Home > Philippine Advertising, Philippine Marketing > “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” fiasco – how to tie a rope around your neck and pull it

“Pilipinas Kay Ganda” fiasco – how to tie a rope around your neck and pull it

we are printing here a very good article on what happened to the whole “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” branding exercise by the  DOT. this is an interview with Yolly Ong and Marlene Villapando who are the top officers of Campaigns & Gray. the article gives an excellent view of what happened behind the scenes and how the much maligned lined came to be and not to be.

on a separate post, we will be giving our opinion on this one,.

in the meantime, together with the article were logo studies done by Campaigns & Gray on the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” concept. we are giving our point of view on them.

here are our views on the logo studies:

  • we would have not chosen the top one, the one the DOT went with. while that logo showed some character, we think it was not unified and appears  too flighty. we think it’s a weak logo.
  • the biggest reason why we are not choosing it is that it is too close to the Poland logo. to us, it is an violation of intellectual property rights of the Poland logo.
  • however we do like the images of the tarsier and the coconut tree in there. the tarsier in particular we think is the strongest of all the elements.
  • we would have chosen anyone of these two logos – logo on the lower left side and the logo at the bottom.
  • we think these logos are very unified and speaks very well of the “islands” in the country. going to the “islands” we think is one of the key reasons tourists go to a country to visit.
  • we just have a slight suggestion on the choices we made – revise the rendition of the island to remove the possibility of it being seen an image of a face on its back.


Anatomy of a failed tourism brand


Four hours before Tourism Undersecretary for Planning and Promotions Vicente “Enteng” Romano III irrevocably resigned on November 23 from his post, accepting responsibility for the heavily criticized “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” brand/slogan, I was interviewing Yolanda “Yoly” Villanueva-Ong, group chairman of the much-maligned Campaigns & Grey at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, on the background of the branding effort.

Several executives of the advertising giant were having a planning seminar at the hotel, and, in fact, I jokingly asked if one of the conclusions from their seminar was, “Therefore, we resolve to never propose a project or have anything to do with the DOT again!” She tittered at this, seemingly unaffected by the storm that she and her agency got caught up in, all because, as she later explains, shortcuts were made, and there was lack of research.

As everyone knows, it was Campaigns & Grey which proposed the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” slogan—along with four other choices mostly in English—but it was the one in Filipino that struck a chord with Romano and, ultimately, with Tourism Secretary Alberto “Bertie” Lim.

Here Yoly and Campaigns & Grey chief of corporate affairs Marilyn Villapando explain what went on in the making of the failed tourism brand, the reason for the use of Filipino in the slogan, and why they don’t consider the logo plagiarized.

So tell me, what usually is the process in creating a new brand, and how long does it usually take?

Ong: Depende rin ’yan kung sino cliente ha. Ang Procter & Gamble ang whole concept can be a year. In fact, planning can take one to two years kasi fiscal year sila. Palagay mo na, second half of the fiscal year, they start doing the planning and this is coming from a long-term three years…mahaba talaga ang vision nila for the brand. And as it comes closer, they flesh it out with programs and then everything, nothing airs without testing.

If you’re going to a new market, meron “insight mining” from the consumers. Although Asians, for example, have a lot of universal truths, siyempre me differentiations rin. It takes quite a while.

Of course, not everybody can afford that kind of process. Sometimes we do shortcut it, but always, always, always, before you produce, before you spend one centavo on any production before airing, you test. That is something we will never violate. Even on a 90-day political campaign, ite-test muna namin ’yan kahit pano.

Testing will come from your end or from their end?

Ong: We recommend the methodology. Sometimes we give guideline questions. In our case, we call a bid from among the capable research agencies depending on the scope. They provide a bid in addition to the guides, then we all agree on the final test questions, and in fact, we agree on the format kung ano’ng unang question. In an FDG (focus group discussion), for example, there is a rotation [of questions] if you’re testing several concepts. We agree what kind of definitions the panels will be—age, socioeconomic classes. In this particular case [DOT], ang recommendation namin is one group na nakapunta na sa Pilipinas at isang group na ’di pa nakakapunta sa Pilipinas. So that we will see talaga which concepts will resonate with them.

