The new rules of soap opera advertising

/ 05:05 AM July 28, 2017

Filipinos gravitate towards relatable characters and storylines that uplift them. Advertising should be no different Lester Estrada
P&G PH marketing director

P&G was the pioneer in advertising cleaning products on television. Hence, the programs were called soap operas.

For many decades, this form of advertising had been the most reliable and bankable way to engage consumers. After all, this golden window when the family congregates in the living room is when consumers are glued in and very receptive.


Today, the way people consume media has changed dramatically and there is no more “one size fits all.” This has caused all players in the advertising world (networks, fast-moving consumer goods or FMCGs, agencies) to move out of their comfort zones.

P&G Philippines marketing director Lester Estrada, a 2012 winner of the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) who has handled multiple markets (Philippines, Singapore and other Asian countries such as Japan) across different portfolios (beauty care, diapers, feminine care, shave care, hair care, detergents and health care) and various complex situations (turnaround markets, category expansion, new launches and campaigns), shares his insights on the changing Filipino consumer behavior and how advertising is adapting to this.


Q: How is marketing evolving in your view and how is the P&G organization adapting to the changes?

A: I hear a lot of extreme statements saying the “4Ps” are dead, but I actually think the same principles hold true. [But] the way we evaluate product, price, promotions and place have transformed.

Gone are the days when an advertiser can take a megaphone and shout from the pulpits of TV. Media planning demands that we juggle platforms just as well as our consumers juggle multiple chat groups in their phones.

The retail landscape has also transformed, with multiple formats now existing versus just sari-sari stores and groceries.

Just with the entry of online shopping, the concepts of place and price/promotions have transformed exponentially. Consumers are now buying their individual products earlier in the week through online platforms, while still offline buying “family” groceries on weekends. Promotions have fragmented from just discounts and bundle packs to a more individualized set of offers based on consumer profile.

Having all these permutations demand greater focus from today’s advertisers. However, the beacon continues to be superior consumer understanding.

Context matters more today than ever before, and even one single consumer can switch mindsets depending on where he or she is browsing and shopping. How we sort and cluster our consumers, based on real insight, will be what drives success moving forward.


In that sense, we have had to re-orient consumers’ path to purchase.

It’s important to map out where consumers are triggered and where they are more receptive to pick up new information.

Q: P&G pioneered advertising in soap operas. Given changes in the marketplace, what are the things that remain true when it comes to “soaps”?

A: The age-old struggle for advertisers will always be finding the best way to marry their product stories with great content. The same questions will always hold true no matter the platform: How many people are we reaching? What’s the best way to engage them? How do we best serve advertising content that still preserves consumer experience?

The very first soap opera ad was a subtle program intrusion within the show. That same format of branded integration is still being executed today, whether TV or online.

Q: How do we get the right mix of paid and organic awareness?

A: I think we are all still trying to crack this formula, and it would be hard to pinpoint a scientific answer without the right context. But what helped me sort out this fine balance are:

Be absolutely clear on the role of an online campaign. If you are using this to build awareness, then the scale of paid media is more critical versus an organic build up.

Even if you decide to rely more on organic awareness, it is important to ask how much scale is needed to truly make a dent in your business. This varies by the size of your category and the size of your target audience.

Serve content that fits the platform. We are different beasts depending on the advertising medium. We scroll fast on news feeds, but tend to settle down when in video platforms, and definitely can spend longer hours when doing online shopping. That nuanced understanding should shape the content we serve.

Q: What are the characteristics of good advertising in the Philippines?

A: Interestingly enough, I find that the best source of insights would be from the soap operas themselves. Our TV networks and film studios continue to be the best storytellers in the world. I get a kick out of following the soap opera hashtags on Twitter, and then seeing how Filipinos react. I also like watching most of the Metro Manila Film Festival movies and immersing how the cinemas respond. It is the best kind of consumer research.

It may be simplistic, but Filipinos continue to gravitate towards relatable characters and storylines that uplift them. And advertising should be no different. Filipino consumers are one of the sharpest and most discerning in the world, and they know when they are being fed “manufacturer speak.”

And with a generation that is more self-aware, authenticity and a seamless integration with their interests are critical. It dictates both our content and ad distribution strategy. —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: Advertising, advertising cleaning products, P&G, soap operas
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