Lessons from Chiclets
Lessons from Chiclets

I was born into an advertising family. My Dad, Tony Mercado, was an adman through and through. And my own advertising career began when I was 9 years old.

There was a low budget account that needed cheap child talent, so I got my first role as a street hawker selling Chiclet chewing gum. I shout “Chiclet-in mo baybeh!” at the beginning of the ad. The stuff of painful childhood memories!

But psychotherapy aside, I learnt many things about ad-making from that simple Chiclet ad.

To put it simply, 3 rules:
Don’t forget the brand. Don’t forget to sell. Don’t forget the hook.

Don’t forget the brand. In my 30 second ad, the brand was mentioned 9 times and the logo was shown 14 times, for a total of 23 brand impressions. This was in an era when there were only 4 TV stations in the Philippines and ad clutter wasn’t an issue. But still, the agency never forgot the basics of branding.

Don’t forget to sell. Dressing up as a street vendor, or “takatak boy” as we call them in Manila, seemed like a silly gimmick to me. However that gimmick had a second, extremely powerful intention. The idea was to seed, through advertising, a simple selling line that real street hawkers would repeat while selling Chiclet. And that is what happened. Not only were you hearing the line on TV, but “takatak” boys were actually saying “Chicletin mo baybeh” as they sold the gum on the streets of Manila.

Don’t forget the hook. 30 years before Martin Linstrom started talking about “Smashables”, Chiclet was chock-full of them. From the yellow T-Shirts to the jingle, the ad was designed to make a new brand memorable from the beginning. Funny how a street vendor with a yellow shirt and glasses made me a brand icon for Chiclet. But didn’t David Ogilvy do something similar with a man in a white shirt and an eyepatch?
That, hook, or the ‘burr’ that sticks to your brain is essential to creating ads that build and sell brands.



Fortunately, some of the best creative ads do indeed generate brand demand.
This has led to agencies pushing for Big Ideas to generate big results.


Big Ideas are great and we have seen several over the last few years.

But I would like to express my own POV that we must differentiate Big Ideas that build brands from Big Executions that only generate short term fame.

Everyone loved the CADBURY GORILLA in 2008 and the VW DARTH VADER ad of 2011. But what lasting equity did these ads deliver? Both brands struggled to follow through with the “next big idea” as in the end they had great executions but weak equity building ideas.

In contrast, brands like MASTERCARD will forever be “Priceless” and people will continue to dream of MARLBORO country even though advertising bans have suppressed MARLBORO advertising for the last 20 years.


At Nestle, this is what we are trying to do. We are here to build brands through Big Ideas that stand the test of time.

We do this not only with grand ideas, like Nescafe’s “Be Bold” microfilms. But also with simple campaigns, like Nestle Benana which went massively viral last year.

Yet as we pursue these Big Ideas, I remind our brand teams and agencies, don’t forget the basics. Don’t forget the brand, don’t forget to sell, and don’t forget the hook.

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