But beyond the logo and theme line, no production has been made whatsoever because the understanding is ipe-preview nila, tapos after the preview, ite-test market. ’Yun ang next step. In fact, we sent them the guide questions and we gave a recommendation na tawagin ’yung three international research agencies because the test will be in North America, our “low-lying fruit”—ang tawag nila dyan—Korea, Japan, China, ’yan ang main markets.

Then meron silang “missionary” markets—Europe and maybe Israel. Pero ang top [markets] based on last year’s number of tourists are Fil-migs [Filipino migrants] and Fil-Ams. Then Korea, China, Japan. So proposal namin, we will test the concepts in those markets. Not we ourselves ha, but by a proper research team. Ang recommendation nga namin is to ask a bid from TNS, kasi may international network sila, Milward Brown and AG Nielsen. After we give the guidelines, our suggestion was tawagin nyo yung tatlo para mag-bid.

You did that because they basically didn’t have a budget to pay you to do it?

Ong: We would have bid it out ourselves. ’Di kami gumawa ng research. Also because their [DOT] bidding process requires COA [approval].

So what did you really undertake for DOT? Branding? Marketing? Advertising? Ano ba talaga?

Ong: August ba tayo tinawag? (turns to Villapando) August tinawag kami and they were asking—si Enteng [was asking]—if we can do what we call a “brand architecture.” If they’re going to do a new brand to replace “WOW Philippines,” what is the process and what is the strategic approach they can use to arrive at a new brand. So ’yan ang initial request sa amin. So kami naman, ‘Enteng ’di pa nga kami binabayaran eh (referring to a P4-million medical tourism campaign Campaigns & Grey did in 2009 for the Philippine Visitors Convention Corp.).

So it was a friendly call na “huy, tulu ngan nyo naman ako…”?

Ong: Oo. In fairness, he asked us naman to try and write out a TOR [terms of reference]. Kasi ang sinasabi nya, after much haggling, the allocation for that exercise, was…(looks to Marilyn).

Villapando: The total proposal is P550,000 plus VAT. That’s the process. And the end of that is directional.

Ong: Kasi I was very conscious of the bidding process, kasi alam namin ’yan. Mahirap na, dapat i-bid out, ’pag executional already. And then somewhere along the way….

So you made a proposal for P500,000?

Villapando: Basta early September, ’yun ang first siyempre, a proper proposal. So we made a proposal, did a quote, with the understanding na friendly-friendly ang rate. And then [we] sent it na and he said he’ll find a way to have it approved.

Ong: Medyo matagal, in fact, before we could even do anything about that. Tapos biglang kailangan naman nila ng initial “exploratory concept.” Now throughout this, meron naman na pala. Medyo may friction na between the Tourism Congress and them [DOT], and we knew about them only lately. Kasi may feeling yata ang Tourism Congress, they should be the one to spearhead the market. Of course, sina Enteng naman, “Ano?”

I think that may be the reason why suddenly from a strategic approach biglang naging “exploratory concept” ang hinihingi sa amin. In fact, ang bilis, bilis, bilis ng deadline. Umalis ako, October 27; bumalik ako sa Philippines, November 11. November 15 launch. When, in fact, nung umalis ako, akala ko hindi tuloy.

Villapando: Wala pang final, final approval….

Ong: At saka napaka-tentative lahat! Nagulat nga ako na mayroon ng launch, at saka wow! ang bongga ng da ting with fireworks.

With matching dancing girls!

Ong: Umalis na kami nun. I was telling Marilyn nga, al fresco [’yung venue], “Sino ’yung mga naka-hot pants?” Akala ko usherettes!

So anyway, exploratory concepts. Kung minsan kung nagmamadali ka at ’di ka pwede gumawa ng step-by-step strategy, puwede ka namang gumawa ng “adcepts” or “advertising concepts” and you can use that to catalyze and get reactions, and then from there refine, although I would have preferred the long route.  Kasi nga it’s so important.

Tapos bigla nalang naging kaila ngan na nila…to this day I don’t know what was the magic of November 15, bakit ba kayo nagmamadali? ’Di ko talaga alam kung ano ’yun! And then ang reason was there were a lot of industry events na magko-call ng branding, like the [Pinoy] homecoming, ’di namin nga alam kung ano’ng reason. I left October 27, I was gone for 13 days.

