May 12, 2012

DOT starts intl tourism ad campaign on CNN

THE Aquino administration will spend about P63 million for its initial tourism- advertising campaign over CNN, government sources said.

The Philippines started its international brand-awareness campaign with a series of TV ads with the cable news network.

The first ad, a 30-seconder, uses photos and ideas created by the public, which was invited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to produce their own take on the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan it launched in January.

The ad is set to the popular dance vibe “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce, a collaboration of DJs Armand van Helden and A-Trak, which riffs on another artist, Boney M’s “Gotta go home” song. The ad also features of the Black Eyed Peas, rapping “It’s more fun in the Philippines” within the tune., or Allan Pineda Lindo Jr., hails from the Philippines, and has been creating songs for the BEP that incorporate Filipino lyrics.

A shorter version of the TV commercial, just 15 seconds, features a tarsier—known for its huge eyes—clinging to a tree branch and looking at the camera, with the sounds of the jungle playing in the background. The video ends with the caption: “Staring contests. More fun in the Philippines.”

Both TVCs have gone viral on the Internet and social-networking sites, a tack adopted by the DOT to enable the citizens to “own” the campaign, agency officials said.

The ads were produced by advertising giant BBDO Guerrero/Proximity Philippines, which bested seven other agencies last year in a bid for a P5.6-million brand awareness campaign for the Philippines.

The country hopes to attract 10 million visitors by 2016, when President Aquino steps down from office. With close to 4 million tourist arrivals in 2011, the country still ranks way behind its neighbors—Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (19 million), Singapore (13.2 million), Indonesia (7.6 million), and Vietnam (6 million).

In an interview, Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III, DOT assistant secretary for tourism planning and promotions, said, “many agencies participated in the funding requirement” for the TV ads currently running on CNN.

These agencies, he said, include the Departments of Budget and Management, Finance, Trade and Industry, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, aside from the DOT.

The collaborative effort among the different agencies, government sources noted, shows the seriousness of the Aquino administration in using the tourism sector to generate more income for the country.

With a sluggish manufacturing sector and export industry, owing to the slowdown in purchases by its major markets in the West, the country is hard-pressed to expand its economic output to cope with its burgeoning population.

At present, the economy is supported by billions of dollars in remittances from overseas Filipino workers, whose families are driving the consumption growth in the country.

In 2011 however, economic growth slipped to a feeble 3.7 percent, a substantial drop from the stunning 7.6-percent growth in 2010, as the government failed to invest in infrastructure and other projects on concerns of continued corruption within agencies.

While Enerio declined to reveal the total budget outlay for the TV commercials, government sources told the BusinessMirror it would be “around $1 million to $1.5 million.” The agencies, however, have yet to be informed of their respective shares.

This is still far below the advertising budgets of other Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Tourism promotion budgets of these countries range from $200 million to $1 billion annually. The DOT alone has a meager operating budget of P2 billion annually.

Earlier, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said the international campaign would also include billboards in major tourism markets, brochures and other collaterals. These are scheduled to be released by June.

Enero said the ads “will run [on CNN] all the way up to August in the US, Asia Pacific and Europe/Middle East.”

The DOT said the memes used in the ads were donated to the agency by several well-known local photographers like George Tapan and Gutsy Tuason. (The others who donated their memes were: Joey Rico, Abby Yao, La Venta 2012, Henson Wongaiham, Company of Ateneo Dancers, Darwin Dumaraos and Bottle School.)

The ads are being concentrated this week as CNN airs its special “Eye on the Philippines” programming and in time with the 45th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank Board of Governors, to be held from May 2 to 5 at the PICC. Enerio said the ads will run with the same frequency on CNN “until next week.”

Over 4,300 delegates from across the globe are expected to participate in the ADB meeting. The meeting, which focuses on “inclusive growth through better governance and partnerships,” will be attended by ministers and senior government officials, business leaders, representatives of other international financial institutions, and civil society representatives, a bank press statement said.

The meeting will be held “to discuss challenges and opportunities to ensure future growth reaches all members of society in Asia and the Pacific, where impressive economic forecasts often mask the reality that the region is still home to the majority of the world’s poor,” it added.

It is the second time the Philippines is hosting the annual meeting of the ADB, which is headquartered in the Ortigas central business district. The last time the country hosted it was in 2003.

Meanwhile, DOT Spokesman Benito Bengzon Jr. told the BusinessMirror that the agency has secured the rights to the song “Barbra Streisand” produced by Sony Music Entertainment. “We are still negotiating on the price but we already have the clearance to use it [worldwide].”

According to music industry sources, fees paid to use music especially for promotions vary depending on the market and the artist. One source said if used just in the Philippines, for example, “the minimum rate would be around $5,000.”

According to Enerio, the ads will have “different feeds and frequencies. This week Europe has 81 spots, Asia-Pacific 305, and North America, 153.”

Independent research showed a 30-second ad on CNN costs at least $25 per thousand viewers. The network is seen in more than 280 million households across the globe.

The Atlanta-based cable TV news giant is featuring the Philippines in a series of news stories, features and videos for its regular “Eye on” programming.

CNN began its “Eye On the Philippines” series on its web site on April 26 by posting a brief history of the country in photos, basic facts and figures in graphs, a feature on the newly opened Mind Museum at Fort Bonifacio, the search for the next boxing superstar after Manny Pacquiao and an opinion piece from New York-based Filipino journalist Sheila Coronel on fighting corruption under the Aquino administration.

CNN correspondent Andrew Stevens also interviewed the brothers Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala for the network’s Talk Asia program. The brothers discussed what it was like growing up in their illustrious family, which founded the conglomerate Ayala Corp., and their business philosophy.

Also on Talk Asia, CNN news anchor Anna Coren will be speaking with President Aquino. In a press statement sent to the BusinessMirror, the network said Mr. Aquino would be discussing opportunities and challenges currently facing the Philippines, as well as some of the experiences that have shaped him on a personal level.

Other features in the network’s “Eye on” series focuses on prima ballerina Lisa Macuja and Ballet Manila, the call-center industry, anti-piracy training, reproductive health, as well as in-depth reports on child labor and poverty.

According to CNN, its series on the Philippines will run until May 14.

Although long considered a shopping mecca as well as a beach lovers’ and divers’ paradise, the growth in tourist arrivals to the Philippines is often hampered by the country’s lack of adequate infrastructure, inadequate direct air connections and peace and order issues.

In August 2010, for example, a disgruntled policeman took hostage a busload of Chinese and Hong Kong tourists. The bungled rescue attempt by local police enforcers—covered by international news networks—led to the deaths of a number of the hostages. This resulted in an immediate decline in visitors from both countries. But the numbers have recovered since.

(UPDATE) : The DOT clarifies that their 30-sec. ad uses Boney M's "Gotta Go Home," not Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand." Also, did not participate in the making of the ad soundtrack. Subsequent interviews with DOT officials also indicated that each ad spot costs P19,000.)

(This piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 2, 2012. Videos from YouTube.)

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