Wednesday, May 24, 2017

110. Brand Stories: COSMOS (SARSI) of Cosmos Bottling Corp.

COSMOS 1963 print ad. At its peak, it was the no. 1 sarsaparilla soda in the market.

One of the more popular alternative soda brands in the Philippines after the war was a product of the Manila Aerated Water Factory, located on Misericordia St., Manila. It was founded way back in 1918 by Wong Ning, a Guangdong native who migrated to the Philippines. He would be arrested and jailed by the Japanese during World War II for his association with the Kuomintang government, where he would tragically die in prison.

VERY EARLY COSMOS AD. 1955. Only 5 centavos per bottle!

The eldest of his 7 children—Henry Gao-Hong Wong—rebuilt the business post-war and renamed it in 1945 as COSMOS Bottling Corporation.


Its main product was a flavored beverage called COSMOS Sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla—similar to root beer—is made from the roots of the sarsaparilla vine, and is considered as a tonic drink with medicinal value. The flavor is not alien to Filipinos, as root beer was introduced by Americans in their regime; Royal, and early soda brand, carried the same flavor.

'SARSI' IS COSMOS. This 1968 ad calls the sarsaparilla drink--Sarsi!

Print advertising was begun in the mid 1950s. Soon, COSMOS found its way to Filipino homes and became quickly a favorite, holding its own against leaders Pepsi and Coca-Cola. The company, would prosper under the management of  the Philippine-educated Henry, who was armed with a doctoral degree in Economics from the University of Santo Tomas. COSMOS Bottling Corp,,under his helm, became the second largest manufacturer of soft drinks in the Philippines.

SARSI AD, Featuring the 1968 Miss Asia, Macy Shih,  and her court, ca. 1969

This paved the way for the Wong family to put up the COSMOS Aerated Water in Hong Kong in 1947, with its own plant on Castle Peak Road.  COSMOS, too, became a favorite brand, and soon, they expanded their plant and equipped it with state-of-the-art bottling machines that could produce 3,000 bottled Cosmos per hour, in Sarsaparilla, Orange, Cream Soda, Lime, Lemon, Mulberry, Grape and Pineapple flavors. The Hong Kong operation was taken care of by younger brother Hubert and Freddy Wong. After 1966, the COSMOS Hong Kong business seemed to have faltered, although its corporate registration is still active today.

SARSI AD. With Miss Asia 1969, Wong Kyung Suh of Korea as endorser,

THE SARSI SOCIETY, With Miss Asia '69 and her court. ca. 1970.

The sarsaparilla flavor of COSMOS was such in demand by the late 1960s, and consumers by then had started calling it “Sarsi”—and so the name stuck, even though the bottles still bannered the COSMOS name up front. COSMOS in orange flavor was relaunched in the early 70s as SUNTA.

CHRISTMAS AD, With the 1969 Miss Asia. ca. 1969

LET'S SARSI TOGETHER! With India's Zeenat Amman, Miss Asia '70.

By a cruel twist of fate, the brilliant Henry--only 53-- died of a stroke caused  by his brain tumor in 1970. Several family members were unprepared to fill in the leadership vacuum left by the patriarch, as there was no training for succession.

THE SARSI SOCIETY, With Carolyn Masibay, Mutya ng Pilipinas 1971.

Still, advertising and promotions continued through the 1970s, with colored ads featuring Miss Asia and Mutya winners (COSMOS was into events marketing; it was a major sponsor of Miss Asia and  Mutya ng Pilipinas). One of its most memorable commercials was the “SARSI with Egg” TVC presented by imported talent Danny Vanni, who endorsed an unconventional usage for drinking Sarsi—with a raw egg stirred in, yolks and all. Such a combination supposedly ensured heightened energy.


The business floundered until, in RFM Corporation acquired it from the Wong Family in 1989, thus ending the Wong family’s hold on COSMOS which they have had for 7 decades. The products were briefly revitalized by a new “Bagong Tunog” (all-Philippine music) campaign conceptualized by Basic Advertising.


In 2001, Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils. (under the combined control of San Miguel and Coca-Cola Company) would acquire 83% of COSMOS Bottling from RFM, to give it ownership of 90% market share of the Philippine soft drink market in the Philippines. It was delisted from the Philippine Stock Exchange in 2013.

