DoT drops ad agency over flawed video

(UPDATE) THE Department of Tourism (DoT) said on Monday it will terminate its contract with DDB Philippines, the agency it hired to prepare a promotional campaign for its new slogan, “Love the Philippines.”

In a statement, the department said it is in solidarity with Filipinos who were outraged by the use of stock footage shot in other countries in the audiovisual presentation (AVP) produced by DDB Philippines.

The contract specifies that “material/s produced by the winning bidder should be original and aligned with the DoT’s advocacies.”

The department said it “reserves the right to change, suspend, or discontinue temporarily or permanently the contract at any time should the DoT deem the agency incapable of the project.”

It said it did not pay the agency for producing the presentation.

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DDB has apologized for including stock footage taken in Thailand, Indonesia and Dubai in the video presentation.

“As DDB Philippines has publicly apologized, taken full responsibility and admitted in no uncertain terms that non-original materials were used in their AVP, reflecting an abject failure to comply with their obligation[s] under the contract and a direct contravention with the DoT’s objectives for enhanced tourism branding, the DoT hereby exercises its right to proceed with termination proceedings against its contract with DDB,” the department said.

The DoT said it “remains fully committed to developing and promoting the Philippines as a powerhouse of natural wonders, culture and heritage, and a fount of warmth and hospitality, which is a source of great love and pride for all Filipinos.”

The promotional video has been the subject of intense criticism.

On Monday, several senators expressed dismay over the inclusion of footage from other countries in the video.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd said the idea is to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination, but the presentation featured tourist attractions in Indonesia, Thailand, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the DoT should produce a new video.

“They should at the very least redo the campaign video. It seems that the government is at the losing end. We should put a little pride in what we are doing, especially if we are selling and marketing the Philippines,” Angara said.

Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism, said it is unfortunate that the initial salvo of DoT’s new campaign has suffered a major setback.

Binay noted that this is not the first time the Tourism department and its agencies had been criticized because of creative lapses.

“There should be accountability because the DoT is using public funds to pay the ad agencies,” she said.

Binay said she expects Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco to fix the “oversight,” and ensure that the integrity of the Philippine brand will not be diminished.

“The DoT should also be more discerning and critical on pegs, concepts, storyboards and drafts that ad agencies present to them. There are also lapses on the part of the client,” she said.

Sen. Mary Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, emphasized that there must be truth in advertising.

“It’s frustrating to know that even the government can fall victim to blunders in a marketing campaign that supposedly aims to promote the Philippines’ unique character, natural beauty and cultural attractions,” Poe said.

“We expect the incident will not happen again, especially to government agencies like the DoT that our people trust,” Poe said.

Mixed reactions

The reaction to the DoT campaign mess from tourism industry veterans and communication specialists was mixed.

Bob Zozobrado, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, said the ad agency was at fault.

“Why should the blame be on DoT? The ad agency should be held responsible for what they did! This ad agency has a lot of explaining to do. I still support the new slogan ‘Love the Philippines’ because of the message it tells the people who see it,” he said.

However, veteran advertising practitioner Dindo Danao said that both the DDB and DoT should be held accountable “for this unfortunate event.”

The DDB, he added, should have informed the DoT that it used borrowed footage.

“It is a covenant between ad agencies and their clients that they must always speak and show the truth. It is the most valued dictum among stakeholders in the ad industry. It is part of the responsibility of the agency to tell its client if the materials are genuine or borrowed,” Danao, whose A. Danao PR Team is a media partner of Stratbase Inc. which handles topics related to the West Philippine Sea, said.

Ramon Isberto, former head of Smart’s Public Affairs and now a consultant on Media Information Literacy, said the fiasco “has muddled the colorful discussion about the new DoT tourism campaign slogan.”

“Now that DDB has taken responsibility for this snafu, I hope that discussions will refocus on the merits of the campaign. Surprising, because it was not in the interest of DDB nor DoT for this to happen. It just opens the program to even more negative sentiment.”

Fe Abling Yu, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association, cautioned against disunity, which she said is “useless and unproductive.”

“Of course, whomever is at fault should be responsible,” she added.

Renowned travel photographer George Tapan, whose works have graced National Geographic among many other glossy publications and coffee-table books, would only comment: “They should have hired an expert.”

Rose Libongco, a highly respected hospitality mentor to many and chairman of the Virtus Awards, which recognizes outstanding marketing professionals, reminded her colleagues not to lose sight of enhancing the country’s tourism potential.

She believes the new slogan exudes promise.

“It is positive. It just may be premature as we are coming out of the ravages of the pandemic, and the new dispensation has yet to lay out its programs and plans for a better travel experience, starting with addressing dysfunctional airports, disrupted flights leading to gross passenger inconveniences, lack of connectivity, coordination between DoT and LGUs,” she said.

“One of the more sensible suggestions is to tweak the slogan with a comma after Love thereby changing it from a presumptuous imperative to a friendly or endearing message. To use the slogan, improvements overall need to be hastened and lovable experiences should be put in place or the slogan will turn to be an albatross around our necks.”

WITH MARGIE LOGARTA

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