September 15, 2016

Stakeholders to DOT: Let’s keep ‘It’s More Fun…’ tourism slogan

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror

THE Department of Tourism’s (DOT) plan to change the Philippines’s tourism brand and campaign slogan was met with a barrage of negative reactions from tourism industry stakeholders, with netizens even giving their own “fun” spins and possible new slogans.

Cesar Cruz, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa), told the BusinessMirror that the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” brand and campaign slogan launched in 2012 “should not be changed yet. It has not really reached its maximum potential.”

Being a tourism industry veteran, he said, “I think the country slogan shouldn’t be changed every administration; it takes time for the brand or the campaign slogan to achieve its maximum potential. It’s only now that ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ has gained acceptability here and abroad. Maganda ang dating nya satourists.”

Cruz’s view was echoed by Aileen Clemente, executive vice president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, saying, “Large brands in the private sector do not change slogans in short periods of time because, more than an expense, it is an investment. I would rather see that we continue the momentum and enhance what needs to make it better.”

For his part, Arthur M. Lopez, president of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association, also opined that the DOT should keep the “Fun” brand and campaign for the Philippines. “On a commercial point of view, for advertising recall and for continuity, it pays to stay with the current slogan.”

He believes that “it takes time for a new slogan to take effect.”

The “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” marketing campaign was conceived by advertising agency BBDO Guerrero, and launched in January 2012 under then-Tourism  Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr., who is an advertising veteran, as well.

Initial conception for the slogan itself amounted to P5.6 million, but the subsequent media placements and advertising campaign have run into billions of pesos since its launch in 2012. These include advertising placements on buses and taxicabs in London, ad placements in major newspapers in key markets and window ads in New York.

DOT insiders say the agency and its marketing arm, the Tourism Promotions Board, spent approximately $61 million (about P3 billion) spread over four-and-a-half years for developing the campaign and media placements.

Current Tourism Secretary  Wanda Corazon T. Teo announced in Cebu recently that the DOT is now soliciting new proposals from advertising agencies for a new brand and campaign slogan for the country.

She said it was “normal” for every administration to change tourism marketing slogans, and that the new one, to be launched in mid-2017, would reflect the change and reforms being instituted by the Duterte administration.

Taking inspiration from the DOT’s direction, netizens actively took to their keyboards to create memes of possible new slogans for the DOT from "Come to the Philippines and have a killing good time," to reflect the over 2000 extrajudicial killings that have happened since Duterte took office, to “(expletive), ang ganda ng Pilipinas!” to reflect the President's colorful language.

Meanwhile, Philtoa’s Cruz pointed out that even the “Wow! Philippines,” marketing campaign conceived under the administration of former Tourism Secretary Richard  J. Gordon in 2002, “became very effective not even during the time of Gordon, but because we continued the campaign. So the impact of the slogan was sustained when other Cabinet secretaries, like Durano, etc., came in.”

Cruz also stressed that in other countries, they have kept their slogans and country branding for a long time. “For Thailand, for example, they made some tweaks but their slogan continues to be ‘Amazing Thailand.’ For India, it’s still ‘Incredible India’, and so on. If we change our slogan again, how long will it take until it reaches its acceptability?”

Cruz added: “Let’s be honest, it’s only now that the ‘Fun’ campaign is really reaching its potential, and after the country branding, now the campaign has been tweaked to promote the provincial destinations. It takes time to develop, but we have yet to explore [other dimensions] of the campaign.”

Aside from the length of time that a brand attains a certain level of acceptability, Cruz said there are other priorities that have to be attended that could boost visitor arrivals, such as infrastructure, air-traffic congestion, etc. “It’s expensive [to develop and launch a tourism campaign]. With the very limited budget that we have for our investment, we will have to spend so much, which is money we can use for other things that need to be prioritized, like marketing, promotion, infrastructure, etc.”

Clemente, who is also president of Rajah Travel Corp., said, “When you change a slogan, it is effectively changing the branding. The consequences of doing so have a larger impact than one may originally think of. Since branding not only distinguishes us from that of another, it is critical that the adoption of the brand by all stakeholders is considered.”

She added that there needs to be an independent assessment using quantitative and qualitative metrics to show whether a brand or campaign slogan has been effective, which will determine the need to change the brand or slogan, or to keep it.

(This piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror, Sept. 15, 2016.)