Contentious tourism campaign
What is in the Department of Tourism (DOT) that, for two consecutive times, its campaign advertisements were criticized for plagiarism?
In 2012, the DOT, then headed by Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., launched the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign to attract more tourists to the country.
Its advertisement was rapped as a copy of the “It’s More Fun in Switzerland” promotion that was used in 1958.
Last year, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said that although “It’s more fun” was a catchy slogan, it did not generate the desired tourist arrivals.
For this reason, the DOT engaged the services of advertising giant McCann Worldgroup to prepare a new promotional strategy that can help meet DOT’s objective to draw 6.5 million tourists to our shores by the end of this year.
McCann came up with an ad entitled “Sights” that shows an elderly-looking Japanese enjoying his stay in the country despite being blind. Production-wise, the ad was good, but its originality was put in question because of its close resemblance to the tourism material that South Africa used in 2014.
After initially defending the ad, the DOT admitted its “glaring similarities” to the South African material and so it canceled its advertising and marketing contract with McCann.
It’s back to square one for the DOT’s efforts to get close to the record of high tourist visits of neighbors Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In the first place, was there really a need to terminate the “It’s more fun” campaign and replace it with a new one? Do tourism campaigns have to be changed whenever there is a change in administration?
Other than saying that the former campaign failed to accomplish its objective, Teo did not present any market study or research data that would show that it was indeed a failure.
Tourism promotional campaigns do not have short gestation periods. They take time, often years, to gain traction in their intended market and be part of the bucket list of people who have the resources to see other places.
With almost all countries in the world competing for tourists, the efforts to draw them in have to be sustained and consistent. It’s no different from selling a product that other people are also selling.
A classic example is Malaysia’s tourism promotion “Malaysia Truly Asia,” which was conceptualized by a Filipina, Julie Lingan. That slogan has been in use for over 10 years and continues to be the poster image of Malaysia’s successful tourism program.
But the more pressing question to ask is how McCann, a reputable international advertising firm, can commit such an egregious mistake of submitting to the DOT a rip-off from something it prepared for its former client, South Africa.
Does McCann not have an archive of past ad creations that its staff in the countries where it maintains offices can check with to find out if the materials they’re preparing are similar?
If it does not have that facility, surely it has access to Google and other search engines that can provide information about projects of the same nature by its own staff and other advertising companies.
According to an advertising expert, the controversy that attended the “Sight” ad could have been avoided if it were categorized or treated as a local ad material.
Under existing industry rules, no local ad of that nature can be aired or released without prior certification from the Ad Standard Council that it complies with its standards or guidelines.
Had the ad gone through the council’s review process, its clone-like resemblance to the South African material could have been discovered at the outset and the release of “Sights” disallowed.
The problem is, the ad was classified as a foreign or international material and therefore escaped the scrutiny of the council.
With the cancellation of DOT’s contract with McCann, the stage is now open for local advertising and marketing firms to show that they can do a better job in coming up with promotional campaigns that can increase tourist traffic to the country.
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