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.
Let’s talk about what’s wrong with the Belo ad.
It’s not the pandemic, Dra. It’s society’s beauty standards and the way capitalists ride on it to exploit our insecurities. It’s the way you make it look like our fatness is a disease and your clinic can cure it away. pic.twitter.com/4nvx4gujHn
— Nina (@theninaellaine) August 10, 2021
The worst thing about the Belo ad is that line at the end: "Anong nangyari?"
That's the ultimate judgy tita question that we all avoid during reunions when we're in a bad place in life.
This ad masquerades as a body awareness ad, yet it judges all of us in a corporate scale.
— Surety Band – Music Guaranteed (@Lagrangian____) August 11, 2021
The Belo ad shows how beauty companies shamelessly exploit our insecurities for profit. It also feeds ideologically into an individualistic neoliberal mentality that privileges self-care divorced from collectively holding the state accountable for its failed pandemic response.
— k. (@OneDividesToTwo) August 11, 2021
I kennat with the insensitive Belo ad, profiting off women’s insecurities. 🤬
Just a gentle reminder that your body, no matter what it looks like, carried you through this global pandemic. You are amazing, your body is amazing, and you are more than enough!!! 🌸
— yelly 🦥♡ (@izzzyelly) August 10, 2021
Here's something for those triggered by that insensitive Belo ad. So sorry you had to go through it.
"The coronavirus changed so much about our lives, including, for many of us, our bodies. It’s OK."https://t.co/k0LIDwulzU
— morxCQ season 3 (@emceemorx) August 10, 2021
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.
Lmao can’t believe Gigil fucked up with this Belo Ad. Not only as it distasteful, but for an ad that promotes conventional beauty standards, it’s very very exaggerated.
— kæ ⎕ (@ifyouseekkae) August 10, 2021
gigil went from 📈 to 📉 real quick wahahahaha nice belo ad 🙂👍🏼
— 𝙢𝙟 ; (@mjnvlss) August 10, 2021
So Gigil was the one behind the Belo Ad? Lol what do you expect from an ad agency who makes ads that prioritizes awards over building sustainable brand equity
— nat ✨| IA due to work (@JaehyukBestBoy) August 10, 2021
“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.
The more serious #PandemicEffect are the ones beyond what the human eye can see — #MentalHealth #MayKaramayKa
— MentalHealthPH (@mentalhealthph) August 11, 2021
You know what's the real #PandemicEffect?
– People losing jobs
– People becoming positive with COVID
– People dying of COVID
– People stressing out how they will earn to feed their families
It's not about gaining weight or "letting yourself go.
— Sheng ♡ (@gvmamella) August 11, 2021
Why do we have this kind of ad when we’re in the middle of pandemic… when our livelihoods are threatened and our family and friends are either dying or in grave danger.
It’s done in poor taste 🙁 #PandemicEffect pls do better. pic.twitter.com/FMH2j2R60I
— mimi & harry of @Kamila’s 4AM Art/KPA🇯🇵🇵🇭 (@kamilas4amart) August 10, 2021
People lost jobs. Businesses went bankrupt. Most countries went on recession. Family and friends died. Others succumbed to mental illness. Lives were permanently changed. That is the real #PandemicEffect.
Not that you got fat and if you did there is nothing wrong with that.
— Aby (@Aby_Was_Here) August 10, 2021
Hello @belobeauty and @GigilGroup, I hope you realize how absolutely out of touch, tasteless, and insensitive that recent ad is. Not only does it send the complete opposite message of what your PR says the ad intended to, it also ignores what the "#PandemicEffect" is for many. https://t.co/FjjGeda3Ya
— seiruhhhh 🦥🦙🦄 (@lakwatsarah) August 10, 2021
The #PandemicEffect is our highest rates of unemployment, vaccine inequality, etc. but no you had to sell your product by positioning a woman who’s grown out her body hair as representative of all this, who also holds responsibility to make herself beautiful in the face of it all
— sof🦖 (@_sofiagnzn) August 10, 2021
We should celebrate the fact that we have remained healthy despite and in spite of the pandemic. We can advocate for self-care and healthy living without preying on skin-deep insecurities. This is what the #PandemicEffect should be all about.
— PRAK BOGUM (@kaisipangabitan) August 10, 2021
You can promote self-care without (1) exploiting insecurities and (2) trivializing the #PandemicEffect, which affected our lives in ways we never have imagined. @belobeauty's ad just mocked, even invalidated, our struggles of surviving this pandemic. So out of touch, disgusting.
— N. 💙🇵🇭 (@angelteukk) August 10, 2021
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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