‘Recalibrate’ or DDB fiasco will ‘hurt’ PH brand, Gordon tells DOT
MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Richard Gordon, who was also a tourism secretary, has pressed the Department of Tourism (DOT) to “recalibrate” the Philippines’ brand image following uproar over its use of stock footage from other countries in a promotional video intended to drum up interest for local travel spots.
In a statement on Monday, Gordon, who popularized the “Wow Philippines” campaign of the early 2000s, said the government “must rise and correct the mistake right away,” noting that tourism was “far too important” a sector to be jeopardized by the blunder.
The DOT, headed by Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, announced Monday it was terminating its P49-million contract with the advertising agency DDB Group Philippines, which conceptualized the new “Love the Philippines” logo and slogan and later accepted blame for the improper use of clips of foreign tourist destinations.
But Gordon said DDB was too big a company to “overlook a mistake that big.”
“It is their duty to review and have everything checked or the mistake will bite you. More importantly, it will rabidly hurt the Philippines,” he said.
Gordon stressed the urgency of mitigating the “gargantuan” damage of the blunder to the country’s international image.
“We need to stop and focus,” he said.
The Philippine Red Cross chair made the remark on the same day the DOT announced it was scrapping its deal with DDB.
The ad agency on Sunday said it was taking full responsibility for the lapse and would fully cooperate with the DOT in its investigation.
DDB sought to appease critics by saying the promotional material was “intended to be a mood video” and produced on its own initiative “to help pitch the slogan,” which replaced the previous administration’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
Deciding it was best to part ways with DDB for the campaign, DOT cited its right to “proceed with termination proceedings against its contract with DDB.”
It would also “review standards of performance or lack thereof” as well as exercise its right to “forfeit performance security” if it deems necessary.
‘No payment’ doubted
The tourism department also pointed out that no payments had been made to the ad agency.
Gordon, however, cast doubt on pronouncements made by both parties that DDB did not receive any government funds for the campaign video.
“That is a business. DDB has to pay its account executives and others,” he said.
Based on the General Appropriations Act for 2023, an allocation of P1.27 billion was set aside for a “branding campaign program” itemized as a “special provision” under the DOT budget.
While Frasco said the terminated DDB deal was worth P49 million, a bid notice contract on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website showed that another P250 million had been budgeted for “consulting services for the integrated marketing campaign for the rebranding of the Philippine tourism brand.”
Also on Tuesday, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who was critical of the new tourism campaign for omitting the travel destinations in his home province, said he would not go so far as to ask for Frasco’s resignation despite the controversy.
The House ways and means panel chair said he wanted the conversation to “focus on ways forward,” given that Frasco seemed open to his recommendations.
“I asked her to fire the consultant. She did. I asked her to correct mistakes and investigate internally. She did. I asked her to be more inclusive with destinations featured. She did. When we resume session in Congress, we will seek facts. She is open. We can disagree without malice,” he said in a statement.
He went on: “I will criticize openly, as needed. That’s my job as a legislator and a representative of my people. But after heated discussions, we must remain focused on solving problems.”
Salceda also pointed out that once the controversy cools down, the government will “still need to fix our airports, our accommodations, our accessibility.”
“So, no, I will not join calls for her to resign. Certainly not when a lot of it is premised on speculation. I focused on facts in my criticisms. I want to focus on facts, on the solutions,” he added.
Frasco, daughter of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, also received the support of mayors and representatives from her home province.
Except for one mayor and another legislator, all mayors and lawmakers in Cebu issued a manifesto of support to Frasco.
In the manifesto, they claimed there was a “coordinated demolition job” against Frasco “to sabotage the great accomplishments of the DOT secretary.”
The manifesto, however, didn’t specify the demolition job and where it came from.
Among the 11 representatives who signed were her uncle, Pablo John Garcia of the third district, and her husband, Duke Frasco of the fifth district.
The manifesto was also signed by mayors of three independent cities, five component cities, and 44 municipalities.