DOT chief keeping ‘Love’ campaign despite mess
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) is not ditching its “Love the Philippines” campaign which got off to a rocky start when the advertising agency behind the P49-million project was abruptly fired after it admitted to using stock footage of other countries for the promotional video.
At the sidelines of the 2022 Philippine Tourism Satellite Accounts and Tourism Statistics Dissemination Forum on Wednesday, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco briefly told reporters, “I think that is evident,” when asked if the DOT would keep the new tourism slogan.
Her decision, however, may not sit well with Sen. Nancy Binay who urged the DOT to do everything to save Philippine tourism by dropping its “Love” campaign.
“We need to accept that it really happens—marketing campaigns fail. In DOT’s case, it’s best to move forward from failure and save the brand at all costs,” Binay said in a statement.
“We cannot afford to put to waste everything that we built for Philippine tourism. Let’s do the right thing to protect the integrity of the brand,” she stressed.
In her speech at the event, with the “Love the Philippines” logo prominently displayed on stage, Frasco did not directly address the video controversy although she mentioned the DOT’s latest tourism campaign several times.
“Needless to say, our country is beautiful. And this incontrovertible fact has been reaffirmed to us by the world, which awarded the Philippines in the World Travel Awards as the world’s leading beach destination, the world’s leading dive destination and Asia’s leading tourist attraction. You’re welcome to clap for the Philippines. Love the Philippines,” she told the audience.
“Having come out of the pandemic, indeed the greatest threat to humanity, we have survived, we have thrived and we continue in the journey toward recovery and transformation. We are the Philippines. We have gone through so much as a nation. We possess the strength of spirit to continue to prevail and to overcome,” Frasco added.
“The world has told us that there is so much to love about our country. And I’m fully confident that if all of us look into the depths of our hearts, we will find in each and every one of our fellow Filipinos that burning pride of place for the Philippines and the deep love of country that will propel the recovery of Philippine tourism and allow our country to claim its position as Asia’s tourism powerhouse. Daghang Salamat (Many thanks). Love the Philippines,” she said.
On Monday, the DOT announced that it was terminating its contract with DDB Group Philippines which had conceptualized the “Love the Philippines” campaign and logo. The ad agency said it was taking full responsibility for the “unfortunate oversight” and would fully cooperate with the DOT in its investigation.
Damage to PH image
Binay, who chairs the Senate committee on tourism, expressed concern over the damage to the country’s image arising from the controversial promotional video that contained footage from other countries, particularly rice terraces in Indonesia, an airport runway in Switzerland and a fisherman in Thailand.
She noted how the internet had been flooded with memes and lampoons poking fun at the “Love the Philippines” slogan. These included a photo of the Giza pyramids in Egypt labeled as Bohol’s “Chocolate Hills,” the Rome Colosseum tagged as “Smart Araneta Coliseum,” Niagara Falls at the US-Canada border being passed off as “Pagsanjan Falls” and Dutch windmills in the Netherlands tagged as “Bangui windmills.”
Binay expressed concern at how the scandal had dealt a severe blow to the ad campaign, raising doubts over whether the DOT should still retain the slogan.
“Tourism is a sensitive market. Political unrest, negative media and people’s perceptions influence travelers’ decisions. It’s very unfortunate that on the first step, instead of moving forward, we stepped backward,” she said.
According to Binay, it would be unwise for the DOT and the people behind the marketing campaign to insist on continuing with “Love the Philippines” given the negative impact of the video fiasco.
“If the DOT plans to come up with a television commercial, it is not wise to gamble because netizens are already anticipating the next iterations of the ‘Love’ campaign that they can make fun of with spoofs,” she said.
Binay suggested that the DOT consider reverting to the “tried-and-tested” campaign and then craft a tactical marketing plan to avert any attempt of possible sabotage.
“I hope the DOT is level-headed enough to accept this. We expect them to be agile and move forward from failure because we don’t want the slogan to become a national embarrassment,” she said.
No need for slogan
For Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, the country also needs to move forward from the controversy with the DOT focusing its efforts on restoring travelers’ confidence and increasing domestic and foreign visitors.
“It’s truly saddening that a project that is supposed to be used to promote the country has been filled with controversies—even getting the attention of international media. The Philippines is a beautiful country with or without a slogan,” he said.
He reiterated his earlier call for a “whole-of-government approach” in the promotion of the tourism industry, which, he said, includes reducing the cost of travel through the improvement of transport services, skills training for workers in the tourism industry, and assisting micro, small and medium enterprises in the production of local goods and products.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said the controversy should serve as a “valuable lesson” for Filipinos in promoting and showcasing the beauty of the country.
“Moving forward, we should all learn from this experience by further strengthening our marketing efforts to prevent similar cases from arising in the future,” he added.