Ever wondered why nowadays you suddenly see men and women of impeccable physique and alien complexion in billboards along every highway? When you look in magazines, newspapers, the Internet, or go to the mall, there they are again, looking all handsome and well dressed. But unlike any typical Filipino celebrity, these people are not those acting in overdramatic telenovelas, films, or redundant commercials. So who are these people? Why are their faces everywhere? Well, they are just notable international celebrities from foreign lands endorsing local brands in the Philippines. On this matter, The Menagerie distinguishes the pros and cons of having international foreign celebrities for Filipino brands. One with the World There’s more than meets the eye to having Ed Westwick, Joe Jonas and Leighton Meester splashed all over billboards and posters in the Philippines. These images aren’t just made to send Filipino fans into hysteria. (After all, it’s not everyday that Ian Somerhalder drops by the Mall Of Asia.) These images are also made to send fans to their stores. Using gorgeous, popular stars of young Hollywood gives brands such as Kamiseta, Bench and Penshoppe a marketing advantage because they add to the appeal of the local brands. This appeal also extends to the country, drawing in more attention on a global scale because these “It” actors can make the Philippines an “It” destination. This is the country’s chance to not only sell the local product but to ‘sell’ the Philippines as well, in terms of tourism or the advertisement of local goods, to name a few. The more these foreign stars smoulder in the ads, the more money these companies earn, and the more the country could proudly display that it is “more fun in the Philippines”. A Global Potential The use of foreign models shows the country’s level with the rest of the world. How? It proves that the Filipino people are also people of taste – people who can get by – by being able to afford these international talents as endorsers. The Filipinos make them known here, and in return, the Filipinos are made known by them; it aids the country to be placed on the map. We are what the world is: a fusion of different cultures and people; a globalized civilization with a continuously evolving culture, not restricted to only having a Filipino identity, but also an identity that Filipinos share with the entire planet. These campaigns prove that the county has potential to be great. The Impossible Dream Realized Lucrative endorsements and international prestige are just two of the many motivations brands could consider in hiring extremely attractive foreign heartthrobs, but there is another subject that brands regard as one of the most important: the endorser’s ability to sell, and pull the heartstrings of the audience. Foreign stars, throughout their stay here in the Philippines, pop up with numerous press conferences, fan meetings, television appearances, and much more. Many Filipino fans, being proud and amazed, support the stars with fluttering hearts. Some people hardly ever see local stars; what more for international ones? Yet this impossible dream of many has been achieved through the hiring of Philippine-based brands and franchises of international stars. Delusions? It is not all milk and honey for foreign eye candy to traipse along the local advertising business. What are the consequences of having aliens sell local products to the locals? Brands such as Penshoppe and Bench, being cultural trendsetters, could greatly affect the views of the public and its collective view towards foreigners and its target audience. By using foreign endorsers and labelling them under “All-Star” campaigns, the room for divide grows. Colonial mentality is still very well imminent in Philippine society; many are still obsessed with having whiter or fairer skin; and many prefer imported products, clothes, food, and music than investing in local ones. There are brands are promoting these ideals, setting up aesthetical standards that isolate the majority and praise foreign influences, especially whites. These campaigns send a message of xenocentricism, brainwashing Filipinos and turning people into, say, “white worshippers”, finding high esteem in foreign lands while neglecting their own nation; losing the very essence of who they are.
After a hundred years of independence, Filipinos still carry remnants of colonization. It has made people feel inferior and low-class. These “All-Star” campaigns feed the idea of whites being better than Filipinos. Is this campaign but a subdued case of neo-colonialism? What will be left of Filipino culture, identity? All Stars? Local businesses that promote domestic products may have that fear of not becoming just as successful or as popular because the towering billboards of these international celebrities. It makes it more difficult for the local products to compete with internationally celebrated endorsers, thus making it more difficult to sell their products. The Penshoppe campaign is called “All Stars”, and yet the only stars being displayed are foreign, with not a local in sight. If the Philippines can manage to display its clothing, then why not display its talents as well? Local stars may be robbed from getting the recognition. Even though they do not command as much attention as the international stars do, in a meritocracy, they are equally talented. Using foreign celebrities to endorse Filipino deals may help the brand and the country in getting recognition on a global scale, at the expense of overshadowing the true stars: the Filipinos themselves. In the Eye of the Buyer Then there is also the question as to why audiences continue to flock over international stars and strive to be more like them? Is it because of their efforts towards the betterment of humanity, or their prowess in their field of specialty? Alas, no. Buyers flock to the biggest names on stands, like moths to a flame, simply because they are the biggest names out there. Local media is notorious for using the same plotline with the same tandems just to milk up the attention as much as they can. These same stars, with the same Western-like complexion, diction, and all around “superiority” – these are local brands who are just stepping their game up a notch by having ‘legit’ international stars do what these actors have been trying to do all this time: be foreign. What, then, is the Philippine standard for what sells and who can sell it? Who, then, do these buyers perceive attractiveness and effectiveness in? To the fairest of them all? You are W hat You Buy In all things, the law of action and reaction applies. If brands solely advertised by using locals and advertising to locals, what then happens to the globalization of the nation? Perhaps it is only in proper moderation, of being proud to be where you came from and being proud of being a part of the whole world, when you can achieve that state of equilibrium when everybody’s satisfied, at least for both local needs and international prestige. But remember, as Anna Lappe said in 2003, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” So vote, and vote Philippines, vote world.