YOU cannot change my mind on this: When someone says “Malaysia”, I will immediately think, “Truly Asia.” This is how effective Malaysia’s tourism campaign has been (to me, at least).
The “Malaysia, Truly Asia” campaign was launched in 1999 and while a new logo and slogan will reportedly be revealed in the near future, “Truly Asia” has definitely made its mark. Meanwhile, I have lived through many Department of Tourism campaigns, from “Where Asia Wears a Smile,” a guide book in the 1970s, to 2023’s “Love the Philippines. ”.
In between, there were “Wow Philippines” (2010), “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” (2010), “Pilipinas, Tara Na” (2010), “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” (2012), and “Experience Philippines” (2017). My favorite was It’s More Fun in the Philippines just because it was so catchy and really resonated with me. I like traveling to certain countries but it is more fun in the Philippines for me. Meanwhile, Pilipinas Kay Ganda was controversial because the people behind the campaign were accused of plagiarism.
So, yes, Love the Philippines is not the only controversial Philippine tourism campaign.
On Monday, the tourism department announced that it has terminated its contract with DDB Philippines, after their partner advertising firm was found to have used stock footage from other countries in the tourism promotional video for the Philippines. The video drew criticism for using visuals from other countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and the UAE.
The tourism department said it has not paid the DDB for the promotion video. The department, however, said that it “will exercise its right to forfeit performance security as a result of default in obligations under the contract and review standards of performance (or lack thereof) vis-a-vis any claims for payment or any other engagement.”
There have been many speculations about many things regarding the campaign. It’s not surprising that people are surprised that it cost P49 million or, as speculations go, even more.
I have worked with DDB Philippines in the past, when I was still an editor at another newspaper, and I have had no reasons to complain. The people I worked with may no longer be there, but the agency is definitely run by professionals as it is one of the top agencies in the Philippines.
I also assume that the Department of Tourism (DOT) is run by professionals because you need to pass certain standards and tests to get to work for the government. I also personally know people who work in the department and they are competent and honest civil servants. So where did things go wrong? I don’t know and I cannot speculate. As someone who is online a lot, I have seen a lot of disinformation. I have witnessed how a single tweet can ruin someone’s life and people will attack another human being without verifying anything.
Veteran PR and advertising practitioner Dindo Danao has his own take on the Love the Philippines controversy. He said, “The Department of Tourism and its advertising agency may have taken the President and the Filipino taxpayers for a ride when they presented a tourism video using stock footage showing sites in other countries.”
“It is a covenant between ad agencies and their clients (the DOT in this case) that they must always speak and show the ‘truth’. It is the most valued dictum among stakeholders in the ad industry. It is part of the responsibility of the agency to tell its client if the materials are genuine Philippine footages or borrowed,” said Danao. Danao said in the first place, the ad agency should have told its client that it was “borrowed footage intended only for the bidding process.” He said the department should have extensively reviewed and verified the content of the video which supposedly was an official promotion by the government.
“But this was not the case. Apologies came after the grand launch and presentation to the highest official of the land. In essence, the agency may have made misrepresentation to DOT, and the DOT was made to believe that these footages indeed are genuine footages taken from the Philippines,” said Danao, managing partner of A. Danao PR Team, a media partner of Stratbase Inc., which handles topics and issues related to the West Philippine Sea.
Danao said due diligence is of prime importance when an ad agency deals with government accounts, especially since they involve public funds.
I don’t know if the tourism department still goes on international roadshows to promote the country but I think it is in an effective PR strategy as I have seen it done before and it worked.
I’ve also always said (and I say this without knowing whether this had been done before or not) that the tourism department should probably invite foreign journalists and influencers to visit the country and see for themselves how things are here. Then, they can write or make online content about how beautiful the beaches are, how hospitable Filipinos are, and how good the food is. This seems to be a simplistic way of promoting tourism but nothing works better these days than hype online when it comes to promotions.
There were 2.7 million inbound tourists to the Philippines last year, down 68 percent from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to data from the UN’s World Tourism Organization. But this was still a significant increase from the 2021 figures and also higher than the tourist arrivals figures in 2020 during the onset of the pandemic. The travel industry in the Philippines, I am sure, is relying on revenge travel to boost arrivals and I hope more tourist will come this year.