I was happy with my life. I had a satisfying and fulfilling career. The agency was humming with activity. A stark contrast from the time I joined. My boss did not renege on his promise to make the place jumpier and noisier. The noise level was up as the account wins started to come. Also, existing accounts were persuaded to resume their advertising activities through continuous proposals for restages and relaunches.
|Front: Pablo Tolentino, Sal (Mafinco), Lucky Borbon back: Wainwright Rivera. MFCO Mgr, MFCO Mgr, Ed Roa|
In the meantime Lucky was able to recruit more people into the agency. There was Ely Mansor who was also an FEU drama student during the time of my older brothers. He was taken in by Lucky because he seemed handy with a 35 mm camera and could help develop a commercial film production capability for the agency. Ging Montealegre, a friend from radio room days together with Ding Pasaylon came in as client service executives. Jing would become a vice president of Advertising and Marketing Associates, Tony de Joya’s ad agency (AMA would be headed by Greg Makabenta, another habitue of the FEU radio room during our college days). I was becoming very busy on both media and client servicing. Lucky recruited Wainwright Rivera to assist me in client service. Wainwright later on became the commissioner of Public Estates.
One of the major wins was that of the Cosmos Bottling Company the maker of Cosmos Sarsaparilla the leading entry in the low price end of the softdrink market. It was operating in a niche market where there were really no serious contenders to the Cosmos leadership. We renamed the brand “Sarsi” and waged a vigorous television campaign using “live” TV commercials featuring Caucasian male presentors. For the placements in Channel 2 (ABS-CBN) our talent was Hal Bowie, a well-known newscaster and anchorman of special media events. The very popular Uncle Bob Stewart, the owner of Channel 7 did the Sarsi “live” commercials in his station. We had a certain Reverend Williams, a long necked pastor from a Protestant ministry doing the commercials in TV stations other than Channel 7 and Channel 2 (ABS-CBN). I could picture an effervescent Sarsi cascading through his long esophagus. The imagery tempted me to use the line, “Sarsi, a long, long refreshing drink” but Lucky groaned.
|Uncle Bob's Lucky 7 club|
“Live” TV commercials were something I would wish on my enemies. Anybody doing this kind of commercial production would have a severely shortened life expectancy from the devastating effects of bloopers committed on air. A slightly inebriated Hal Bowie coming from his usual “one drink” at the MOPC before going to the studio once ended the Sarsi commercial with “…so why don’t you reward yourself with a tall glass of San Miguel beer”. Bob Stewart almost always did not require a script. I just told him the message I wanted conveyed and sometimes a story line and he took it from there. I cannot forget the time when Bob Stewart in an inspired moment, took a cute little girl from the studio audience and asked what her favorite softdrink was. “Coke” she said, “You mean Sarsi, sweetheart”, “Nope…Coke!!” and no amount of enticement and pleas by Bob could make her renounce her loyalty to Coke…on air. I aged five years when Hal did the Sarsi with egg commercial and had inadvertently used a rotten egg. You can’t tell an egg’s goodness from the outside. Some inventive camera movements were employed to allow Hal to throw away the contents of his glass out of frame to save the situation.
|Sarsi with egg|
There were other prized bloopers with lessons to be learned. Bob Stewart singed his hand when a fireproof paint burst into flames upon applying a lighted match to a plywood board that he just brushed the paint on (Lesson: it becomes fireproof when the paint has dried), an Olympia typewriter boasting of sturdiness was dropped atop a table to show that it can take rough handling. As soon as the typewriter touched ground its carriage was sent flying like a Scud missile (lesson: the carriage had to be locked before you drop). There was the case of the “live” demo of a fogger appliance that refused to fog because we used water instead of an oil-based liquid. We couldn’t use insecticide unless we were ready to die of toxification or asphyxiation. The visual effect I wanted was to fill the small promo booth with fog and have Freddie Cochran groping around, then emerging like the monster from the Black Lagoon while he did his spiel. The fogger did not fog. All it did was spray water on the wet and hapless Freddie who was not making sense with his spiel (lesson: oil based liquid fogged while water just sprayed). I don’t recall how Freddie and I got out of that one. The commercial slot must have been on a hardly watched program and our client did not see the blooper. In another occasion I asked Freddie to do a Papa Piccolino “live” commercial. The adhesive that held his false moustache gave up and he ended up doing the commercial with only half a moustache. The other half fell on the pasta plate while he was demonstrating how “al dente” the macaroni was (lesson: sew the false moustache on the talent’s skin). I did a regular “live” commercial for Mafinco’s Mystique, a hair spray brand. Mystique had one placement a week in the Wild, Wild West the first colored program on television. The commercial required a different model each time. We had some of the loveliest girls in Manila as models in these commercials. As amateurs in TV commercial modeling they needed intensive personal coaching (lesson: be patient, “live” commercial production has its moments).
I distinctly remember Hilda Garchitorena as one of the models for Mystique. It was not so much her loveliness, though she was truly attractive, that made her stick in my mind, it was the rumored relationship she had with the late Banjo Laurel that would not go away from my mind. Although Banjo was my classmate in the Ateneo Grade school it did not give assurance that he would look kindly at guys who are engaged in a night job with his girl.