PSST. PASS IT ON! Sarsi Print Ad, 1975.

At its peak, COSMOS Bottling Corp., were the makers of Sarsi (Sarsaparilla), Sunta (Cosmos Orange Flavor), Sarsi Light,  Pop Cola, Cheers Lemon and Orange, Jaz Cola and Sparkle.

COSMOS PRODUCTS RELAUNCH. by Basic/FCB Advertising. 1989.

Cosmos Aerated Water – in Hong Kong from 1947

“The Fall of the Once Mighty Cosmos Soft drink Company”.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

109. Tsikletin Mo Baby!: CHICLETS “Mas Hilig ng Bibig” Campaign, 1980

TSIKLETIN MO, BABY! Frames from the very successful CHICLETS TV ad.

Adams CHICLETS—those peppermint-flavored gums in their familiar thin yellow packs—were already well known to Filipino in the 1960s. CHICLETS was created by Thomas Adams, who, upon the prodding of Mexican Antonio Lopez de Sta. Ana, produced the gum from “chicle”—a soft, chewy substance extracted from sapote tree.

ADAMS CHICLETS, 1964 print ad.

He mass produced his gum after receiving chewing gum machine patent in 1871 and began selling them in drug stores under Adams, Sons and Co in 1876. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the product was fully developed as the CHICLETS that we know now, now--candy-coated, and boxed in thin packs. Adams was eventually absorbed by the American Chicle Co., one of the world’s largest producers of gums and mints.

ADAMS CHEWING GUM. Made to compete against Juicy Fruit. 1965

In 1962, pharmaceutical firm Warner Lambert bought American Chicle Co., which included the Adams brand of gums like Dentyne, Trident, Certs, Cloret mints and of course, CHICLETS.

The CHICLETS thus became available in the Philippines around 1964, in Peppermint, Spearmint and Tutti-Frutti flavors. The next year, CHICLET sticks in foil wraps were launched to compete with Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit. CHICLETS were marketed and advertised on leading weekly magazines, with illustrated print ads in color.


Warner-Lambert Philippines signed up with local agency Basic Advertising in 1978, after the U.S. headquarters ok'd the arrangement. In 1979, the agency started production of  CHICLETS TV commercial—“Mas Hilig ng Bibig” (More Preferred by your Mouth)—made waves for its catchy, repetitive jingle with a melody adapted from the song “Mexican Hat Dance”, and a catchphrase—“Tsikletin Mo, Baby!”, coined by ad icon, Herminio “Minyong Ordoñez (+). The TVC hit the airwaves in the 2nd quarter of 1980. With its fast intercuts, split screens,  expressive close-ups of gum-chewing models—plus the use of the local language—the CHICLETS commercial did wonders for the brand, grabbing the market leadership from old-time rival, Juicy Fruit Gum.

AGENCY: Basic Advertising
ART DIRECTOR: Rudy San Pedro
DIRECTOR: Jun Urbano
CLIENT: Warner-Lambert Phils.Inc.

youtube, Lessons from Chiclets:, , ulpaoded 13 June 2013, by ogilvy do. Thanks, Paolo Mercado.Popi Gutay for the details.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

108. Is That Who I Think She Is? BELLA FLORES, for CAMAY SOAP, 1955

CONTRAVIDA CAMAY GIRL, BELLA FLORES, Camay Soap print ad, mid-1950s.

“The Soap of Beautiful Women”CAMAY—was introduced by Procter and Gamble PMC in 1950, a product that enjoyed such a high profile, that the first boxes  of the beauty soap were sent to Philippine President Elpidio Quirino.

Few years after, the brand rolled out its first advertising featuring—of course—the Philippines’ most beautiful women. Movie queens Carmen Rosales, Paraluman,  Gloria Romero, Alicia Vergel, Norma Blancaflor, Rosa Rosal and Miss Universe Armi Kuusela graced the early ads, followed by young ingénues in the mid 50s—Nida Blanca, Letty Alonso, Charito Solis.

Most of these CAMAY models were chosen not only for their beauty, but also for their wholesome charm, grace and spotless image. It was a surprise then to find, included in this elite list—an actress who earned a reputation as the premier “villainess”—kontrabida of Philippine showbiz—BELLA FLORES.

