DOT ends deal with ad firm over promo fiasco
MANILA, Philippines — Just two days after it announced that it was conducting an investigation, the Department of Tourism (DOT) abruptly ended its contract with DDB Group Philippines on Monday after the advertising agency apologized for using stock footage of other countries in the video launching the country’s “Love the Philippines” tourism campaign.
In a statement, the DOT pointed to DDB’s “abject failure” to comply with its obligations under the P49-million contract after the agency “admitted in no uncertain terms” that the materials used in the promotional video were not original.
The almost two-minute-long video featuring popular travel destinations in the country was shown at the June 27 launch of the newest tourism campaign that replaced the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” branding that had been in use since 2012.
But netizens pointed out that some clips were of tourist sites in other countries, including a fisherman in Thailand, an airport runway in Switzerland, rice terraces in Indonesia, and sand dunes in the United Arab Emirates.
In deciding to terminate the contract for the new tourism campaign, the DOT cited its right “to change, suspend, or discontinue temporarily or permanently the contract at any time should [it] deem the agency incapable of [carrying out] the project.”
It stressed that no payments had been made to DDB, adding that it would “review standards of performance or lack thereof” should the agency submit a claim.
The DOT did not comment, however, on whether it would retain the “Love the Philippines” campaign created by the ad agency.
Asked for comment on the termination of the contract, DDB said it had “no statement” on the issue.
Lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives were quick to weigh in on the controversy with Sen. Nancy Binay calling it a “bad omen” for the revamped tourism campaign.
Binay, chair of the Senate committee on tourism, said the DOT, headed by Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, should ensure that heads would roll since people’s money was being used for such projects. But at the same time, she also took the department to task for its “lapses.”
“The DOT cannot afford to be negligent about campaigns like this which are worth millions [of pesos]. [It] should also be more discerning and critical [of] pegs, concepts, storyboards, and drafts that ad agencies present to them,” she said.
Binay lamented how the initial salvo of the DOT’s new campaign suffered a “major setback,” saying the controversy might drive away visitors, instead of attracting them.
She suggested that the DOT consider retaining the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan, saying, “Perhaps it will still be better to bring back the ‘Fun’ because of the problem faced by ‘Love.’”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, on the other hand, touched on the irony of using foreign footage to promote the Philippines.
“[It’s] very disappointing due to the very unprofessional work using stock video footage. ‘Love the Philippines’ is the idea, yet we were proudly showing Indonesian, Thai, Swiss, and Emirati tourist attractions,” he said.
At the same time, he jested that the video could also affirm the government’s thrust to be a “friend to all nations,” adding that it may be “our expression of our friendliness to all nations. We promote them also in our promotional videos about the Philippines.”
For Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, the government and the public were “scammed” by the DOT advertisement.
“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,” she said.
House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro expressed a similar sentiment, saying the video and slogan were a form of “budol” or swindle, as she called on the DOT to rectify the matter by conducting an investigation and filing appropriate charges.
“We cannot allow this kind of ‘budol’ or swindling of our people. The DOT should be also probed because it is wasting the people’s money and it is a shame to the international community,” Castro said in a statement.
For Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the House ways and means panel chair, the video and “Love the Philippines” logo—which excluded Mayon Volcano in his home province of Albay — was a “symptom of trabahong tamad” or shoddy work.
Salceda earlier criticized the DOT for what he perceived as a snub.
“The first video was supposedly a ‘mood video,’ according to the contractor. For something as critical as an entire country’s image, you don’t ‘set the mood’ with plagiarism,” he said.
Apparently referring to independent opposition lawmaker and fellow Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman’s remark that his complaint was just “political sound bite,” Salceda stressed that legitimate concerns of legislative representatives should not be brushed aside.
“One lesson here is not to dismiss legitimate concerns as ‘political sound bites’ but to listen, consult and discuss. The country’s branding is reflective of our identity and aspirations as a people. What’s wrong with wanting to be represented well in that?” he said.
Incorporated in 1992, DDB Group Philippines is a full-service marketing communications group with advertising, digital, media, PR, content, and data analytics agencies.
Its forerunner was the Advertising Marketing Associates founded in 1958 by Antonio de Joya, known as the “Dean of Philippine Advertising.”
DDB had bagged other government projects before, including several with the DOT.
At the 19th Philippine Quill Awards in 2022, it won several awards under the competition’s communication management division for the following campaigns: the “Resbakuna” campaign of the Department of Health, the “Our Sea, Our Story” campaign for the DOT’s Philippine International Dive Expo 2021, and the DOT’s “Balikan ang Pilipinas” campaign.
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