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What Does the Viral RC Cola Commercial Mean? We Asked Its Creators

The most bizarre ad of the most bizarre year, explained.
by Ara Eugenio
Nov 28, 2020
Photo/s: Facebook/RC Cola Philippines
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Like the Tagalog word "basta" that is RC Cola's tagline, its bizarre commercial that had millions scratching their skulls for answers should be taken for what it isan ode to Gen Z that portends to the future of advertising where there are no rules.

What's more jarring than a boy who has four glasses on his back and whose mother hides a bottle of RC Cola in her head? The kid's struggle with thoughts that he's adopted is resolved when the entire family drinks soda from his back.

The ad got  three million organic views in 24 hours and was playing in everyone's heads during the long weekend. The market took notice, and shares of parent Macay Holdings rose 13.7%.

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Twitter lit up with criticism accusing it of lack of depth and focusing too much on virality. The answer of the ad's creators from the GIGIL agency? "Basta."

"The goal lang naman of the ad was to have fun. Kaya basta lang," said mastermind Dionie Tañada. "But seriously speaking, it’s really coming from the GenZ mentality na go lang nang go."

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RC Cola wants an identity

The ad was meant to make no sense at the textual level. It was part of the statement it tried to make. 

"Maraming bagay na you don’t need to know why. Isa na dun yung pag inom ng softdrink. And when you ask somebody, a Gen Z kung bakit niya gusto ang isang bagay, isang kanta, di nila kailangan explain," said GIGIL managing partner Jake Yrastorza.

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"We found that to be a powerful insight, how they’d get into something kasi gusto lang nila and they feel like they don’t have to explain themselves to anybody," he said. 

Forced to increase prices because of the "sin tax" on softdrinks, RC Cola knew it couldn't bank on just being the cheaper alternative.

"We were looking for a personality we can own. While yung ibang brands they’re into music marketing, taste test adventures, ano si RC Cola? So tinap namin yung humor which is an area in the soft drink category na wala pa nagco-cover," said Tañada.

It's weird, but I like it

GIGIL Creative partner Herbert Hernandez tells critics on social media: Don't take the ad too seriously. 

"If we really want to go deeper, for us it sends a message of going beyond even acceptance. The son asked: iba ba ako? Bakit ako may baso sa likod? Hindi lang siya in-accept ng mom niya, sabi ng mom niya, no, i’m one with you nung tinaga ulo niya at pinakita na may softdrinks sa loob," said Hernandez. 

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One thing is clear though, Gen Z likes the ad and can't stop talking about it.

FROM SPOT.PH: Finally: We Have Answers From the Team Behind That RC Cola Commercial 

"Na-confirm namin yung sentiment ng Gen Z na ayaw nila magpa-define. Most of them would react, “ang weird pero gusto ko". It shows na they want something they cannot explain," said Hernandez.

"Meron silang set of templates of what ads should be. But para samin at sa bagong generation, wala naman dapat talaga eh. Tayo lang naman nagdedefine eh kung ano yung meron," he said.

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It's an escape from COVID

Twitter's CreativesOfMNL took a swipe at how "virality-driven" ads like RC Cola make for senseless work during the pandemic.

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In response, the ad creators said,"first of all, virality is not a strategy. It’s a consequence of the strategy. We’re just happy to come up with brave ideas and we’re happy to have clients who are brave enough to accept them during this time," said Yrastorza.

Aware of the pandemic, GIGIL consulted psychologist Gia Sison while the ad was set for release after months of delays. Sison said Filipinos are under COVID fatigue and anything that can provide an escape will help.

"Realistically, no one wants to be reminded some more of what’s happening right now. Hindi talaga masaya. Little things like this, in advertising, music, in movies, entertainment, those are the things that help us cope," Yrastorza said.

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GIGIL is the future

GIGIL is known for their "high-risk, high-reward" mantra, which allows them to come up with brave campaigns for clients who are also brave enough to try. This is seen in their work for brands like Orocan and Danes Cheese. 

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Founded in 2017, they said they are just happy to keep pushing the local advertising industry's limits to inspire more ground-breaking ideas. 

"The overwhelming positive response around the ad just shows how the Filipino people are definitely ready for something like this," Yrastorza said. 

From one advertiser to another, Tres Domingo of IdeasXMachina said GIGIL's latest work benefit the industry as a whole.

"In a way thank you to ads like these as they create a public consciousness of the “people who make the ads", he said. 

But he also cautions about the danger of boxing the agency into a certain type of fame or style.

"A note of caution, though, on building a personality for a brand, especially on the heels of similar absurdist funny ads: those of Danes and Orocan. You don’t want to be boxed in to a certain type of fame, or style. Not all brands are “nakakatawa” and nor should they be. Pag lahat na patawa minsan hindi na rin nakakatawa actually," he said.

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This is something GIGIL is also mindful about and they consider it a challenge.

Like most of their works, the agency's name is hard to explain. Gigil like basta has no English translation.

"Dati, huling nakakarating yung pelikula sa mga taga Cebu, Davao, etc... Pero wala nang probinsyano ngayon, guys. Ngayon ang taas na ng standard ng mga tao kasi expose na sila sa kung ano-anong klase ng humor. Wala nang may monopoly na magdidictate kung ano yung nakakatawa," said Hernandez. 

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