No shortcuts in marketing the country
MANILA, Philippines - Advertising agency Campaigns & Grey recently found itself in the middle of controversy and criticism over the logo "Pilipinas, Kay Ganda."
The Department of Tourism (DOT) had consulted it for the slogan, which has since been scrapped due to widespread criticism. Negative feedback and criticism over the flawed and seemingly rushed campaign had led to the resignation of Tourism Undersecretary Vicente 'Enteng' Romano.
Today, Campaigns & Grey Chairperson Yolly Ong says, she has full respect in Romano for owning up to the incident and accepting responsibility.
"That's why we also didn't speak. We didn't want to add to the fire by speaking up prematurely."
Ong admits their principals in New York had gotten battered over the incident, after a malicious and anonymous e-mail about the logo circulated. They came out with a statement which they sent-out to clients and friends, but seemingly also made its way to social networking site Facebook.
But amid allegations they copied "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" from the Polska logo, Ong now insists there was no intention to deceive the public.
"If deception was indeed involved, why did Enteng present the logo along with the Polska logo during the preview? There was absolutely no intention to deceive. I don't know which netizens discovered the Polska because it was shown along with Maldives, Thailand," Ong says on ANC's "The Rundown."
"If you want to be technical about it, plagiarism is not the right word. If there was any violation, it would be copyright infringement, and the one who can accuse you of that are the makers of the Polska logo, but since it was a test logo not applied to anything, there can't be."
Ong says working with the DOT started out as a consultation arrangement grounded on sheer friendship, sans any contract or any payment arrangements. All they went by, Ong says, were the terms of reference for the campaign, which would in turn depend on the scope and the process.
"We know each other well and he knew how we worked," Ong says.
She adds Campaigns & Grey played some part in President Aquino's election campaign when it created the line "Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap," as well as the logo with ribbon and the dove and some pre-election materials.
Ong says Romano had called them sometime in August, asking how it was possible to create a new brand to replace "WOW Philippines" and how to go about it.
"Initially, he was asking us for a guide on how to arrive at a very good brand after 'WOW'," Ong says, adding they sat down a couple of times to discuss the process.
It started with a concept, an initial execution. And they had prepared adcepts--initial concepts to catalyze discussion and from which, Ong says, respondents could glean the more important message and what would resonate with them.
"The logo came much later when they zeroed-in on 'Pilipinas, Kay Ganda.' They presented 6 or 8 concept of 'Pilipinas, Kay Ganda' and they sent us several logos, Polska is one of them.
"It had a cartoony flavor. We were told this was the trend. They came up with more than 10, and we were given a guide logo, close with European logos."
Ong says they presented 5 concepts, 4 of which were in English, 1 in Pilipino, "Pilipinas, Kay Ganda."
"Normally, as an institution, we try to put some institutional memory in it. If we were coming from 'WOW Philippines,' or at least that's what we thought we were coming from, we had `wonderful Philippines' etc," she says.
"There were 2 market researches that were available: a survey done among 8,000 respondents who had been to the Philippines, and the other, a tally of visitors who came to the country in 2009, and a profile of the more than 3 million tourists who came to the country."
Ong says, the top two answers to the question on what visitors liked most about the Philippines had to do with warm hospitable people and beautiful scenery, providing the driving idea to spur campaign executions from.
All things Pinoy
Ong says "Pilipinas, Kay Ganda" with the translation, was a concept further fueled by renewed interest in the Philippines and things Filipino.
"We knew that two of the hits of the BlackEyed Peas were peppered with Filipino words, and that in California, there was a move to make Filipino one of the international languages to be taught in schools."
Ong says it also went with the general concept that if the market interacts with a campaign, by teaching them a word they previously did not know, would help create a stronger bond. They had opted for the more radical choice by targetting Filipino migrants and Filipino Americans.
She says audience response to the use of the concept "beautiful people from a naturally beautiful land" as a springboard, had differed between Romano's trip to a Palawan event where people were opposed to calling in Philippines, Pilipinas, but received the term well in Europe.
But, Ong adds, in the DOT's rush to try something new, they skirted the usual processes and left out an important element to designing a new campaign: insight generation research, identifying the markets to be tapped, to determine the most persuasive factors to make people come to a destination like the Philippines.
It wouldn't have cost too much or taken too long to do. Depending on the number of countries where the test would be done, Ong says, it would've cost at estimated $21,000 to hold focus discussion groups on two panels: one that had visited the Philippines, and another that hadn't.
At the earliest, Ong adds, they would've conducted the study and finished production by April 2011.
"The most important thing with branding is not the agencies or the clients, but the target market. We never got there."
On November 15, Ong says, amid ongoing conversations on the proposed study logo, Romano previewed the campaign, what was supposed to be followed by a market research to test certain premises.
"They knew of the complaint of non-consultation with other industry stakeholders," Ong says. Thus, she advised Romano to reach out.
Ong claims the ad agency had warned the DOT against doing a premature launch of "Pilipinas, Kay Ganda," which was developed as one of five concepts that had yet to be tested.
"Because it was an initial concept, we knew that it should've been refined."
But, Ong says, it never got there, and they were merely "shocked at the grand scale" of the slogan's preview.
On hindsight, Ong believes, she would've insisted on the research in order to make an educated judgement on the slogan.
"Premature launches or previews will really create a mess. There are no shortcuts, specially when you are doing branding for a very significant product like a country."
While the ad agency has done work for various government agencies in the previous administration, Ong admits, they would now have to weigh proposed ad campaigns very well.
Despite the incident, Ong says, she's still grateful for new opportunities than come their way.
"I'm not too worried about bad publicity. At its height, we had two business calls, one of them was asking for a slogan!" she says with a laugh. "There's humor in life. We shouldn't take everything too seriously."
Ong says the incident made her realize the passion Filipinos had for their country.
"I've never seen such engagement. That's good people care. The worst thing is when people are apathetic."
At the height of the controversy, Ong says, 10,000 people had posted comments on the internet, passionate voices that were eventually picked up by traditional media.