So Marilyn was in charge of talking to Enteng all the time?

Ong: But never naman sinabi sa kanya kung ano’ng gagawin on the event itself.

Villapando: Our only area talaga was to get a logo, get that done.

Ong: The “adcepts”….

Villapando: And the event was somebody else.

Ong: 3D was somebody else…

So when you were talking, did you ask Enteng, “Teka, sir, magkano mo naman kami babayaran?”

Ong:  Wala na nga, kasi nagmamadali.

Villapando: Parang tulungan niyo nalang kami, tapos ang kwento.

Ong: Tulungan nyo nalang kami and we’ll fix it after.

Villapando: Saka nalang tayo mag-usap. Basta he only said, “Basta ’di naman ito libre, we will make sure that something….” There was no more talk about money because at that time…

Ong: Parang panic time na. Siya [Enteng] ang nagpa-panic. We tried our best naman, that’s why we came up with five [adcepts] from different groups namin. Initially our primary market was North America. And the initial was gawan muna ng exploratory concept for North America, and later we will do one for the rest [of the markets]. But I knew they only had P200 million for advertising….

Again, please you have to explain that the P200 million will not go to the advertising agency! That includes production and media placements, and ’yun ang pinaka-mahal!

He never promised that in the bidding for the later advertising execution you will get preferential treatment?

Both: Ahhh no!

Ong: At saka di kami sasali sa bidding kasi you know why? Halimbawa lang, if anyone passed [or approved] the concept, then we would have created a storyboard, and then magtatawag ng production houses, ’di hindi na kami kasali dun. Production houses to execute the storyboard that we made, if it pushed through. And then the media portion, which is 85 percent of the budget, is again to be bidded among media agencies, eh hindi naman kami media agency! In reality, yung P200 million, walang mapupunta sa amin doon kasi ’yung amin [concept], ’yun lang, ’di pa nga namin na-peg.

Villapando: ’Di pa namin napag-usapan and ’yun namang “brand architecture,” just disappeared. Nawala na ’yun. Kasi nagpa-panic na silang lahat.

Ong: Biglang exploratory concepts na. I kept saying, “Bakit ba tayo nagmamadali?!”

So it should be brand architecture first, before exploratory concepts?

Ong: Always! That’s to mine insights also. Kasi nga pwede namang i-short cut, that’s dangerous and I wouldn’t advise it. Pero pwede din namang gamitin mo ’yung concepts to trigger…ayan na nga, violent reactions. Pero dapat ’yun sa market na kinukuha (e.g., North America), hindi dito. Isa pa ’yun eh. Kasi ang kausap, ’di naman tayo eh. We didn’t really know [what North America’s reaction would be].

Palagay mo na, ang appeal diyan sa Tagalog [slogan] eh kapwa Pilipino. If we go by that argument, last year, there was a little over 3 million visitors. Of the 3 million visitors, 580,000 came from North America, followed by Korea, and I’m not sure if it was China or Japan [ang kasunod]. So ang tawag nila dyan, “low-lying fruit.” Do you know how many Fil-migs there are? Almost 10 million! So if we just got the 10 million to come, just once, we would have a 300-percent increase [in tourist arrivals]! And we would be No. 2 [in Asia] kamukha ng Singapore. Because by their numbers ha, 23 million [arrivals in] Malaysia…. No. 2 was Singapore at 9 million, No. 3 Thailand, No. 4 was Indonesia, No. 5 was Vietnam! Only 700,000 tourists more than us last year!

Kaya ang gusto talaga ni Enteng, and again tama, he wanted the “low-lying fruit,” and kasi nagka-Luneta fiasco. Sabi nga namin, “Sige, baka nga dapat ’yung malayo ang i-target natin.” He really made a lot of sense. Kasi nga, I said we can’t afford a segmented campaign katulad ng ginawa nung time ni Ace [Durano]. Alam mo nung time ni Ace, wala naman WOW Philippines sa lahat eh. They used WOW Philippines in the markets that responded to WOW Philippines. And they changed it for the markets that were not, which makes a lot of sense! But again, research-based ’yun, ’di ’yun ginagawa from the hip.

So what about the PKG brand?

