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Taglish, Glutathione, and the Halo-Halo Discourse of Billboards in Metro Manila

Despite attempts since 2011 by the national government to regulate the size, placement, and content of billboards in Metropolitan Manila, it is apparent to any commuter that out-of-home advertising continues to dominate – or blight – the urban skyline and major thoroughfares of the Philippines' capital region. Building on the author's past investigation of locational and technical features of billboards, this research focuses on the communicated content, especially the linguistic features of the visual hodgepodge that lines major streets. Whereas Hotelling's (Economic Journal 39(153):41–57, 1929) spatial competition theory saw consumers as immobile and firms as selective of sites, present advertising behavior for billboards deals with the reality of mobile consumers, while firms are compelled to control multiple well-traveled locations where persuasive speech and images can be broadcasted. Moreover, effort is made to match the perceived style and cadence of the target audience, hearkening back to Giles' 1971 Communication Accommodation Theory, especially in the use of the code-mixed Tagalog-English, or "Taglish." Taking these latter and other notions from linguistics, media, and urban studies, the author did a walk-by/drive-by qualitative assessment of billboard concentrations and collected data on the profile of commuters, to derive plausible reasons for the persistence of patterns in the urban panorama of commercial speech. It is concluded that despite sporadic government clampdowns and complaints of linguistic purists, the language of billboards continues to court the substantial 20-something cohorts of commuters aggressively and pushes for ideals of physical beauty and hedonic lifestyles that exert an erosive influence on the traditional Filipino ethos.


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