HomeUniversitasvol. 9 no. 1 (2021)

RECALLING INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION 1.0: The First Century of Modern Advertising in the Philippines

Cynthia Margaretta R. Jose



Modern advertising has been around for more than 500 years with the first printed handbills circulated in the mid- 1400s and the first newspaper advertisement published in Europe in 1622 (Moriarty, Mitchell, & Wells, 2015). Today, advertising has become a multibillion-dollar global business. Even with the pandemic and economic recession that began in mid-March 2020 which caused an unexpected plunge in global advertising expenditure vs. 2019, three prominent global media advertising agencies still estimated ad spend to have reached just under US$600 billion at the end of 2020, and to rebound by around 7.8% to over US$600 billion in 2021 (Adgate, 2020). In the Philippines, the last pre-pandemic year of 2019 yielded PhP773 billion or US$15.5 billion in advertising spendings with digital platforms making their presence felt more and more at the expense of traditional print and television media. The top ten advertisers accounted for almost 50% of total local ad expenditures for 2019. At least four of them – Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, and ColgatePalmolive – have been very much around as dominant advertisers in the country since the early 1900s (Omnicom Media Group Philippines, 2020). With the onslaught of COVID-19 in 2020, ad revenues for the first quarter plummeted by 54% (NGP IMC, 2021). Despite the dent in revenues, the advertising industry still wields much influence on consumers. It is no wonder that it has been a constant subject of scrutiny and reproach with the rise of the 20th century critical and postmodern thinking and the concept of mediatization. In the aftermath of the dot-com burst and global downturn of the 1990s, with Web 2.0 drastically changing the way media and consumers behave at the turn of the millenium, and more recently, the global health crisis which has fast-tracked digitalization, focus has turned to accountability and social concerns. Continuing media literacy and capability building among professionals, scholars and academicians have become crucial 130 │Page Recalling Industrial Revolution 1.0: The First Century of Modern Advertising in the Philippines with every new innovation and technology upgrade. It is interesting that as the advertising world settles into the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, it may have been dragged in on the coattails of the First Industrial Revolution (Lent, 1969). This paper aims to trace the beginnings of modern advertising in the Philippines as it can contribute to understanding and addressing the present media issues, while taking advantage of opportunities for the future. This may serve as the starting point to a more comprehensive writing of advertising history in the country leading to the post-pandemic digital age. To jumpstart the writing within a more manageable coverage given the dearth of sources, periodization for this paper included the earliest beginnings of advertising, from pre-colonial to Spanish colonial period mostly on print media during the Spanish colonial period. The historical framework applied was both social and cultural from the perspective of a former advertising practitioner to lend it a self- reflective “bottom-up orientation” of a micro history and the movement through time of this media “byproduct,” i.e. modern advertising in the Philippines as print media gave birth to its practice during the 19th century.