Englishman makes pitch for PH for the fun of it
We have watched versions of “making a movie”—giving us a peek into the direction and production of a blockbuster.
Whether about Superman, or Batman, or Spider-Man, or the Lord of the Rings, interviews about such films are a delight to the viewers.
Viewers enjoy the vicarious experience of, maybe, being part of the directorial or production crew.
It’s like being given the rare privilege of taking a peek into a location shooting of Clark Kent morphing into Superman in one quick circling motion!
The book featured in this “Executive Read” does much more than focus on the production of a piece of art.
The book titled “Advertising More Fun in the Philippines” is, first, the story of the author shuttling from England to the Philippines and discovering exciting and intriguing things about the latter.
Second, the book bubbles with the thrilling and suspense-filled narrative on how the “mother of all ads” (phrase is mine) for the Philippines was contested, created—and won by an advertising agency.
Recruiting an Englishman
The story began when Tony Harris was in London and told by a head hunter that an “executive search” for a CEO had been launched by a leading advertising agency in the Philippines.
It was supposed to be a search for a CEO by BBDO Guerrero, a leading Philippine-based advertising firm with so many awards attached to its name and headed by David Guerrero, the firm’s head and creative director.
Guerrero is known, among others, for being the creative director behind the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tourism campaign.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
Tony, the Englishman, and David, the half-Filipino, half Englishman inevitably met, and as fate would have it, they hit it off well.
From Tony’s own account, it was like love at first sight: “David did not just sound charming—he looked it, too. He is tall, athletic (even more so these days) always well-dressed for the occasion and looks a good 10 years younger than he is.”
And, after only a few days here, Harris fell in love—not with a country with heavy traffic, with the “worst airport,” and with hot weather—but with people who have an abundance of laughter, whose names are JR, CJ, RJ and whose politicians are Joker and Bongbong!
Finally, the part I was waiting for came right in the middle of the book.
It talked about how the Department of Tourism invited eight leading advertising agencies in the country to pitch for a major account.
From Harris’ point of view—calling himself a “random visitor”—he noted every detail in the “briefing.” Harris says: “For keener listeners to the Secretary’s early utterances, he talked immediately of making tourism ‘the people’s business’ and what the industry needed was real insight into the market … not just advertising slogans.”
Waiting for the Muse
Harris recalls: “The entire team at BBDO Guerreo seemed to be holding a daily debriefing on the Secretary’s media statements.” Speaking of doing your homework, this is it.
What makes this book an interesting account is the author’s sensitivity to things around him.
Harris observes, “My linguistic party-piece had really come from the following elevator conversation: “Bababa ba?” (Going down?) and “Bababa.” (Going down.)
At this point, we know somehow that the outcome of these small encounters is the “fun” in the country.
BBDO Guerrero staffers, meanwhile, were introducing—and challenging—every possible phrase for a slogan.
They noted the success of “Wow Philippines!” They also made sure they would not figure in a charge of plagiarism, which assaulted a campaign launched by the previous occupant of the DOT top spot.
Harris puts it matter-of-factly.
He recalls: “I arrived in the morning at my normal time of 8:25 a.m., hugely excited that David had been successfully overtaken by his creative muse.”
“David does not just blurt out his ideas; he likes to deliver his thinking, his justification and his case for the defense. So he took me into one of the meeting rooms and told me about his time in Boracay—the diving, the easy banter with the locals, the beautiful situation. He had a moment when he felt it could not get much better than that.”
“Put simply, for him, it was more fun in the Philippines.”
I know that people doubt these “Eureka!” moments, but his was one.
Real fun was contagious
On pitching day at the DOT, BBDO Guerrero was the last to present. Harris describes the scene at the holding room.
“The door opened. Out trooped the previous agency complete with choir and guitarists and I swear that as we walked in, I saw people in the audience dabbing tears from their eyes. This was not, in normal circumstances, ideally how I liked the mood of a room to feel on stepping out to make an important presentation,” he says.
Harris opened his pitch with a quote from Seneca, who said: “Men love their country not because it is great but because it is theirs.”
In the end, Harris says, BBDO Guerrero won the bid.
Read the book to the finish, and you would see up close how an ad agency prepares a grand launch, how it deals with a plagiarism charge, and to make the campaign take off.
As the book wondrously tells the story, from start to finish, the agency folks had fun preparing everything for the pitch.
And, as recent advertising history has shown it, that “fun” was contagious. firstname.lastname@example.org