Ads before 1900
Hoarders, I think, is what we are called: people who just can’t bear to throw anything away. To others, such hoardings—clothes, toys, magazines—are considered trash, but I consider them collectibles, indeed treasures. As I proved to myself when, riffling through my archives, I chanced upon an old (1977) publication of the University of the Philippines, in remembrance of the 1895 regional Exposition of the Philippines, the first ever to be held in the entire archipelago. It carried a gem of an article, entitled “Ads before the Nineteen Hundred” and written by Teresa Lapid Rodriguez. Fortunately, the editor, art critic Dr. Rod Paras-Perez is a personal friend, who informed me that the author is now a resident in the U.S. and has long been unheard from. Dr. Paras-Perez is hereby giving permission to adobo to share the article with our readers. Indeed, to get a bigger picture of Philippine advertising, it is essential to know its past.
The need for advertising whether for faith or goods, undoubtedly accelerated the advent of printing in the Philippines, which is attributed to Juan de Vera (1595) and Tomas Pinpin (1610) under the encouragement of Fray Francisco Blancas de San Jose. Notwithstanding, Journalism developed to great strengths long before advertising was realized as its inseparable partner.
The first publication from the movable type was Successos Felices produced by Tomas Pinpin in 1637. Although covering purely religious topics, the newsletter marked the first touch of Journalism in the country. Del Superior Govierno appeared next, although much later, in August 8, 1811, widening the coverage of journalistic practice towards political events. For Advertising, the period was sketchy as the Spanish domination in the Philippines fostered mercantilism and monopolistic patterns of economy. Nevertheless, certain forms of advertisements are traceable in the usage of the Spanish government for nation-wide communications.
Limited to avisos, loose sheets pasted on walls of town halls and market places, these forms of ads otherwise called pasquin were circulated to remind the public of obligations like tax deadlines, directives and other government announcements. The Hoja volantes (flying sheets), which were passed from person to person like handbills, were also used for the same purposes. The rest of Advertising will have to be credited to the town crier who in himself was an advertising sales man announcing his merchandise from door to door.
The last twenty-five years of the 19th century saw the flowering of Journalism, the development of local competition in trade and commerce and the eventual growth of Advertising in the country. The rise of different newspapers and journals developed to the point of competition on the national and regional scope. Among these papers were El Pasig, El Porvenir Filipino, Diario de Manila, El Commercio, Diariong Tagalog, El Porvenir de Visayas and El Eco de Panay. Some specialized journals also sprouted simultaneously during the 1880’s, like the Boletin de la Real Sociedad Economica Filipina de Amigos del Pais (Agriculture), El Bello Sexo (fashion), and El Hogar (a woman’s weekly). However, the life of these interlocking publications did not last long with the exception of Diario de Manila, backed up by the government, and El Commercio which carried on due to its advertisements and subscriptions.
Intended as an organ for trade and commerce El Commercio, from its establishment in 1865, withstood the unfair competition of Diario de Manila in 60 prosperous years of operation. The man responsible, Joaquin de Loyzaga, relied on the principle that Advertising is the lifeblood of Journalism. Hence, the newspaper provided an ad section found in its last two pages, a section nowhere found in any newspaper until in the 1890’s when publishers realized their unstable financial plight. De Loyzaga gathered his advertisements, initially, from store operators in Manila, at which time Escolta was developing into a busy commercial site. Since industrialization had not reached the country, the advertisements manifested mostly a variety of imported merchandises and a number of handicrafts produced in limited scale. Until 1883, the ad section printed purely boxed type advertisements treated uniformly in Gothic typography and arranged with noticeable absence of proper layouting. The ads crumped altogether were set in the normal and sidewise reading positions, indicating the purely utilitarian attitude on them.
Illustration began to appear in 1883. The first of these were medicine ads depicting the people’s growing awareness for the scientific approach to health and sanitation. The Bacalao Pancreatico Vacuna from Barcelona, Jarabe de Vida de Reuter No. 1, Tenia O Solitaria and Emulsion de Scott are some examples. In an attempt for vividness perhaps, the etched illustrations appeared humorous or even absurd in presentation, like in Tenia O Solitaria, where a long tape worm covered the entire frame of the ad to literally express the use of the product. The first poster ad which was published in El Eco de Filipinas intended to advertise galvanized iron by featuring three men in escape and were caught in difficulty of passing across a barb-wired fence. Jarabe de Vida de Reuter No. 1 is another advertisement which, supposedly advertising a purgative medicine, turned the ad into a comic strip by demonstrating a clinical scene with a line of gentlemen in charming French stature, crowding the doorway as cramped with severe stomach pains.
In a short time, more and more advertisements resorted to illustration for impact in presentation. Adolfo Roensch adopted the direct pictorial approach for his maquinas de coser, sombrerors ligeros, espadas and sables which was a good gesture for product identification. The Armedia of Puerta del Sol, one of the biggest stores around Manila at that time, came up with rifles criss-crossed before a Tamaraw’s head and pistola on both sides, showing the latest models of sporting guns available in the Philippines. Regarding brand identification, Singer Sewing Machine achieved a good stance by using a huge letter S, superimposed on a figure of a woman using the machine. The S, set in a selected Roman face, remained indicative of the Singer brand through these days.
By 1884, Logo designing made its entry in the scene. La Oriental, a tobacco manufacturing company started the seal gimmick in advertising with a grand utilization of a whole page of the newspaper, characterizing the company with a crown surrounded by seven banners. Vinos de Federico Segundo and Adolfo Roensch followed the gimmick, already identified with the tobacco products, in a manner that was more expressive of the Spanish air.
Soon came the influx of competing commodities in Manila, from vanidades to home decoration, musical instruments to transportation facilities like the Tranvias de Manila, sporting goods, book sale, Christmas cards, institutions, like the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Escuela Profesional de Artes which advertised its courses in printing, lithography and voice culture, as well as service ads, like constructor de coche and costureras. Eventually, competitive advertising rose up leading the newspaper business across the tensely heated years of the 1890’s. Hard drinks and wines like Cognac Diamante, Bacardi brandy, Julien Vino Burdoes Legitimo, Lormont, La Malaguena, Reina Regente and other brands flocked the ad sections of almost all newspaper in circulation. The Champagne ad of Charles Beldsteck, though displayed the most interesting layout and illustration of the bottle with its cover puffing off and the wine bubbles flowing out, set neatly at the center with a head caption of “Champagne!” and a sub-head that reads, “El major en plaza!”
The Cervesa battle proved a noteworthy sign of the rise in popularity of Advertising in the country. The competing brands, Vienna Lager Beer manufactured by Hollman and Co., the Pilsener Beer of Heinszen and Co. and the Cervesa Blanca marca carreton exhausted all the leading dailies with placement of their ads side by side each other or found within a page. Stiff race came between the Vienna Beer and Pilsener Beer coming up with advertisements similar in size and illustration of their own packages. The Cervesa Blanca however, lagged behind in advertisement, producing a cowboy type caption and a body copy in stair case formation, serving at the same time as the design of the ad. The marathon carried on until the Philippine Revolution laid a temporary end on the impartial business activities.
CID REYES is a writer, painter, art critic and VP corporate communications director at Ace Saatchi & Saatchi.
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