Small but terribleBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Every time I travel abroad, particularly in our Asean region, I always buy the local car magazines and related motoring publications and take them home, show them to my colleagues in the motoring beat. I love to see what our Asean neighbors are doing, and more importantly, I want to know where we, the Philippines, stand, motoring-wise, in relation to our Asean neighbors.
While our more affluent neighbors have more exotic cars (Pagani, Koenigsegg, Ascari, etc.), sports cars, and other high-end luxury cars available on offer to test and review, I am proud to say that our local motoring publications enjoy a far more superior look. We have taken cutting-edge design, layout and photography from Europe and America, and have successfully translated it into our own, unique, Filipino-influenced but highly global look and feel. While the cars we drive might not be as fancy as our neighbors, I daresay the feature stories we make, combined with fantastic photography, puts us a couple of rungs clearly above our neighbors.
While some local publications license and syndicate stories and articles from their parent publications abroad, it is becoming less and less. As an example, speaking to Vernon Sarne, editor-in-chief of Top Gear Philippines, he says that the localized title uses about 5-7 percent of foreign content every month. His counterparts from Singapore, Malaysia, India and Indonesia rely on more than 70-percent foreign content every month in their localized but syndicated foreign-title magazines. It’s amazing how the local motoring media can come up with so much to write about, especially given that we have limited resources, and a far more limited number of cars to write about.
That we use English as a primary means of instruction in our educational system is a big boon because it allows us to communicate effectively in a way that even foreigners can understand easily. I can’t say the same about the other Asean region publications as they are too contextual and idiosyncratic to their own local markets, which makes it difficult for an outsider/foreigner to understand sometimes what they mean.
Lastly, Filipinos seem to be the very best automotive photographers in the region. From all the magazines I’ve seen and read, our neighbors tend to use a lot of press-supplied materials, use a lot of boring angles and static beauty shots, whereas almost all local photographers know which angles are most flattering for cars, and spend the time and resource to take the best possible shots with minimal airbrush/photoshop. I’ve brought copies of the other publication I write for, Top Gear Philippines, to Germany, the United States and Singapore and gave them away to the regional offices of car companies, and sometimes to swap with other publications of our Asean neighbors. Not to brag, but they are often impressed with the overall quality of Top Gear Philippines, something apparent to almost all local motoring publications.
This seems consistent with what we’re seeing from the manufacturers’ side. While our Asean neighbors might have more sophisticated tastes in cars, the Philippine market has the most sophisticated marketing tools, platforms and propaganda for creating a strong brand equity in car companies, market education and market know-how. A friend working in a Japanese car company confided that Singaporeans, perhaps the most sophisticated consumer market, relies in fact heavily on very western but very basic, simple and straightforward styles of marketing, unlike the Philippines, which is able to take bits and pieces of marketing styles from Europe, Japan and America, combine them together locally, and add a touch of Filipino influence and relevance to create a uniquely Filipino means of marketing and advertising a product.
Our market is on the small to medium size, our cars still somewhat limited in choice and specification. But we know how to report about the cars we drive objectively, clearly and in a most entertaining manner, with relevance always of utmost importance. Imagine how much more we can do, if we had more cars to write about.
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