When it comes to advertising and product placements, Filipino politicians are the best. Advertising executives can actually learn a thing or two about how to optimise exposure of any product from them. The results speak for themselves. Politicians whose names and faces are printed on almost anything – billboards, noodle packets or candy bars get maximum exposure. In fact, the competition for media mileage has become tougher among Philippine politicians lately and some have become blatant at putting their faces out there.
Gone are the days when you see a politician’s name and face on flyers and other campaign paraphernalia only during campaign season. Nowadays, politicians vying for a position in the next election feel the need to print their names and logos on relief goods before distributing them to the victims of natural disasters. Subtlety and sensitivity has been thrown out the window, for sure.
Presumably, the idea behind printing a politician’s name and face is so that survivors who are going through a horrible ordeal – those who are also potential voters in the next election if they survive the ordeal – will remember the politician’s “generosity”. Who said Filipino public servants do not have foresight? They do, indeed. They just use it for personal gain.
Running for public office has certainly become a business in the Philippines. Those who have access to funds whether it is taxpayer’s funds or private funds can use it as capital to invest on product placements. If their campaign is successful and they win the election, the potential return on investment is huge. The kickbacks alone from bogus infrastructure projects channelled through bogus NGOs will be more than enough to offset their advertising costs.
Only in the Philippines have political “product” placements become hugely successful. Come to think of it, there never was a time in Philippine politics when politicians were compelled to come up with a platform to win the voters’ hearts and minds. They don’t have to because the voters do not even ask them to come up with one.
The most daunting task for a candidate is how to become more popular than the other candidates especially when the others already carry popular names. This requires being at the right place at the right time to hand out the goody bags.
Politicians also commission the help of celebrity endorsers and they are quite effective. Often the celebrities themselves run for public office. All and all, it is always a win-win situation when a candidate is related to a celebrity or someone in the media. One politician who is benefiting from this convenient arrangement is Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas.
Being married to Korina Sanchez, who is a popular broadcast journalist in the Philippines can have a lot of upsides. This early, she seems to be working hard to get acquainted with a wider community. While a lot of Filipinos know who she is and her associations, not everyone knows her or is aware of her. After all, not everyone in the Philippines has a radio or television set.
Sanchez seems to be taking pains to close that awareness gap by trying to get more exposure from a bigger audience by reaching out outside of her studio. Her efforts in doing this include donating slippers, a favourite Filipino footwear, to the poor with the name “Korina” printed on it. One can be forgiven for saying that that is quite a peculiar way of putting her name out there. Not only will people end up stepping on her name, literally; in terms of product placement, positioning her name under someone’s muddy feet may not be the best idea.
Another upside of being married to a broadcast journalist like Sanchez is that her husband has easy access to media, which is the most effective tool for disseminating information, advertising and propaganda. If used properly, her position can propel her husband to the highest office in the land. However, if used inappropriately, her position can undermine her husband’s political ambitions. Recent events have proved to be the latter’s case-in-point.
A few days after super-typhoon Yolanda rammed Central Philippines on the first week of November, Sanchez used her radio show to defend her husband Roxas from CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s criticism of the Philippine government’s relief operation in Tacloban City, the most typhoon-ravaged area in the province of Leyte. While she didn’t directly address Cooper when she said, “blond reporter from CNN did not know what he was talking about”, Cooper was compelled to respond to her by challenging her to go to Tacloban City and see the situation for herself. Naturally, most people supported Cooper.
Cooper, who admitted to not knowing who Sanchez was, must have found it bizarre that someone who is speaking from the comfort of her studio office would contradict the accounts of someone who was actually on the ground in the disaster zone. It all made sense when he found out that she is actually married to Roxas who is in charge of the relief operations in the disaster zone.
A politician with a wife in media seems like a match made in heaven. That is, if the wife is subtle enough to avoid attracting a spotlight to that conflict-of-interest. Cooper’s observations on the ground should not have been an issue had Sanchez kept her mouth shut and taken the CNN correspondent’s words with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, she could not help but defend her husband from the criticism. Her credibility is now in tatters.
Sanchez’s reaction could have been instinctive. Women are born to protect their loved ones. As someone commented: “I don’t blame Korina for defending him. Asawa niya iyun eh!!” The problem is, instead of protecting, Sanchez only managed to hurt her and her husband’s image more. In the Philippines where a politician’s image is everything, the image-conscious couple did attract the wrath of Filipinos in social media for their arrogant behaviour. It might take more than donating slippers with the name “Korina” printed on it to recover from this public relations disaster.
Sanchez should have realised that she is no match for a world-renowned journalist like Cooper. Cooper has no known political affiliation in the Philippines and no other agenda other than to report what was going on in the disaster zone. It was obvious to a lot of people that Sanchez has gotten used to the celebrity treatment, but the foreign journalist did not know her and did not feel the need to show deference to a local celebrity or a politician’s wife.
Perhaps next time, Sanchez should either stay away from the microphone or quit defending her husband’s incompetence or better yet, quit her post as a broadcaster since her actions in front of the microphone are starting to become a liability to her husband’s political career. On second thought, she should keep doing what she’s doing. A few more public relations faux pas could prevent the next disaster – having Roxas end up the next Philippine President and her as the next First Lady.
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