Notes & Essays

An Appreciation of the Subtle Genius of Kris Aquino, Once and Future Queen of All Media

Who else can bridge old and new media so effortlessly?
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We live in a world smart to advertising. We don't have examples, we have “pegs”; bloggers have become “influencers”; almost everything taking place on the Internet is part of some grand “marketing strategy.” The idea of a “professional contest joiner” has even entered pop language. I guess it has a lot to do with Mad Men—where the otherwise mundane world of advertising is framed against a fantastical (if not archaic) universe of booze and backstabbing—or maybe people have just made too many ads over the past century that people know the difference between what’s an advertisement and what isn’t.

Maybe we’re just bombarded by advertising on a daily basis. EDSA itself is a stretch of road, traffic, and advertising: no corner or bend of a national urban highway is immune from something that sells a product or a service, whether you hear it on the radio, see it on a billboard, or watch it on television. The Internet, as it seems, is far worse; the Facebook news feed is just as full of ads as it is with inspirational quotes, gym selfies, food flatlays, and wedding announcements.

I guess there is a certain grim thought in the back of every advertising person’s head (or every client’s head, for that matter): How do I make this brand engaging? Surely there’s more to things like, say, tomato sauce or a credit card, that should “tell a story” or “engage consumers.” Maybe we’re all just reaching our limits of what could be done.

Or maybe we just need to seek inspiration from somewhere else. Enter Kris Aquino.

In many ways, Kris is a convergence of the old and the new.

Unboxed for @adobomall #realgreatfinds (from their official Apple Store, a rose gold, in other words pink MacBook) did a great conversation about OLAY for the special P&G Kris Birthday in @lazadaph (apologies, the water bottle was my director’s and used to give the shot a special effect- it wasn’t my brand yet because as i write this we are just arranging to pick up the 500 ml bottles- our home has the 5 gallon water dispenser bottles already), then today it was my contract signing & launch for Manila Water/ Ayala’s @healthyfamilyph. Just feeling exceptionally grateful for the wonderful opportunities God has blessed my life with, but constantly reminding myself when God has opened that door- i should be worthy & keep working w/ unwavering passion & dedication. #positivitywins ??????????????????????????????

A post shared by KRIS AQUINO (@krisaquino) on

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On the regular, Kris Aquino on social media amasses hundreds of thousands of views effortlessly, on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, spanned across a hundred or so subtle and not-so-subtle product endorsements, done over the course of over 220 videos. It’s no mean feat for any other influencer to accomplish, especially when the bulk of them just happened in under a year. But Kris is not just any other influencer: she is a brand unto herself. In a way, she’s the epitome of what we've come to call, literally, "personal branding.”

In many ways, Kris is a convergence of the old and the new. Raised in the realm of TV, Kris defaults to the ways of the infomercial pitchman: like blue-shirted infomercial hosts selling super-absorbent chamois cloths that can absorb liters of colored liquid, or a car wax that can withstand the forces of a powerful laser beam, Kris demonstrates the product—be it cologne, a whole rack of lipsticks, or a recipe for foie gras adobo.

But that's it as far as old-media behavior goes. Any other person selling you something would be straightforward about the sell: that it kills 99% of germs, that it comes with a set of six extra steak knives, that it’s made from all-natural ingredients sourced only from the baobab trees of Zanzibar.

Kris, on the other hand, speaks the social media lingua franca more fluently and more naturally than any other celebrity we have, and understands that the currency here is she, herself, and her. You barely see the product, even: you see the quotes, the cheesy bits, the banter with RB and Jack and perhaps even Bincai. You cannot divorce the product from the daily experiences of Kris as the guardian of her household: “This is Josh’s fave,” or “I got this for Bimb.” Like her showbiz career, the Kris Aquino experience on digital is to peek into KCA’s life behind the scenes and see how much of it is driven by excitement, passion, and the occasional maldita-ness that comes from the highs of privilege, and the lows of public scrutiny. A notebook isn’t just a notebook: It’s Kris’s favorite. Papercraft isn’t just a hobby: It’s something Ballsy may like, but not her.

Kris Aquino experience on digital is to peek into KCA’s life behind the scenes and see how much of it is driven by excitement, passion, and the occasional maldita-ness that comes from the highs of privilege, and the lows of public scrutiny.

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Still, it’s easy to dismiss Kris’s success on digital as remnants of her massive star power in previous decades, before her brother became President—Kris’s presence on digital has a lot more to do with her larger-than-life persona and long career in showbiz than we’re willing to admit. And it’s chalk it all up as a low-key form of elitism: after all, not everyone would have acrylic cases to house a big collection of makeup, much less have wifi in a swimming pool. They are, after all, nagging contexts that should frame even the most glowing appreciations of KCA’s success on digital. Still, that she is able to break through all of that deserves some measure of acknowledgement: that some people, rightly or wrongly, see her for what she is.

The Kris Aquino we see online is, in many ways, the Kris Aquino we have always seen. She's the person who confessed her illnesses on national television. The person who, as a young girl, spoke before the nation on the death of her father. The scream queen who started off with comedic roles, progressed to the campy massacre movies of the 90s, all the way to FAMAS-worthy performances and an inroad to Hollywood. The businesswoman who started her businesses from what capital she had, even if the financials weren’t always by her side. The talk show host who—with a unique flavor of curious sincerity often construed as conversational narcissism—made Sunday showbiz a staple of TV viewing. The mother of two who puts so much value on family, her extended family, and everyone else to the point of her losing out—on so many occasions—on what we think to be her own personal joys.

Sometimes fortune—good, honest-to-goodness luck—has a lot to do with it. To make sense of Kris’s marketing savvy, we may have to taking her entire work—warts and all—as the basis for all this success.

It was worth the wait but now on IG & FB- i am KRIS AQUINO. ♥?♥?♥?

A post shared by KRIS AQUINO (@krisaquino) on

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In a world smart to advertising, it’s sometimes baffling to see Kris Aquino break out of the usual public problems of advertising in general: how people don’t complete watching videos, how people care more about friends and family than looking at ads, “influencers,” or the dread that comes with the all-seeing Facebook algorithm.

Maybe it’s a good time to run down “basic principles” and “content pillars” from a Kris Aquino video campaign—just as what people in the advertising industry once did with Oreo cookies and Cannes-winning award campaigns. We can all probably sit down together and talk about how “authenticity works for brands.” Or how “everyone has stories to tell.” Or how “influencers should continually engage with their followers.” And so on—enough for her, perhaps, to be present in an advertising congress to talk for three straight hours about what she believes in (which probably is a good idea).

Sometimes fortune—good, honest-to-goodness luck—has a lot to do with it. To make sense of Kris’s marketing savvy, we may have to taking her entire work—warts and all—as the basis for all this success. It’s that whole that sells, not the parts: her frailty as a human being, her desire to be the best mother to her kids, her earnestness to succeed despite having a network. Heck, even the last name that has been both blessing and a curse.

We live in a world smart to advertising. People know when something is an ad, and when something isn’t: and in a world where ads are a way of life, everything probably is. That we still keep watching Kris Aquino ads—and posting Kris Aquino memes—means that Kris probably does the basics better than anyone else. Maybe by being first to acknowledge the “power of digital”—in ways that would confound (or even impress) those who spew that anodyne on a regular basis—Kris made it work for her, reintroducing and reinventing herself as a mom, a brand, and an influencer to an audience who may care less for her political last name, much less the massacre movies she was famous for.

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About The Author
Marck Ronald Rimorin
Marck Rimorin works in advertising as a strategic planner. He is also a blogger and an occasional writer.
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