Images in political advertisements may be subtle yet they can be strongly imprinted in audiences' minds.
The lines and forms, the varying shades of colors and the movement of elements in a single frame can mean more at a closer look.
I was tasked to analyze the ads by Team PNoy and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
These short clips are not simply aired to let the people know that these coalitions and candidates exist.
Every aesthetic detail—minute or large, subtle or glaring—in the advertisements are made to reflect what defines these political parties and the message they wish to convey.
Team PNoy's ad
Team PNoy’s ad still operates on the context of former President Gloria Arroyo’s administration which left the citizens wanting of an honest and trustworthy government. This paved the way for Benigno Simeon Aquino III to be the current president.
President Aquino’s platform is premised on the slogan “daang matuwid” that aims to rid the government of corruption, institute good governance, ensure transparency, and promote integrity.
The Team PNoy ad is an extension of this narrative.
The thrust to promote integrity is manifested visually.
At the start of the ad, a fork in the road is presented with paths that are very distinct from each other.
On the left is a curving road.
It is ominous-looking with thick gray clouds hovering over it, coupled with flashes of lightning.
The ground is dry and barren, showing that it is the path that will lead to hardships and endless problems.
On the right is a straight path with blue skies, white fluffy clouds and a rug of lush, green grass. It is the safer path, the right and only way to go.
One by one members of Team PNoy are presented with a group of people cheering for them from behind.
The candidates are wearing different shades of yellow, the trademark color of the Liberal Party, while those from Nacionalista Party wore white.
The candidates, followed by the people behind them, are continuously walking on this path with happy, peaceful faces with soothing music in the background. Towards the end of the ad, the members are standing amid a sunny background of blue skies and green grass and the logo of Team PNoy appears.
Visually, the ad creates a relaxing and calm mood with its bright, soft colors.
This mood is strongly associated with a sense of security that only trust and sincerity to serve the people can give.
The supporters walking behind the candidates serve as images of encouragement.
They represent the common people and their actions are a reflection of the public’s supposed sentiments—the belief that these candidates are the right people to elect in public office.
The candidates did not even have to talk in the clip. It is supposed that the President lending his voice to the ad is sufficient in establishing the slate’s credibility to run for office and institute good governance.
At the end of the ad, the logo of Team PNoy in black and white letters is flashed. To read these words in black and white implies that this party has clear objectives, that there are no grey areas.
Below the name is a yellow hand gesturing the “laban” sign, a symbol of the Aquino administration’s belief to fight for what is right. Curiously, this hand resembles the “like” sign in Facebook. Focusing on this sign, we can see that it is pointing towards the words Team PNoy. I consider this little symbol as trying to say that, to fight corruption, one must like this party—to put one’s trust on the President’s handpicked team.
The campaign advertisement of the United Nationalist Alliance is a direct response to Team PNoy’s campaign by problematizing its premise of using the straight path.
As the ad starts, the colors are dull. A person drives along a straight road with his wrinkled hands.
The road up ahead is foggy with steady flashes of lightning. The gray clouds and lighting create a mood of uncertainty and even despair, making that road the least ideal way to go.
Also along this road is a poor couple with three small children, pushing their makeshift wooden cart filled with scraps.
The scene changes to that of a crowded place. A man in white with a big backpack sees a “No Vacancy” sign, another scene flashes with a rice vendor putting up a new sign for the increased cost of rice. The ad brings viewers back to the scene with the vehicle on the straight road but this time it turns left into a new path. A rainbow subtly appears on the car’s glass window.
The color suddenly changes from dull to vibrant. The passengers aboard the vehicle are happy, looking out the window with wonder and excitement.
Members of UNA are then presented and set amid a color-changing background—orange, blue and white—and are all wearing different colors. They personally voice out what has yet to be changed in the country with warm smiles. Candidates kept their statements short, some articulating phrases rather than complete sentences.
A closer look at the elements of the UNA campaign ad puts forward a message that the present administration has not met the expectations of the people.
The driver’s wrinkled hands represent not merely hard work but an individual’s struggle to meet the economic demands of everyday life in a country that does not seem to progress. The dullness of the color combined with the ominous straight road implies that continuing on this path will not answer the problems of every Filipino.
In short, the UNA campaign ad suggests that the only way to address these problems is to change course.
Daang Matuwid vs. Daang Maganda
Team PNoy and the United Nationalist Alliance campaign advertisements depict a clear wedge between “daang matuwid” and “daang maganda.”
The former emphasizes authenticity. That being part of “daang matuwid” is a coveted position but there are those that merely pretend to be part of it. The President’s picks are the “real” advocates of good governance and that people have to be cautious of those who are fake (“mag-ingat sa hindi tunay”).
UNA, on the other hand, makes clear that people’s lives are not better in the status quo. Life will be better (“gaganda ang buhay”) is the main pitch, which was made visually consistent by candidates’ enthusiastic – and at times too cheery – disposition in their headshots.
Both ads have their own subtleties in distinguishing their coalitions from each other. What needs to be problematized, however, is the emerging dichotomy between daang matuwid and daang maganda – that having a “good life” is a choice between a life of integrity or one of prosperity.
*Corinne Escartin is a third year undergraduate student of Sociology in UP Diliman.