It took the threat of a typhoon for the masters of bizaare ads, GIGIL, to bring the supernatural creatures of "Trese" to the streets of Metro Manila, generating hype for the occult anime. Netflix finally got the maangas campaign that it asked for after killing several storyboards.
Tropical storm Dante (Choi-Wan) cut across Mindanao, the Visayas and Southern Luzon and Metro Manila's gigantic billboards had to be taken down. This gave GIGIL the chance to vandalize "Trese" billboards and blame it on the aswangs, tiyanaks. CCTV footage can't lie. It was the flesh-eating baby who did it.
GIGIL was the perfect choice to sell the aswang to the streaming generation. They know how to make audiences squirm and click share with ads for RC Cola, Mega Tuna, Orocan and Danes Cheese. Netflix was one tough client.
"What Netflix wanted was something, let's say, kailangan nila ng maangas. We knew we didn’t want just a film, coming from our previous campaigns that we did for them. This time, we wanted something that would really blow up," GIGIL's senior art director for Trese, JR Bumanglag, told Summit Media journalists.
The agency assembled four teams out of 18 people that compromise half of their agency's manpower to create what they now call their biggest project to date.
How Trese was brought to life
During their first pitch to Netflix, "baril lahat ng ideas", founding partner Herbert Hernandez had said. Instead of letting the rejection overwhelm them, GIGIL said it became their motivation.
"Netflix mentioned before that they liked us because of our local insight. The difference now is really: is this local insight and this GIGIL idea big enough to make the splash we want for Trese?," said Jeano Cruz, GIGIL creative director and head of socials.
The idea for the campaign was to give the monsters of "Trese" a voice, that they weren't excited for the arrival of protagonist Alexandra Trese. "How do we show that the monsters are real?," said Bumanglag.
Through it all, it felt as though actual "aswangs" were out to spoil their executions, said Jim Jimenez, group accounts director. There was an impending storm, a PR leakage and brownouts during shoots.
But "honestly, I think tumulong rin yung fact na nagkaroon ng storm," account manager Nova Novido said. "Parang luck also played a part even though binabagyo na, it helped us put up the campaign on a grander scale," she said.
The initial plan was for people to go rapelling down the billboard and slash it in the process, but apart from safety concerns, they figured it might compromise the organic feel they wanted if caught.
So when all billboards along EDSA had to be put down, they took it as an opportunity to vandalize without anyone noticing, a stunt they had to simultaneously do for a total of 20 billboards. Then came the "leaked videos", shot by director Victor Kaiba Villanueva, which featured supernatural beings destroying Trese posters as seen through CCTV-quality footages.
Requiring great timing and pretense, they were then seeded on the internet by GIGIL's interns and fresh hires (to avoid tracing it back to the agency). "Everyone was asking, 'who did this? How would the person do that, kaya ba yan ng tao? Hindi, mukhang marketing strategy 'yan'. So there was no single answer and that's what we really wanted," said Bumanglag.
"It’s really to drive conversations for the title, you know? Good, bad, open-ended. It was really important for us to orchestrate that narrative in a specific way," Jimenez said.
GIGIL wasn't alone
As most of their in-house team had to stay indoors, GIGIL thanked their partner production companies for doing the on-ground work. A campaign of such scale took four months to plan with the actual production process taking only one.
GIGIL also thanked the artists behind the murals, the newspaper takeovers, the DJs in the radio spiels, UDD for the music video, and even fans of Trese and ABS-CBN's prized talent, Liza Soberano.
For the campaign's biggest stunt, ABS-CBN was initially "very apprehensive" to being rebranded ABC-ZNN for a day, until network executives understood the vision behind it.
"Gigil’s campaign for Netflix's Trese has been very promising at the onset, given that Trese brings to life its animated comics artistry to the global stage, which also shares the same principles of ABS-CBN in bringing proudly local talent to the global stage," Mattel Soliven-Celestino, the network's Head of Digital Revenue, told reportr.
In an industry often criticized for priotizing business objectives over creativity and more so human worth, it was Netflix's collaborative nature as a client that made all the difference.
"Minsan sila pa yung naghahanap na, can we scale it up? Can we make this bigger? They even built on the idea and improved it further," said Jimenez.
If an idea doesn't push him to call a lawyer and ask if they would be breaking any law, that means it's not brave enough, he said.
High risk, high reward
If Netflix's slogan is "see what's next", which speaks for its seemingly endless stream of titles and for how it's currently shaping the future of moving pictures, GIGIL also has a mantra: high risk, high reward. In today's convuluted attention economy, living by this allows them to challenge not just their selves, but the advertising industry at large.
"Ang mindset namin whenever we do something na we get to push limits, we're doing it for the whole industry kasi it opens up clients for everyone else as well. 'Yung mga clients na natatakot, even clients na we don’t have. Kasi nakikita nila 'ah possible pala, possible not to do the same things'," said Cruz.
Jimenez said audiences should expect even more bizaare ads from GIGIL. "The riskiest thing a client partner can do is be safe because more often than not, they'll be spending more on media money for assets to be seen and shared, rather than doing something brave and unique that can cut across whatever platform you put it on."
"'Yung mga media natin, pare-pareho na hinihingan tayo ng branding sa first five seconds pero everytime, GIGIL tries to not just to distract you but to really get you to pay attention. At the end of the day, ideas pa rin talaga yung mananalo," Bumanglad said.