take a picture of my friend’s 75-year-old grandfather struggling with his cell phone—until my own sister reminded me that our own mother is 72 and she sends text messages on her trusty Nokia 3210 to all of us regularly.

The Lola Techie ad works because it is simple and straightforward—it doesn’t hit us repeatedly in the head with the message. The ad has no frills, no elaborate sets and costumes, no song-and-dance routines. I cannot recall the last time I saw a television ad that leveraged purely on a great idea rather than on sleek packaging.

But like I said, the ad works on various levels. It is funny because it reminds us very strongly of the temperament of our own grandparents. I know my grandmother was like that too, easily prone to anger and irritation yet always and unmistakably affectionate even at the height of a temper. While the ad does perpetuate a stereotype (that one about how senior people are supposed to be technologically illiterate), it does not present senior people in a negative light such as that instant noodle ad featuring a cranky grandfather castigating a daughter-in-law at the dinner table for not hearing him the first time around.

Also, the ad does not reduce grandmothers into a caricature such as what they used to do to Chichay in Philippine movies. Chichay was always cute as the overbearing, overprotective, and sometimes kunsintidor lola but she was often reduced to a caricature. In fact, there is always the tendency to prettify senior citizens—smudge their faces with more rouge, make them wear elaborate costumes, make them behave like sex-starved teenagers, etc. To a certain extent, this seems to be the general drift of the media projection of Dionisia Pacquiao. Although Pacquiao is being packaged as a stage mother, she is really a grandmother.

And what is more, the ad is actually linked to a number of social networking sites. Lola Techie has a Facebook, a Multiply, and a Twitter site, and her own You-Tube channel! She is actually all over the Internet. So one can actually poke her at Facebook, leave messages in her sites, and exchange tweets with her.

So the people behind the ad seemed to have covered all the bases to ensure that the Lola Techie campaign works. I think it is the first ad that has been successful in linking traditional media and the Internet. If only for this development, the ad has already made headway as a trailblazer of sorts.


icon said…
i love the ad! oh how i wish my parents were as cyberspace oriented as lola techie. then again, it would be weird if they poked me or scold me through comments and wall posts whenever i status update an inappropriate flight...but i have this friend whose parents are following him on twitter, eerie... ;p

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