Born as Medina Papa Dancel in Sta. Cruz, Manila on 27 Feb. 1929, she was a Far Eastern University  college sophomore  when she was discovered for the movies. In 1950, she made her first film, Tatlong Balaraw, an action movie starring Jose Padilla Jr. and Anita Linda. 

It was Dr. Jose Vera-Perez who christened her "Bella Flores"--beautiful flower. Snapped by Sampaguita Pictures to appear as the cruel stepmother of Tessie Agana in the mega box-office hit, “Roberta”, Bella’s popularity suddenly rose. Her iconic ‘kontrabida’ performance turned her into a hot star, and soon she was reprising her evil role in such films as Rebecca (1952), Munting Kerubin (1952), Gigolo (1956), Prinsesang Gusgusin (1957),  Anghel sa Lansangan (1959) and Alipin ng Palad (1959).  Bella was certainly hated by fans for her despicable treatment of Vilma Santos in Trudis Liit (1963) and in Kaibigan Kong Santo Nino (1967) for which she won a FAMAS Best Supporting statuette.

But of course, when Flores first appeared in the CAMAY print ad series, P&G executives would have no way of knowing that she would be typecast in villain roles---characters that movie audiences loved to hate. To them, she was as beautiful as her name—Bella!—and thus perfect for CAMAY.


Her effective portrayals clearly showed how good an actress she really was. In fact, Flores continued acting for most of her life, until she suffered a hip injury that caused her death on 19 May 2013. She even managed to complete a short film for Bench, about how it is to be a kontrabida , a role she relished all her life.

BENCHINGKO/FILMS PRESENTS KONTABIDA 1010, published on 6 Aug. 2012.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

107. A Light of Hope: HOPE CIGARETTES, 1979

In the mid 1970s, Fortune Tobacco Corporation of Lucio Tan, ruled the Philippine cigarette market led by brands like More, Westpoint, Camel, Salem, Champion and HOPE INTERNATIONAL LUXURY CIGARETTES, sold as mentholated sticks. The company was founded in 1966, with a decrepit plant made of GI sheets and scrap lumber in Marikina, equipped with second hand machines. It would grow to become one of the five largest privately-held cigarette manufacturers in the world.

The success of their brands were largely due to their massive tri-media advertising and promotions, which was handled by their agency, J. Romero and Associates. There was a deliberate decision to give the Fortune cigarette line an imported image, and in fact, most of the brands in their early advertising, featured Caucasian talents.

HOPE CIGARETTES were advertised on the basis of their “mentholated freshness”. The TVCs showed foreign talents engaged in such exhilarating Western leisure like sky-diving, sky wake-boarding and speed boat racing to drive home the “freshness” story. Sure enough, HOPE CIGARETTES became the largest luxury cigarette in the country.

But what made even HOPE CIGARETTES more popular was a jingle that had a genuine American feel courtesy of the singer who sounded like Karen Carpenter—then one of the leading voices of the airwaves.

“There’s a light of HOPE…when you light a HOPE…there’s a light of HOPE for you…”, went the jingle, sang soulfully by the singer—Claire de la Fuente, then 21, who was assigned by composer George Canseco to sing the jingle. It accompanied a TVC which aired in late 1979, that featured paragliders soaring on yonder blue skies.


The song took HOPE CIGARETTES to an all-time high in terms of awareness and popularity, but it also catapulted the singer to fame. As the campaign evolved, the jingle was rearranged, and, in subsequent versions, popular lines from the lyrics (“there’s a light of hope) as well as the melody would be integrated in future incarnations of the jingle.

In 2010, Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. and Fortune Tobacco created a new corporation called Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC). HOPE CIGARETTES would continue to be a prized part of the product portfolio in the next decades. HOPE would have a period of highs and lows—the recent blow was the implementation of the reformed sin tax in January 2013 that jacked up its prices. But, for a well-known and well-loved brand,  always “there’s a light of hope” for its future!

Hope Luxury Cigarettes TV Commercial 1980 (Digitally Restored and Remastered Version, by Lian Las Pinas, published 14April 2017.