Ong: Which is why naman, we chose five [concepts]. Kasi normally naman, ang ginagawa namin, we try to go to the closest to where they came from, and close to what is generally expected of a tourism campaign, which is the “adjective campaign”—“Amazing,” “Incredible,” “Charming,” whatever, “Truly Asia.”

So mayroon kaming ganoon, and it was going wilder and wilder. Last one nga was really a trial. “What if we created a campaign that had primarily a Tagalog word?” Kasi nga, we don’t have research. We were only using our own insights. Kasi ang Black Eyed Peas, one of their two monster hits….

Was the one of apl.de.ap…

Ong: Was Tagalog! (“Bebot”). And that Pacman wins. So feeling namin, there was a curiosity about the Philippines and maybe “Kay Ganda” would become like “Aloha.”

Maybe it should be “Mabuhay.”

Ong: Except that “mabuhay,” ang exact translation is ‘live long and prosper.” Pero samantalang, magandang umaga, magandang hapon…. “Magandang umaga” means “beautiful morning,” so we said, why not try?

So the PKG came from you!

Ong: But always with a translation incorporated in the logo ha. In fact, if we were to do a storyboard, it would have included Pacquiao, Lea [Salonga], Arnel [Pineda], Charice…interspersed with sceneries with Koreans saying “Kay Ganda” in their funny accents. Tapos ’di naman ever na-produce, kasi nga ’yung logo na ’yun…

Villapando: …ni-launch.

So how many did you submit?

Ong: Five. Four in English….

Wonder full Philippines, Visit Philippines…

Ong: No, not “Visit Philippines”…“World’s warmest welcome.” “Luv Ya Phil!”

Parang TV show!

Ong: Gusto nga natin iba ang dating. Kasi nga, wala tayong pera eh, so you need to break from the traditional told. We cannot compete! But like I said, you can be wild naman in exploratory concepts because you know eventually….

Villapando: Ite-test.

Still, many thought, world-class advertising firm, ba’t ganun lang ang output? “Luv Ya Phil!” Then Manny Pacquiao…“now we know where inspiration comes from”?

Ong: Well kasi nga, unang-una, we didn’t have too much time eh. Admittedly, it was very rushed. But beyond that, kasi nga, when you explore, that means you know mag-e-evolve pa ’yan. These are really…you need to catalyze…. ’Di ’yun you will end up with that. It could be many, many steps away pa. In the first place nga, if we had better research data, it wouldn’t be such a guesswork. Ito, you’re just guessing and throwing certain ideas and hoping ’yung reactions nila will guide you to a clearer and better crafted message.

So after you submitted the concepts, what went into the discussion of finalizing PKG?

Ong: DOT liked the Tagalog. Marami kaming binigay na logo. We actually liked a lot of the initial output. Pinakita sa ’min ’yung Maldives, Italia, España, Polska, and they said nga, “Ito ang trend, playful, light, etc.” So kami naman, ’yung teams namin ginawa ’yung interpretation namin based on the general direction. Eh ayaw naman nya [Enteng], ’di nya type. Ang daming balik-balik. He even gave us his own logo study, parang ’yung eto ’yung iniisip nya.

Ba’t sya napako sa Polska na ’yun?

Ong: Kasi maganda eh. Professionally, I liked it.

But you cannot say it was just inspired because it really looks copied!

Ong: Alam mo, in fairness again, the only thing the same there was the font.

But that was the most recognizable part.

Ong: But the font is common. The colors are different. “Polska” is all red. “Pilipinas” is in different colors—may red, blue, in fact, I never even saw it before I left, kasi [the design was being sent] back and forth [from us to DOT], back and forth, hanggang nakaalis na ako. In fact, that was the first thing I asked when I returned and got to the office, “Pwede ba makita ’yung papakita mamayang gabi? Titignan ko kung magtatago ako sa ilalim ng silya.” So nung lumabas, mayroon nang tarsier, may smiling coconut, mayroong sun. [Kay P-Noy] ’yung tarsier and smiling coconut. Totoo ’yung sinabi ni Bertie [Lim].

’Yung binigay naming guide for research, you test three to five concepts—meaning mayroon kahit theme line and key visual. And we were proposing you will test also, all their best lines na binigay sa kanila ng mga volunteers—“Your best friend in Asia,” that’s Boy Abunda. Kay Carlos [Celdran] “Philippines…It’s all about you.” May nag-propose ng “Philippines…Latin Asia,” mayroon nag-submit “Peace-loving Philippines.”

