Bernardo M. Villegas
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Focus on Family in Advertising (Part 2)

          There are external forces, especially coming from countries where marriage and the family are faced by serious challenges such as widespread divorce, same-sex unions, and trial marriages, that Philippine society will have to take into account as the country transitions from a predominantly poor country to a high-middle income one.  I am glad that the advertising industry can be an ally in fostering the right values related to stable marriages and families.  As mentioned in the first part of this article, we should thank consumer-oriented companies like Alaska Milk Corporation, Nestle, Jollibee, and Max’s Restaurant, among others, for using as major themes in their advertising strong family ties and stable marriages.  To help other companies continue this wholesome tradition, let me give them some unsolicited advice about what other important points about marriage and the family may be used as themes for future advertising campaigns, including in services such as banking, insurance, and hotels.

          I would like to focus on what Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, Love in the Family, reminds married people about the need for constant dialogue between spouses.  This should start with that “gaze” which contemplates the other person as an end in himself (or herself) even is he (she) is infirm, elderly or already physically unattractive.  As the Pope observes: “A look of appreciation has enormous importance, and to begrudge it is usually hurtful.  How many things do spouses and children sometimes do in order to be noticed!  Much hurt and many problems rest when we stop looking at one another.  This lies behind the complaints and grievances we often hear in families:  ‘My husband does not look at me; he acts as if I were invisible’. ‘Please look at me when I am talking to you.’ ‘My wife no longer looks at me, she only has eyes for our children’. ‘In my own home nobody cares about me; they do not even see me; it is as if I did not exist’“.  This predicament faced by some married people can suggest some very graphic scenes that can be captured by an advertising message.

         Then there are the famous “three words” that can significantly improve relations in the family, especially between husband and wife.   Pope Francis gives a great deal of importance to the love of friendship that unifies all aspects of marital life and helps family members to grow constantly in love for one another.  This deepening of the mutual love should be expressed in both words and acts.  As regards words, three are of the utmost importance:  “Please’, ’Thanks’, and ‘Sorry’.  “In our families when we are not overbearing and ask:  ‘May I?’; in our families when we are not selfish and can say: ’Thank you!’; and in our families when someone realizes that he or she did something wrong and is able to say ‘Sorry!’, our family experiences peace and joy.  Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them, day after day.  For certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings.”  One cannot exaggerate the importance of right words, spoken at the right time in daily protecting and nurturing love.”

         There is no substitute to fostering constant dialogue so that spouses can experience, express and foster love in marriage and family life.  I am sure this reality can be creatively captured in the advertising messages of consumer products that can be pitched to the Filipino family.  There is much talk about devoting quality time to the family.  Just exactly what does this mean?  The Pope gives the answer:  Quality time means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say.  It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right. Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say.  This means cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions.

         I can already imagine an advertising video that exposes the defects of one spouse or another in his (her) inability to dialogue and how one can correct the errant behavior.  This can be deduced from the following advice of Pope Francis:  “Do not be rushed, put aside all of your own needs and worries, and make space.  Often the other spouse does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledged their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes, their dreams.  How often we hear complaints like:  “He does not listen to me.” “Even when you seem to, you are really doing something else.”  “When I speak to her, she tries to change the subject, or she gives me curt response to end the conversation.”

         The Pope already vividly describes how to resolve such a conflict which can be captured in an advertising video on how to improve communication between husband and wife:  “Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person.  This means appreciating them and recognizing their right to exist, to think as they do and to be happy.  Never downplay what they say or think, even if you need to press your own point of view.  Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences, they look at things from a different standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights.  We ought to be able to acknowledge the other person’s truth, the value of his or her deepest concerns, and what it is that they are trying to communicate, however aggressively.  We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts, to perceive their deepest concerns and to take them as a point of departure for further dialogue.”  These very down-to-earth pieces of advice from Pope Francis can be dramatized in some advertising message or another about how important it is to keep the Filipino family intact and happy.  I hope there will be takers.  For comments, my email address is