An appeal to Unilever Phils. to cease airing its Lady's Choice mayonnaise Christmas ad
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I write this petition to respectfully appeal to Unilever Philippines to cease airing your Lady’s Choice mayonnaise Christmas ad, which I’ve seen on TV and online.
Your Christmas ad features a young boy writing to Santa to thank him for a happy and COMPLETE Christmas, and, more so, for giving him the best mother in the world. I am deeply disturbed and concerned with this message, as it revises the meaning of Christmas by completely dissociating it from Christ. Now, Santa is the one who completes Christmas and, therefore, the one to thank; even a mother (our parents, in effect) is a gift from Santa, as the ad would have people think. Along with this message, the production design also eliminates any reference to the Nativity. So, there is reason to think that there is a clear, conscious intent to efface Christ from Christmas. This message is being fed to millions of Filipinos, including young impressionable minds. (On youtube alone, the ad has already garnered 3,151,854 views.) And that troubles me. Where would that lead us?
My issue with the ad has to do with the effect its message has in shaping our culture. Simply put, culture is a set of shared meanings that define who we are as a people. Culture represents our heart and soul as a nation, expressed through stories we tell, occasions we celebrate, reasons we celebrate them, etc. It’s easy to dismiss this concern as over-thinking and an overreaction to something that is harmless and insignificant. But the reality -- and what’s tricky -- about culture is that it starts with seemingly harmless, insignificant representations. Then, meanings form and take root because of repetition and reinforcement. (Ads, for instance, are powerful because they’re played/replayed over and over and are consumed by millions.) Before we realize it, meanings have changed, culture has changed.
Christianity permeates not just our moral values, but our cultural values, as well. Our cultural identity and character are grounded in our belief and faith in Christ; our lives are guided by our desire to follow Him as best we can because of the meaning He holds in our lives. He and His birth represent hope, humility, mercy, solidarity, and sacrifice borne out of unconditional love. This is why we celebrate Christmas; and if that moves people to prepare macaroni salad using Lady’s Choice mayonnaise, I have no issue with that. Beyond the religious significance, these are also the virtues that give us the courage and depth of character that enable us to weather storms in our individual and communal lives, whether they be political, economic, social, or literal storms. Our cultural values have served us well through the roughest, toughest, and most pivotal moments in our history. And most of it, if not all, is rooted in Christ, the same person that’s completely eliminated in your messaging. Instead, Christ is replaced by Santa, a guy who makes his presence felt once every 365 days when the going is great, and whose love depends on whether you’ve been naughty or nice.
I recognize that in a postmodern world, people are skeptic about absolute truths. I respect that. This isn’t about imposing a religious majority’s view and being insensitive to and inconsiderate of others. I’m old enough to have lived through phases of being skeptical about God, being indifferent about God, before having genuinely experienced God. Through all that, I’ve come to know how profoundly unique everyone’s journey is. That’s why it is not out of religious fanaticism or blind faith that I make this appeal. It is about sustaining an important part of our culture where Christ remains part of the conversation. The hope is that Filipinos, especially the young ones, are allowed to be able to make the choice for themselves when they grow up and know better, whether to believe in Christ as the essence of Christmas, or Santa. But they couldn’t have that choice if Christ is deliberately effaced from Christmas, would they?
It is for all this that I appeal to Unilever Philippines to cease airing the Lady’s Choice Christmas ad; equally, I make an appeal to the advertising agency that did the ad – and to the entire advertising industry, for that matter – to perform their work with keener awareness and greater sense of responsibility. It was an ad man, Bill Bernbach, who said, “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”
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