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A Positive Chile Emerges From “NO”

Coincidental to our recent study abroad experience in Santiago, the film “NO” (2012) was recently released into a few theaters in the Chicago area.   The film is based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta and was directed by Pablo Larrain. (Here is the trailer for the film.) It tells the fascinating story of Chile in the last days of the Pinochet regime.  The military dictator of 15 years is pressured to call a referendum.  He thinks, of course, that he will win easily.

The perspective of the film is from the viewpoint of a small group of oppositionists who convince an advertising creative to serve as their consultant. The “NO-vote” party has been allotted 15 minutes of television time late each night during 27 days prior to the election to tell their story. The question is what content should be aired. The witty twist on this political drama cannot be lost on U.S. audiences in the context of the media blitz we experience in our own prolonged national election process.

Beyond the political, it is an intriguing marketing story. The rebels want to use their television minutes to expose the atrocities of the Pinochet era and rail against repression. They do not expect to win the majority, but want to make a statement.  Rene, the advertising creative, argues for a different tact — he insists on a positive message of hope and change with the slogan “Happiness is Coming.”

I agree with some critics who complain that the film simplifies a complex political environment and may give the impression that it was only the television messaging that won the referendum for the “NO” contingent.  As a citizen, I encourage political involvement based upon principles and honest negotiations. And as a Marketer, however, I believe that these guiding principles can be distilled effectively into shorter messages that can stimulate conversations, rather than squelch them.  In this case, in the end we can agree that a peaceful, prosperous Chile that we visited in early March emerged from this unsavory political drama.

  • By Kate Hanley on 4.4.2013 at 9:52 pm

    We definitely experienced the peaceful, prosperous Chile during our study abroad trip to Santiago. However, we discovered that the Pinochet rule still has some effects on Chilean society today. While we were attending a presentation on Chilean marketing demographics at a local advertising agency, it was mentioned that certain luxury items such as diamond jewelry and flashy cars are difficult to market in Chile. The presenter attributed this to societal habits left over from the Pinochet regime. During that time, Chile existed in a fairly strict police state and it was not in any citizens’ best interest to stand out from the crowd or do anything that might call attention to themselves, for fear of punishment from the military. After this presentation, I began to notice that there was definitely a difference in the prominence of luxury items in Chile as compared to what we see in the United States. Women were not wearing diamond wedding rings or other expensive looking jewelry, few people were wearing flashy or loud color clothing, and almost all the cars were demure colors and few were of a luxury brand. Even among the younger generations, there was a significant conformity in regards to dress and style in comparison to the US. This makes me wonder if there are similar situations affecting marketing efforts in other countries that are currently under a strict governmental rule or countries that have experienced drastic change in government regime within the past 20 years. Has anyone out there in the marketing community experienced something similar in other countries?

  • By Caroline Sullivan on 4.14.2013 at 11:44 pm

    On our first day, as part of our first outing in Chile, we went to the Presidential Palace. At the time most of us still knew little about Chile’s history, nor the building that embodied so much of its history between President Allende and General Pinochet. While “No” only scratched the surface of the Pinochet years, it is a great way for outsiders to catch a glimpse of life before this historic vote. I agree with Kate’s assessment that while we experienced a prosperous country, looking back there were subtle signs of mistrust still in the air from a time when people were actually afraid to vote “No.”

    One day after a morning company visit, we headed to a small market area near one of the universities. Ten minutes into shopping, we began to hear much shouting and immediately the screens around the shopping area were being pulled down to protect the goods and the shoppers within. Through the gates we could see people running away as the police used water to disperse the crowds. Students in Santiago were protesting for better access to higher education. The protests ended up not being a big deal, but it was an interesting reminder of a time gone by when voting “No” was really a big deal. Even on that clear day twenty years later, there was still a traceable amount of tension and fear in the faces of those that remember the military regime. People ran from the streets and into our safely gated area just so that it would be known they weren’t looking for trouble. While we were not ever in any actual danger, there is something terrifying of being in a country where you aren’t sure what you’re rights are, if anything watching “No” reminds you that for millions of people not living in democracies that is still the case. For those countries still struggling to again independence and grasp democracy, this film and Chile could be seen as a beacon of hope.

  • By Gloria Hernandez on 4.15.2013 at 11:18 pm

    It has been a little over a month since my return from Chile and I find myself wanting to know more and more about the people, the culture, the politics and the global issues of such an amazing country.
    From the moment I stepped foot in the booming city of Santiago, I knew I wanted to learn and experience as much as I could and I could now say I have memories that will last me a lifetime. One of those such memories was witnessing the school protest down the street from the market a group of us were shopping in minutes before, as Caroline had mentioned. At first we were confused, but then as the protest grew and police responded, we stood there in silence; absorbing and reflecting that moment. Such a powerful scene. And to think this was nothing in comparison to the riots Chileans endured under the Pinochet regime.
    I recently viewed the film “No” as well and thought it was quite interesting to see a snapshot of the perseverance of the Chilean people against Pinochet. The same perseverance was present in the students seen protesting during our trip. People wanted a change and as strong as they remained and worked together, they won in the end and were one step closer to a brighter, more democratic Chile. This ties into the exciting news that Michelle Bachelet is currently campaigning for her second term in office. Relating this news back to my experience, one of the main issues Bachelet is promoting is equality and availability of education. She is promising the people a better Chile and a brighter future for all. This is going to be an interesting year with the election and I am looking forward to following her campaign and news on one of the most interesting and amazing places I have ever been to. Hasta la proxima Chile! Until next time Chile!

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