Only in the Philippines

Oscar Wilde said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” If so, our Department of Tourism officials must be the most sincere people on earth. Are they mediocre? I am not prepared to say that.

Consider the evidence:

Three times in the past seven years, so-called creative minds in the Philippines have copied the concept and execution of tourism advertising of three countries—Poland in 2010, Switzerland in 2012, and South Africa in 2017.

In all three instances of blatant plagiarism, the main blame should be thrown at the Manila-based agencies which packaged the promotions.

In November 2010, the Philippines ran a global advertising called “Pilipinas Kay Ganda!” (Philippines, So Beautiful!). I got the visuals from the website

Same strokes. The Pilipinas Kay Ganda visual is too similar to Poland’s campaign.
Both logos used the same font. Notably, the letters P, S and A are magically identical. Notes “Both logos turned the letter L into a tree trunk, with the Philippine one using a coconut tree instead of what looks like an oak, said to be the national tree of Poland. Both logos also used blue squiggles underneath to denote the sea.”

The agency involved, Campaigns and Grey, later claimed it had a hand in the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” tourism branding, “but only in an advisory capacity”. The first tourism secretary then of President BS Aquino III had to resign after the fiasco.

In January 2012, the same Department of Tourism of BS Aquino ran another branding campaign, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” exactly the same slogan in the 1951 ad of Switzerland, “It’s more fun in Switzerland!” “Soak up the sun—whether you’re drifting on palm-fringed lakes or exploring sunny Alpine trails. In four hours, Switzerland’s fast electric trains will whisk you almost anywhere in this gay and friendly country,” said the Swiss campaign.

Despite being unmasked as a copycat, Aquino’s second Tourism secretary, ad executive Mon Jimenez, lasted for four years. And his “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” has lasted to this day. Talk about persistence. But the projected tourism arrivals that the second-hand slogan wanted to draw didn’t materialize. The Philippines is still the sluggard in tourism arrivals in the entire Asean region.

Comes now the DoT of President Duterte. He appointed the Davao-based sister of prominent newsmen as his DoT chief. Amid allegations that some 8,000 have died in his vicious war on illegal-drugs and in the middle of an unprecedented “rebellion” by the ISIS-inspired Maute criminal gang in the Philippines’ premier Muslim city of Marawi, the DoT, like reverse serendipity, comes out with a new tourism branding campaign backstopped by a huge P650-million international tv budget. The “Experience the Philippines” video has for its main character a Japanese old-timer in the Philippines who savors the Philippines’ main attractions using his senses. It turns out the Japanese is blind.

Blind men. Tourism campaigns of South Africa, Quebec (Canada) and the Philippines all feature tourists who could not see.
Compelling! Although don’t blind people have stronger senses than normal people? Besides, you have to be blind to the ubiquitous violence and horrendous traffic going on locally to really enjoy the Philippines, Asia’s last tourism bargain and frontier.

As it turns out, two other countries had previously run a “blind man” tourism campaign—South Africa in 2014, and Quebec in Canada in 2016.

In the Philippine video, entitled “Sights,” CNN Philippines reported on June 13, “a man is shown visiting several tourist spots and experiencing local culture. As the video closes, viewers see that the man, identified as M. Uchimura, is blind as he walks down the cobbled streets of Vigan with his cane. The video says Uchimura ‘retired in the Philippines’.

In the South African campaign’s video, “a man is shown experiencing South African culture by way of dances, surfing, and several interactions with locals. In the end, the man is also revealed to be blind,” noted CNN Philippines.

Said ABS-CBN on June 13: “Both videos feature a blind man, who is experiencing the world through senses other than sight. In both tourism campaign videos, the man’s disability is not revealed until the end when he pulls out a walking cane.” In the Canadian version, the blind man’s disability is revealed at the start of the video.

McCann WorldGroup Philippines concocted the blind man video campaign. It insisted on the integrity that went into the ad. Uchimura is not the real name of the blind Japanese retiree.

Finally, why don’t we, for simplicity and for economy, just adopt that pithy and common expressly which vividly and humorously captures the essence of our country—“Only in the Philippines!”

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Topics: Tony Lopez , Only in the Philippines , Department of Tourism , tourism advertising , Poland in 2010 , Switzerland in 2012 , South Africa in 2017 , plagiarism , Pilipinas Kay Ganda , Campaigns and Grey , It’s more fun in the Philippines , Sights , McCann WorldGroup
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