Ah so this was after the fiasco na…

Ong: Whether or not there was a fiasco, that was really the next step. And we were going to benchmark it with WOW Philippines. And that’s a way a proper marketing slogan is done.

In fairness to them, they agreed exploratory nga eh. The premise was it was going to be tested. Naniniwala nga sila na ite-test dapat.

So nagkamali lang sila sa launch?

Ong: Tinanong nga ako [ng reporter], “Ano’ng lesson?” That it was premature and the scale was a little too big for a preview.

So based on the time period to come up with the concept, that was the best you could offer?

Ong: I don’t remember if we had a week or so, that is really pretty fast even for a regular campaign, given two weeks, we had half the time. Problem with judging a very raw concept is precisely that. If the intention was to create the campaign, I would never have agreed to do something like that. But if the intention was to test it and to use it as a catalyst, then it would have worked very, very well. Because it would have covered being close to WOW Philippines to something radical like PKG. And I think if we had followed it without the launch effect, we would have gotten genuine insights from the different markets [DOT was targeting] and we would have been able to craft the message that is the right one.

Ang hindi ko maintindihan dun sa mga passionate, ba’t galit na galit sa Tagalog? Palagay mo 20 percent roughly ng Fil-migs nakakaintindi [ng Tagalog]. Koreans, Japanese and Chinese do not understand English either! I could put a curse there, they wouldn’t know what it means and they wouldn’t care less!

Okay, I admit that’s a good point.

Ong: Nakalagay dun [sa mga writeups] we were the agency of Noy. Alam mo ’yung contribution lang namin to the final election material is the line “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” and the dove logo. All the TV materials did not come from us! We were supposed to be paid a retainer [but there were problems financially and some internal disagreements on the advertising campaign direction]. We were supposed to do the Noy-Mar campaign.

Kasi wala ako actually. When I came back, end-March na. That’s why I resigned. In fact, I told Noy, I had a global conference ng Grey [Group]. ’Di naman pwede ’di ako pumunta. I was gonna be gone for 21 days. So I resigned. It was inaccurate to say we were the agency [of the campaign]. ’Yung linya lang sa amin.

So how much does DOT still owe you for the medical tourism campaign?

Ong: Sa PCVC? It was a bid.

Villapando: P600 million na lang.

Ong: The total budget for the medical tourism campaign was P4 million. ’Yun ang natatandaan ko. Pero maraming material ito ’yung AVP, TV 30-seconder, may brochures, madami ’yun.

Where was it used? Was it sent abroad, the materials?

Ong: ’Di na namin alam e. Basta na-turnover na namin. Completed project.

So you’ve spoken to Enteng since this blew up?

Ong: Through text and e-mail. You know, I think it’s so sad, people say nilaglag namin sya. But we have to protect naman [our company], pati Grey Global CEO [James R. Heekin III] muntik ng ma-heart attack nung makita ’yung e-mail [someone complaining about the supposed plagiarism].

And what happened?

Ong: Naintindahan naman nya na collateral damage kami. May tama kami. Bugbog-sarado. Sabi nya, kahit anong pakita namin, it would have gotten the same reaction. Kasi nga, it was a short cut [process].

So you told Enteng?

Ong: ’Yun nga, that the Grey Global CEO along with the Grey head of our legal [department] asked about the plagiarism issue. In effect I told him, kailangan na talaga kami sumagot. And we told Bertie. Naintindihan naman nila. Go ahead and answer it [they said]. Enteng naman did right by us. In fact, he wrote an e-mail that basically corroborates our statement, and he sent it to my principal para ma-kalma.

And what about Bertie?

Ong: He really liked the interactive [concept behind the slogan], na magtuturo ng isang word. Pero, in fairness, wala syang involvement sa pag-gawa ng logo.

What did your legal guy say about the plagiarism issue?

Ong: Sabi ng aming legal counsel hindi [plagiarism].

I don’t think plagiarism is even the correct term. IPR violation? Trademark infringement?

Ong: In fact, dapat Polska ang mag-rereklamo. Ang layo [sa original], not [plagiarism] at all, he said.


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