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Jimenez is tourism czar

Selling Philippines like ‘selling Chickenjoy’

MARKETING MAN. New Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez faces the media after the announcement of his appointment on Thursday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

How to sell the beauty of the Philippines to the world is very much in the mind of newly appointed Tourism Secretary Ramon Reyes Jimenez Jr. who—the ad man that he is—said on Thursday that it “should be as easy to sell as Chickenjoy.”

Jimenez shared his ideas—some of them catchy slogans—on how he plans to go about making the best sales pitch for the country when he faced the media for the first time on Thursday just a few hours after President Aquino confirmed in China where he is on a state visit—that he indeed has chosen the top advertising executive to head the Department of Tourism (DoT).

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Since the Aquino administration came to office last year, it has yet to come up with a tourism slogan to promote the Philippines to the world.

“The Philippines should be as easy to sell as Chickenjoy,” Jimenez said, in referring to a wildly popular menu fare at food giant Jollibee.

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President Aquino announced Jimenez’s ascent to the DoT a day after Alberto Lim’s resignation from the top DoT post became effective.

Lim was in the Palace on Thursday in a news briefing to formally introduce Jimenez, whose day job since last week was chief executive officer of Jimenez Basic as well as CEO and senior consultant at WOO (for Winning Over Obstacles) Consultants.

“This is the most beautiful country in the world. Or you can say we are one of the top 10 most beautiful countries in the world. There is no reason we won’t succeed,” Jimenez said as he faced the media for the first time after Mr. Aquino confirmed he was the man he had chosen to replace Lim.

Jimenez said that in taking the job, he was aware that he would succeed “only if I begin by rallying the DoT staff, the team, tourism practitioners, the government bureaucracy and the general public around one very simple idea—tourism is the people’s business,”

He stressed the ultimate goal was “not merely to improve statistics on tourist arrivals” but “to generate fulfilling and profitable income and employment for our people.”

Jimenez said his marching orders was to make tourism “the people’s business.”

“We have no business in engaging in this industry if it’s not going to benefit our people,” Jimenez said.

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“In fact, job No. 1 is to galvanize the DoT staff into an honest-to-goodness selling unit. After all, selling is our job. We are actually salesmen.”

Consultative style

Founder of one of the most successful advertising agencies in the country, Jimenez is known in the industry as “Mon J,” a humble man whose “consultative” style helped his firm market some of the most iconic brands today.

As head of the advertising firm Jimenez Basic, he helped build up products of companies ranging from San Miguel Corp., Globe Telecom, Unilab, Chowking, Coca-Cola, Cebu Pacific—and Jollibee, one of whose best-selling food items is Chickenjoy.

Asked where his confidence in being able to sell the Philippines was coming from, Jimenez said the Philippines “is an obviously beautiful product.”

“The Philippines should be as easy to sell as Chickenjoy,” he said, stressing that some people probably had difficulty selling the country “because maybe our approach is not simple enough.”

“The best marketing communications campaigns anywhere in the world are rally hinged on the simplicity of a proposition.”

Image of Mexico

Jimenez said Mexico had become a major tourist draw “because the image of Mexico, even now in your minds, is very clear. You can see the tacos and the hats and the ponchos.”

“You’ve got to work and think hard about what the proposition is. And then everyone else’s focus is on selling that. That’s how it works.”

In announcing that Jimenez had accepted the job, the President stressed the importance of marketing the country to foreign tourists.

“At the end of the day, he will be informing a lot of the citizens of the world that there are such and such sites accessible, it should be visited,” Mr. Aquino said.

“I want to see him by next week and I assume there will be things that he wants done,” he added.

Mr. Aquino said that for the time being, he believed Jimenez “would be maintaining the bureaucracy at the DoT.”

Road to prouder future

“The President looks forward to the growth of (the tourism) industry and to the improved global profile of many of our country’s tourism destinations,” Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said to introduce Jimenez to the Palace press corps.

