PH can be Asia’s creative hub, says Leo Burnett Malaysia exec
The Philippines has not had a serious branding effort until late last year when it launched a successful social media campaign, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
Prior to that, its advertising had no focus.
It was by sheer luck that previous campaigns had brand retention. As advertising with no focus and sustained drive, awareness must eventually dissipate and wrong perceptions remain.
The country’s tourism advertising was treated more like a seasonal thing and aired whenever people felt like doing it. At one point, it had to tie up with a big advertiser just to keep it from sputtering.
Like a small cottage industry, it has not really taken off like some of its more aggressive neighbors, which viewed tourism not as a mere government cabinet social function but as a brand deserving better marketing and creative packaging.
Philippine tourism today seems to have taken on a serious tone. It’s beginning to create ripples, and many are hoping that it rides on the crest of a wave to attract more visitors to our shores.
By having an advertising expert as head of the tourism department and acquiring the services of an ad agency whose output is consistently impeccable, there’s no reason why the world shouldn’t focus its “Eye on the Philippines.”
Will it work?
As of the first quarter of 2012, the country has surpassed percentage targets and is poised to exceed its forecast: 4.6 million tourist arrivals (Indonesia’s own goal more than a decade ago).
While it is a modest target, it is realistically possible, some observers say.
“The Philippines deserves much more. It’s mind-boggling why the world’s third-largest English-speaking country with one of the world’s most hardworking people is not up there side by side with Malaysia and Thailand,” says Eric Cruz, head of Creative of Leo Burnett Malaysia.
“The Philippines’ main export is human power and talent. And if we look at some of the most memorable things in the history of the Web, the Filipino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson was one of the pioneers of online content,” he says.
“The ‘love virus’ was created by a Filipino—clearly that tells me the Philippines has talent,” Cruz adds.
While there are capable post-production houses in Manila, he laments that some ad agencies still go either to Bangkok or Hong Kong just for color grading or simple effects online work.
Way back, the Philippines used to attract many creative people throughout the region. We once had the best facilities, editors and technicians. Sad to say, a number of them have left to look for greener pastures overseas.
According to Cruz, the Philippines can be Asia’s creative hub.
“We can be better than Thailand and Hong Kong in film processing if only the government can help provide the vibrant atmosphere, modernize and infuse incentives to help our creative industries,” he says. “What’s lacking is the infrastructure and know-how … how to apply the talent and energy.”
Cruz notes that the creative industry in the Philippines is picking up, having won prizes in Clio, Cannes, Asia Adfest, London.
“The government could learn from other global economies, with regards to how countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and now China are turning to the creative industry to reinvent its economies,” he says.
Cruz took over the Malaysian advertising firm when Yasmin Ahmad, a Clio Lifetime Achivement awardee, passed away.
Cruz has won the prestigious Tokyo Art Directors Club Award, a Cannes Cyber Lion, One Show Gold and Silver, and The Japan Media Arts Festival Excellence prize.
He values real work and his views on scam ads will unnerve those who perpetuate them.
Born in the Philippines, Cruz grew up in Crame with his grandmother.
His aunt was an art director who put him in a Klim TV commercial. (Klim was a powder milk drink for kids, and is no longer available.)
In 1983 he saw Benigno Aquino Sr. get assassinated on TV. Three months later, his family migrated to the United States.
His parents, who owned a dry cleaning shop in Ohio, discouraged him from pursuing a career in the arts. But he figured, if he could do what he wanted, he would give it his best shot.
He ended up going to School of Visual Arts in New York.
He discovered graphic design and gravitated toward it because one could fuse the language of art, illustration and design. He did album covers and books, among other things.
Cruz then started his career in San Francisco, working at Studio Archetype, owned by digital pioneer Clement Mok, who was also the founder of Front Page, a Web design program, which was later sold to Microsoft.
After a short stint with Wieden & Kennedy, Cruz moved back to LA and joined Imaginary Forces.
There, he learned how to do motion graphics and make design move, as well as how Hollywood movie magic was done, shooting and producing TV commercials and music videos.
Cruz went to Cranbrook to “de-professionalize.” It was during this time that he dug up his roots, trying to find out why we are who we are and how we came to be.
On the Internet, he found out that Filipinos actually had their own form of alphabet called Alibata or Baybayin, which the Spaniards made extinct.
Cruz created a modern version of the Filipino alphabet, what Alibata could look like if it were alive today. This exploration led him to create a body of work, a film and print piece, titled “Bahala Na,” a portrait of the Philippines, which featured the Mangyans of Mindoro, one of the last two tribes that still use this ancient form of writing.
While backpacking in China, he sent John Jay, Wieden & Kennedy (WK) global executive creative director, his reel. He rejoined WK, where he made the best work of his career. He lived in London for 14 months.
Later, he was offered a job in Malaysia.
Cruz was recently in Manila to give a lecture about his work.
Last week marked the first time Cruz was professionally connected with the Philippine creative community.
Over an interview, he says, “I would love to one day return and teach other Flips what I know how to do. I want to give back one day. I would love to have more of an ongoing interaction with the ad industry in the Philippines. I also want to do some personal projects here sometime soon,” he says.
“Learn the craft and pump something original in the global broadcast. The rest will work itself out. People worldwide will find those who do something great. I’m a firm believer that everything exists, waiting to be discovered,” he says.
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