January 2009

Eye Askant

Governance and political campaigns from a marketing perspective.

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One Loved Filipino President

Getting a president elected is easy, selling government is the difficult part.

Magsaysay was sold well. We thank Col. Edward G. Lansdale, former advertising agency copywriter and account executive and the Central Intelligence Agency's master manipulator, (Time Magazine's description, not mine), for the well-wrought packaging: "My Guy" was "America's Boy", "manufactured, packaged and delivered."

Recently released secret documents prove this. Lansdale wrote: "it quickly became apparent that we would have to make the Philippine leadership against the Communists a military one in the person of the Secretary of National Defense (Magsaysay), and since the senior military officers in their armed forces didn’t seem to have this little X factor of leadership that would make men willingly go along with them, why, we have to make a civilian Secretary in effect a military leader for his armed forces…"

"Lansdale is described as having engineered Magsaysay’s election to the presidency in 1953. Quirino, who was seen as being soft on the communist threat, lost his re-election bid owing partly to a corruption issue that would be considered trivial in today’s standards: about a supposedly gold-plated spittoon inside the presidential bedroom. The much-publicized issue was a psywar gimmick crafted... by Lansdale himself."

  1. Bobby Tuazon, Bulatlat, based on the collected papers of Lansdale Archive File No. 87-0346-DOD-033, declassified in 1992 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Whether Magsaysay could have lived up to the packaging and promise had he lived long enough is fairly easy to answer. With a Cold War propaganda team behind him, every move would have been the fruit of discussions and he would probably have gone down in history as the best president we ever had.

Magsaysay -- how much is of him is CIA gift wrapping?

As any Filipino sexagenarian will attest, Magsaysay was well-loved. Stories abound about the unassuming and kindly man and his surprise visits to government offices and military outposts. While extensive research is required to be able to tell gift wrapping from product, several things are certain. Even as Defense Secretary, Magsaysay was very accommodating to US desires, allowing them to plan the war against the Hukbalahap. Lansdale was a close friend and ally. To quote Bobby Tuazon, "Lansdale and Magsaysay, instantly became buddies and the war against the Huk guerillas in the early 1950s brought them together in many military operations."

In Lansdale's words, “we would sometimes go in liaison aircraft, sometimes jump in the car and drive places. If we went in the liaison aircraft, L-5s, we would land in a corn patch or on a road and then go out on the road and bum rides in trucks, and so forth. I used to carry a razor and a toothbrush in my pocket because I never knew when I was going to get home again."

It is relevant to remember that this was the Cold War, and Magsaysay's advertising agency was the Agency, which had no qualms about using dirty tricks. Author Sterling Seagrave says Lansdale "was on secret missions with a hand-picked team of Filipino assassins, assassinating leftists, liberals and progressives."

Though I do not condone the manner in which it was done, public perception of the Defense Secretary and later President was managed adroitly.

Why governments disappoint.

Magsaysay was well-loved. Extensive research is required to be able to tell CIA gift wrapping from product

About the Professor

In his 35 years in advertising, Professor Pozon has been been involved, in varying degrees, independently and as an agency man, with political campaigns.


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General Edward Geary Lansdale, 1910-1987. CIA Master Manipulator and propaganda specialist. He was a former advertising agency copywriter and account executive.


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