November 18, 2010

DOT open to changes in its slogan but...

(Vice President Jejomar Binay, along with Tourism secretary Albert, far left, and Tourism Undersecretary Vicente Romano III toast the newly-unveiled marketing slogan of the agency, "Pilipinas Kay Ganda!", Monday evening at the Oceana, San Miguel by the Bay, Mall of Asia. The slogan has come under fire from tourism stakeholders, travel bloggers, politicians, and tweeters, dubbing it as too showbiz, or uninspired. The P1-million rebranding effort was undertaken by Campaigns & Grey, an advertising firm, and took four months to conceive.)

THE recently launched “Pilipinas Kay Ganda!” marketing slogan by the Department of Tourism (DOT) can still be changed—if there is a better alternative, that is.

Smarting from the negative feedback hurled by travel bloggers, tweeters and Facebook members, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim again pointed out that the branding is “not final. PKG [Pilipinas Kay Ganda] will undergo focus-group discussions and other market tests before we spend money on its execution.”

In a text message to the BusinessMirror, he added: “If there are better ideas out there, we are open to them. But if there are only criticisms but no well-considered alternatives, then we hope there will be support for the superior idea of ‘Pilipinas Kay Ganda!’”

During a morning radio show on dzMM, Lim admitted, “masakit ang batikos [the criticisms hurt].”

The PKG branding was launched on Monday night by the DOT, showing it to an audience mostly composed of travel-industry members, hoteliers and the media.

The branding effort, according to the DOT, cost “less than a million pesos,” and was undertaken by advertising giant Campaigns & Grey.

Lim also said besides the rebranding, the DOT’s new marketing effort would include ad placements on cable TV, print ads in foreign countries, more familiarization tours for foreign travel agents, to name a few.

“And more will be done. I am dismayed that the markets we would like to attract do not really know the Philippines. We really need to expose the good things happening in our country to other countries, most especially our tourism markets.”

He also sniped at local media for not publishing human-interest stories more often.

“Advertising is expensive and we are not competitive, budget-support wise. I believe we need to allocate more of our marketing budget for public relations, i.e.,human-interest stories on the ordinary but heroic Filipinos or unusual but not violent events in the Philippines, of which there are many. But why will the foreign press publish such stories if our own press does not?”

President Aquino last week also blamed the local media for publishing only negative news about the Philippines.

(Kaboom! Fireworks to celebrate the Pilipinas Kay Ganda marketing slogan.)

The Philippines’ image abroad has suffered a setback due to the botched hostage rescue of Hong Kong tourists on August 23, as well as successive travel advisories by developed countries.

Meanwhile, one hotelier who was at Monday’s launch said there was only “polite applause” after the unveiling of the new slogan.

“It wasn’t very good,” she said. “I think they should’ve consulted tourism stakeholders first like travel agencies, hoteliers, etc., before they showed it to us. Why are we using Filipino when you have to translate it pa? Other countries use the English language.”

She added that many of those in the audience felt PKG fell short of the old slogan “WOW Philippines,” which was conceptualized during the term of Richard Gordon as DOT chief.

“If they didn’t have a lot of budget, as DOT always claims, they should’ve just reworked ‘WOW Philippines’, which I think is still a very, very good campaign. It takes time for branding to click. And if you look at other countries, some of their slogans have been used for years. Sana, they could’ve just used whatever little funds they have for ad placements in CNN or other cable-TV channels.”

The hotelier said after the new slogan was unveiled, there was no message from the DOT that suggestions from the industry would be welcome.

A general manager of a five-star hotel also said: “Everyone was stunned, shocked and so disappointed. Some did not say a word to be diplomatic, but were visibly disappointed. A big disaster!”

Food blogger Anton Diaz ( noted that the new Philippines branding failed to mention “our awesome Filipino food…and this is something that is really key in promoting the Philippines.”

After the unveiling of the new slogan, a group called Pretty Young Things “performed a sexy number for the representatives of the international community. It was not appropriate and it gave a totally wrong mental image about the campaign,” Diaz added.

In his IvanAboutTown Facebook page, travel blogger Ivan Henares pointed out that the “multiawarded Malaysia Truly Asia campaign” was launched in 1999, and continues to be used by the country despite five changes in tourism heads.

“Amazing Thailand”, was launched in 1997, and “despite political instability and several changes in government, it remains as Thailand’s tourism brand.”

“So I, thus, can’t understand why the current execs of the Department of Tourism want to get rid of a brand [WOW Philippines] our country has worked so hard to build and invested so much money on. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Henares has offered the DOT his help “pro-bono” to put more original content on the DOT’s interim web site, according to Tourism Undersecretary Vicente Romano III, for planning and promotions.

“I accepted his offer,” Romano said.

(Only the three gentlemen from the government seem to be actually celebrating the new slogan. The audience looks stunned, or in other words, di ma-ispelling ang mukha.)

On Tuesday, the web site ( was shut down by the agency due to complaints of poorly written content, and the URL address being similar to a porn site’s URL.

The web site was created by BCD Pinpoint, founded by one J. Richard “Dickie” Soriano, and which has received a number of awards for its direct-marketing projects. According to BCD’s web site, its clients include Lufthansa, San Miguel Foods, Ateneo de Manila, to name a few.

Considering all the comments and suggestions about the new Philippines marketing slogan, Romano said in a text message: “We will receive their inputs [meaning the suggested slogans] and process them with many other suggestions. We will leave the processing to the branding professionals. That’s what agencies do.”

He added: “Please keep in mind that the main customer would be foreigners whom we want to attract.”

A marketing head of a hotel who was also at Monday night’s launch said, “if they were not ready, they shouldn’t have launched it. Now they’re saying it’s not yet final.”

She added: “If Secretary Lim had asked our [tourism stakeholders] help, we would have gladly sat down with him.”

She stressed that there are many hoteliers and travel agency heads willing to help the DOT.

(Originally published in the BusinessMirror, Nov. 18, 2010. Photos courtesy DOT)

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