Filipinos dish out on what the #PandemicEffect is after Belo ad goes viral

August 11th, 2021

Let’s get one thing straight: we’re living in a global pandemic that we (obviously) can’t control. With that, there are things that we unconsciously forget about and set aside because health and family are our top priorities—like our personal appearances. While there’s no problem with prioritizing and thinking of other things aside from yourself amidst a pandemic, the Belo Medical Group says otherwise with their latest ad. 

In their now-deleted “Pandemic Effect film”, it showed a thin woman sitting down in front of her TV while watching TV. As she is bombarded with the numerous headlines being said on TV, her appearance begins to change: she stars growing a unibrow, acne and wrinkles form, a double chin appears, her body hair begins growing at an unusual rate, and gains weight. At the end of the ad, the Belo Medical Group tried reassuring their audience that what their bodies looked like now isn’t their fault, but because of the anxieties brought by COVID-19. 

In other words, it sounds like the typical break-up one-liner but blaming the pandemic: “It’s not you, it’s the #PandemicEffect”. They even had a call-to-action line for their ad: “Tough times call for beautiful measures”. 

As soon as it was posted, the ad received backlash because of its tone-deafness and insensitive message that beauty should also be prioritized in a time of a health crisis. Dr. Vicki Belo and Belo Medical Group were also called out for trying to capitalize on the insecurities of people just barely trying to survive in a global pandemic. 

GIGIL, the ad agency behind the commercial, was also called out for overexaggerating its portrayal of the woman to the point that it’s distasteful, and for choosing to carry on with the project. 

“Belo Ad” and “#PandemicEffect” immediately became trending topics on social media and on Twitter, where people were vocal on their thoughts about the distasteful commercial. The real #PandemicEffect for them wasn’t their increasing weight or their “letting go” of their physical appearances, but the glaring problems faced by Filipinos thanks to an underperforming government and global pandemic. 

Trivializing and shaming the insecurities, mental and physical health of many Filipinos in a pandemic to market a service wasn’t the way to go for Belo Medical Group. In fact, they even mocked them by shamelessly ignoring what the real #PandemicEffect is for many—the loss of a loved one, their deteriorating mental health, their financial struggles, and their unemployment just to name a few.

In advertising a service or product, ad agencies have an unwritten social responsibility to follow, which is to be aware of the possible issues that may arise from the product they’re promoting. They have a choice to use the proper marketing strategies to capture their client’s audience, and to branch out with respect to those social issues. But, this commercial didn’t really hit the mark and even offended people. 

It even ended with the tagline, “Tough times call for beautiful measures”. 

No, Dr. Vicki Belo and Belo Medical Group, that’s where you’re wrong— tough times call for more practical measures. It’s time to zero in the real effects of this global pandemic to Filipinos and to ask for a more pro-active approach, a.k.a science-backed solutions and better governance. 

And to, you know, stop body shaming and banking on the insecurities faced by people who chose to focus on their families and health in a global health crisis.

 

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