It didn’t take long for President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) to order the scrapping of the DoT (Department of Tourism) Pilipinas Kay Ganda (Philippines so beautiful) slogan. Some of its worst criticisms came from administration allies.
One of them was Senator Kiko Pangilinan who sent me a text message last Friday that had me in stitches. Sen. Kiko and your Chair Wrecker regularly exchange views on current issues via text.
Sen. Kiko was appalled that DoT could propose spending P100 million to test a new slogan that will not even mean anything to our main target market, the foreign tourists. In his text message, Sen. Kiko made reference to the reaction of columnist, and Chair Wrecker friend, Ducky Paredes which highlighted how a misunderstood Pilipinas Kay Ganda could kill our tourism instead of improve the influx of foreign tourists.
In a recent column, Ducky wrote: “Not only should the campaign be easily understood, it should also not be easily misunderstood. Could this possibly become “Pilipinas Uganda!” in the minds of the ones we are inviting to visit our country?” Ducky added: “Isn’t Ampatuan bad enough that we want to bring in Idi Amin, too?”
Last Friday, your Chair Wrecker also received a text message from Angus Campbell, our former Account Management colleague in the early 1970s at the then top ad agency in our country, J. Walter Thompson. Angus headed the Shell Account Group while your Chair Wrecker was assigned to the Pepsi Cola Account Group. Angus, a Scot, has been living here since 1965.
Angus stated: “Here’s my 2 cents worth. Kay Ganda is in a language no potential tourist understands and, to put it mildly, is self praise. The best tourism slogan by far was: “The Philippines, where Asia wears a smile.” Firstly because it’s true that Filipinos smile reflexively even when facing a mild reprimand, and, secondly because it’s very competitive versus Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo where Asia does NOT wear a smile. But, as always happens, the next administration threw it out.”
I felt that coming from a foreigner, a veteran advertising executive and one who has had over four decades of familiarity with our country and people — the educated opinion of Angus Campbell deserves serious consideration. In fact, we here may want to consider hiring a foreign ad agency to help craft our tourism messages. The foreign ad shops are in a better position to see us as other nationals could be seeing us. It was another Scot, David Ogilvy, who crafted Thailand’s winning tourism promotion campaign.
I grudgingly agreed with Angus. I say grudgingly because the Campbells were the bitter enemies of the MacGregors, my Clan, in Scotland during the 15th to the 19th centuries. Indeed, “The Philippines, Where Asia wears a smile” is yet our best tourism tagline.
I even used that tagline (“This is what we’re doing in the Philippines, where Asia wears a smile”) to introduce my Philippine advertising presentation in 1981 at the SEIKO (the Japanese wrist watch giant, SEIKO K. Hattori) regional advertising conference in Hong Kong. All the ad executives handling SEIKO in the ASEAN region participated in that conference and presented their respective ad campaigns, shared experiences and cases.
I also shared the text message of Angus with some friends whom I consider as well grounded in the mass communications game. Among them were Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Serge Osmeña.
I also shared it with P-Noy and he saw the value. “Good point. I will have that explored” P-Noy texted back. We further discussed last Friday the “Where Asia wears a smile” tagline after finishing the agenda for our meeting at the Guest House. I mentioned to him that great taglines or slogans can run for decades. The MILO Olympic Energy tagline has been running for over four decades now and it doesn’t look like the MILO brand owners are about to discard it.
Sen. Serge also shares the view that “The Philippines, Where Asia wears a smile” is our best ever tagline and he confirmed that it’s his favorite. Serge generated a roar of laughter from your Chair Wrecker when he texted me this: “Even the Abu Sayyaf smile when they kidnap people.”
The communication power of “Where Asia wears a smile” is that it is founded on what many foreigners observe about our country and our people. It is a recognized consumer benefit which is even supported by that “Happiness” survey Mahar Mangahas of SWS once conducted which showed us as one of the happiest in the world.
An expatriate executive, formerly posted here and was one of my advertising clients, had observed that after a foreigner reads a factual account of the Philippine social problems — it would be logical to expect a social explosion to happen here. He could not understand why Filipinos could so easily explode into laughter instead of the country exploding into a revolution.
Come to think of it, our happy and smiling nature is incongruous to our country’s misery index. However, instead of trying to explain that oddity in the Filipino national character — let’s capitalize on it to boost our tourism foreign currency revenues.
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