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Learning from experience

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 27, 2021 6:00 am

Many things have happened in our culture since I was in my 20s. Now we live in a world full of brands. Huge supermarkets are full of brands. Patis, toyo, suka are all branded. Even drinking water that wasn’t there before is now branded. 

All consumers have to choose their brands. Media is branded, too. You have to choose what station or channel you want to watch, mainstream or cable. What holds back from branding? Editorial sections of newspapers. Until now they don’t want you to brand because they are afraid of lawsuits.

I have 33 years of advertising experience. I know how many activists hate advertising. They think we exist to blindfold customers into buying our brand. That’s not how advertising works. 

Advertising began with the invention of the printing press. They wanted to print newspapers, pamphlets, all sorts of things, but if you owned a printing press you realized printing was expensive. People would not buy what you published to cover your printing costs.

Discussing this, a man (whose name I have forgotten) got a bright idea. Why not ask the people selling soap, cigarettes, snake oils, if they want to write about their products and charge them higher than we charge the readers?

They tried, succeeded, and covered their costs, and even made more money by selling space to the marketers of products. They called that activity advertising. 

As media grew from print to radio to TV to cinemas, and now to the internet, they have been funding their activities by selling advertising. 

In case you do not notice it, advertising funds the production of your newspapers, magazines, radio programs, TV shows. Producing a TV show like Eat Bulaga costs a lot of money. That money comes from their earnings through advertising. 

As a columnist, I do not like that I cannot mention brands because I know consumers’ lives are brimming with brands. But there are times when I cannot avoid using brands.

Advertisers pay to make consumers try, and hopefully love, their products. But you have people who have brands who cannot afford advertising. Once — not anymore — they could hope for some positive mention of their products in the media. This was called public relations, which grew and grew and is now quite expensive, too. 

So what is there to do? 

As a columnist, I do not like that I cannot mention brands because I know consumers’ lives are brimming with brands. But there are times when I cannot avoid using brands like last week when I wrote about UERM Hospital because of the experience my husband and I had with their admission policies.

The day before I wrote that, three ladies were already aware that my husband had spent seven hours waiting. They were Grace, Yolanda and Gerrilyn and they were really apologetic. I told them I would have to write about my personal experience. They said, “Yes, please, because we will use your article to change the practices that led to your waiting for so long.”

So I wrote about them. I said the doctors were very good but their policies on admission needed more heart. My advertising experience taught me to put consumers’ interest first. But most institutions do not do that.

On Friday I met with one of the higher-up doctor executives who once again apologized. I told them I thought they should aim for, at most, three hours’ waiting time for their customers. At another hospital we were escorted to our room, then someone came with the forms to register us.

On Monday the top executives had a long meeting to discuss my column to see what they could do about it. 

So you see, my writing about it called their attention to how their patients felt about unreasonable delays and they met to design ways to cut down those delays. 

I learned from them that they were having trouble with new hires, people who would show up then suddenly not show up anymore without even resigning.

I learned from them that they were having trouble with new hires, people who would show up then suddenly not show up anymore without even resigning. This complaint has been repeated by others in business. This behavior can be attributed to both parents working and spending less time with the children and schools that no longer teach children how to behave.

It shows me that our country now needs a total makeover from the home to the school to the institutions. It tells me we must all work together to improve how we raise our children and teach them good manners. 

Schools must reconsider restoring the old subject “Good Manners and Right Conduct,” but I suppose they have a hard time finding teachers for this because the people they hire are young and no longer know what good manners and right conduct are.

Maybe schools should hire retirees who do know. People 70 and over may still be willing to teach young people how to behave properly.

See what this experience taught me? Problems are never one-sided. They run deep, so solutions must also run deep. On the shallow end, security guards are very polite to me now. 

I visited yesterday and stood in line in the hot sun for “triage” before entering. Two guards were checking the people in line. One guard who was standing at the entrance called me and said, “I will help you, ma’am.” He did the triage and sent me in. I thanked him profoundly.

Maybe that was a result of my writing?  Or maybe the result of the officials lecturing. I really don’t know but I was grateful.