He said Jimenez had been in marketing communications for 35 years and called him “one of the pillars of Philippine advertising.”

Thanking President Aquino for his “trust and confidence” in him, Jimenez vowed to do his best “to make tourism a hallmark of his administration’s drive to bring our people to the road, to richer and prouder future.”

He underscored the need to “get the product itself to believe in itself” because by making Filipinos “excited about tourism, then they will in fact attract the world.”

Jimenez intended to meet today with tourism officials, saying “the selling cannot begin soon enough.”

“When you think about it, it’s not really what we think about our own campaign. It’s what the world will think about it,” Jimenez said.

“The Philippines has to have a competitive campaign based on a proposition that offers people real value for their time and their money,” he said.

Compelling idea

“Let’s take the extreme. What do you have to say to someone who lives about 6,000 kilometers away in Norway for him to come all the way here to see some goldfish under the sea? You have to have a very single-minded proposition that comes alive in his head, in his mind.”

The key, Jimenez said, was to “find a proposition that is compelling enough and competitive enough.”

He acknowledged it was tough to come up with a “single slogan” or to “capture (the idea) in three or four words.”

Indeed, it was this kind of approach that Jimenez said he took when he helped in the presidential campaign of Mr. Aquino.

Jimenez made it clear that the vision of “Daang matuwid (straight path)” was Mr. Aquino’s  from the start.

“All we did was transform it into a single-minded idea that compelled people to vote for him… So that’s how communication works. You have fundamentally the core truth and somebody turns it into a proposition people cannot refuse. That’s how it works and hopefully that’s what I will be able to do,” he said.

Spain’s example

Jimenez said he was hoping to convince the tourism sector “to dream about what we can have tomorrow.”

Asked what country in the world he thought was able to promote itself to the world successfully, Jimenez cited Spain as an example.

He said people in Spain were the owners of the tourism industry.

“It belongs to the people,” he said.

“They cook for the tourist. Cooking there is a business. It’s not about you frying banana cue and considering it only as a job for you,” he added.

Even business leaders with jaded views about DoT’s past performance were all praise for Jimenez.

“I’ve known Mon Jimenez as a professional and a gentleman,” said Management Association of the Philippines president Felino Palafox Jr. “He is a good ‘people person’ who is consultative and humble, despite his successful career.”

A visionary

In 2009, advertising industry publication Adobo magazine featured Jimenez and his wife, Abby, crediting the couple for building “the most profitable creative agency in Manila.”

“[Jimenez Basic] has a solid reputation for creative and effective ads that find their way into people’s conversations,” the magazine said. “Employee turnover is one of the lowest in the industry, shored by good compensation, reasonable work hours and annual company outings abroad.”

Other clients in Jimenez Basic’s portfolio included Innove, Citibank, Sara Lee, Meralco and Nutriasia Foods.

Tourism industry advocate Robert Lim Joseph described Jimenez as a “visionary.”

For almost two decades, Jimenez was CEO of Jimenez Basic Advertising (1989-2008). He was also vice president and executive creative director at Ace-Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising and associate creative director at Ace Campton Advertising.

He is married to Annabelle Lee Jimenez, who also sits as CEO of WOO Consultants. They have two children: Nina, an associate creative director and copywriter; and Melissa, a fashion designer known as “Sassa.”

In 2004, Jimenez and his wife were jointly conferred the Pilak Award for the Mavericks of Marketing by the Advertising Board of the Philippines (AdBoard). The couple also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Creative Guild of the Philippines. With a report from Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Advertising Board of the Philippines (AdBoard), CEO and senior consultant at WOO (for Winning Over Obstacles), Chickenjoy, Department of Tourism (DOT), Jimenez Basic, Management Association of the Philippines president Felino Palafox Jr., President Benigno Aquino III, tourism czar, Tourism Secretary Ramon Reyes Jimenez Jr.
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