I just saw the two anti-drug public service announcements (PSAs) of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) directed by Brillante Mendoza and my reaction is . . . I hope this is the last artistic collaboration of Martin Andanar and Brillante Mendoza that we will see for the next 12 months.
The two videos are more suited for screening at international film festivals rather than as PSAs to be aired on Philippine mass media.
That Brillante Mendoza is an internationally acclaimed film director is beside the point. All that was needed here was a simple director of TV commercials and a simple, straightforward message. President Duterte’s campaign videos during the elections which were produced by unknown people were so much more effective than these two PSAs.
The objective of these two PSAs was to discourage people from using or selling drugs. But this message somehow got buried in the over-dramatization of the family stories.
It would have been better if the PSAs went straight to the point. Get a doctor to explain how shabu permanently damages the brain within a short period of use. Show testimonials of parents who had drug-crazed children, or relatives of people who were raped or killed by drug addicts. Show testimonials of drug pushers who went to jail or are permanently on the run because once you get caught up in the drug trade, you can’t get out.
(You know who would be great at this? Mocha Uson. Her video interviews with Pres. Duterte, Sen. Koko Pimentel, and the recent one with a doctor who is starting a voluntary rehab project at a small hospital were excellent.)
Using testimonials of real people would have been much more effective than using actors, and it would have been cheaper too. It would also have been more consistent with President Duterte’s no-frills, no-nonsense style.
Some feedback and suggestions for PCO head Martin Andanar, who hopefully takes feedback constructively because he seems like a nice guy:
1. Don’t waste too much time on creative/artistic expression or high production values. Just tell it like it is. President Duterte’s programs and messages do not need to be dressed up or sugarcoated. They resonate with the people precisely because they are focused on substance not form.
2. Adopt President Duterte’s crowdsourcing approach. For instance, when President Duterte is not sure how people will react to a particular political appointee, he floats the person out first in the media then watches how the public will react. Sec. of Finance Carlos Dominguez also does a similar crowdsourcing approach. He conducted that workshop in Davao with top businessmen to gather their inputs and feel their pulse before coming up with his recommended programs and policies. I notice the DOF also now posts draft IRRs (implementing rules and regulations) on their website for people to comment on before the IRRs get finalized. This is a very smart way of making sure there is no public backlash, and accessing the wisdom of the public in order to improve one’s output. The PCO should do similar public consultations.
3. Be more careful about managing expectations. Don’t talk things up too much, or drum up too much anticipation, or place too much emphasis on the high-profile people involved in your projects. Raising expectations almost always backfires.
Final grade on these two PSAs: A for effort, C+ for output. As short films, they’re great, but as PSAs, I don’t think they work.
But you can always do better next time, so don’t give up.
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