only in the philippines!

95 million copywriters
Greg B. Macabenta

I used to complain about 60 million copywriters. That was the population of the Philippines decades ago, when I was working with an ad agency in Manila and was handling the Nestlé account. It was my way of protesting the way every Juan, Pedro, and Maria felt competent to criticize and suggest improvements on the advertising campaigns we created. Invariably, 10 different people had 10 different ideas on how to improve our work.

Poor Secretary Bertie Lim and Campaigns & Grey. Now, they’re hearing from 95 million copywriters.

…  I had written a piece entitled, “Proud to be Pinoy,” referring to the fact that Manny Pacquiao and FilAms like California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Giants ace pitcher Tim Limcecum have given us reason to hold our heads high in the world.But I also added that there are many other reasons to feel proud of ourselves as a a people:

“And yet, we have many reasons to feel Proud to be Pinoy, and not just vicariously. Not the least, the beauty of our people and our land.

“I guess this is the rationale behind the new campaign of the Department of Tourism revolving around the theme, ‘Pilipinas Kay Ganda’ or ‘Philippines, the Beautiful.’

“I think it’s a good advertising theme, reminiscent of America, the Beautiful.’ But to make this campaign fly, we need to work on our national psyche and imbue our people with genuine pride in ourselves as a nation.”

That really means creating a culture of tourism.

That, in turn, means improving our tourism infrastructure, ensuring peace and order and security, and investing in advertising and promotions to reach, create awareness and persuade tourists, sportsmen, adventurers, World War II veterans, retirees, businessmen, investors, conventioneers and assorted travelers, as well as overseas Filipinos, to visit our shores.

…  Heck! Why argue that “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” cannot be understood by non-Filipinos? It’s the easiest thing to add a parenthetical phrase that explains what it means. The more important point is whether or not we can support that statement.Was Senator Chiz Escudero right in commenting that there is no reason to change Dick Gordon’s “WOW Philippines” campaign?

Yeah sure. But if no advertising and promotions money is invested, it won’t work, either. And if the culture of tourism isn’t developed in our country and among our people, there will nothing to be “wowed” by.

…  The reason Las Vegas is such a major tourist draw is that the casinos are investing heavily in tourism promotions. The reason Hawaii is such an attractive tourist destination is that the travel and tourist industry in the islands are investing heavily in tourism promotions.But in the Philippines, the Department of Tourism is expected to do all of the investing, while the travel and tourism industry does the complaining and criticizing.

…  So what are they suggesting?Are they going to launch a contest on the best tourism slogan?

Will they create a committee of creative geniuses to concoct the right combination of words? Will Chiz Escudero and the Senate constitute a committee that will conduct an investigation into the reasons why our tourism industry has been left biting the dust behind Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the rest of Asia? Will Miriam Defensor-Santiago demand that Bertie Lim be replaced with “heavyweights”?

Or will someone sit down, do a reality check, calmly assess what resources are available and work on a viable plan that doesn’t depend on the syntax or symbolisms or visual appeal of an advertising slogan?

Several months ago (before P-Noy became president), I submitted a plan to Director Rene de los Santos of the Department of Tourism in San Francisco for a sustained media advertising campaign in the US, combining the limited budgets of the various stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry, as well as those government agencies desiring to reach out to the overseas markets.

My thesis is that, individually, none of them can afford to sustain a year-long effort — not even Philippine Airlines. But intermittent promotional blitzes and “marketing roadshows” are a waste of money. Without a follow-through, fat chance these efforts will sink in.

Breaking into a market is like pushing a boulder up a hill. If you don’t have enough muscle to push it all the way up to the top, as soon as you run out of steam, the boulder will roll right back to where you started.

So how to fund a year-long campaign? One way is to combine the limited resources of the stakeholders to make them add up to a substantial sum that can pay for such a campaign.

How does that work? Imagine a series of TV commercials and full-page or even double-spread full-color ads that talk about all of the wonderful things that all kinds of people can discover and relish in the Philippines.

Of course, that brings us back to making sure that all of those wonderfulthings are in place and worth offering to the world.

But, as far as I can tell, there are enough of them to get a viable campaign started. What I think needs to be done is for all of the interested parties to get together to agree on getting the infrastructure in shape for the follow-up campaign and for the long haul.

Pero, utang na loob, leave the copywriting to the copywriters.


  1. “Pero, utang na loob, leave the copywriting to the copywriters.”-Greg B. Macabenta

    Indeed! A very apt message to Enteng Romano. He heeded the message, he left. A good day for delicadeza, a very rare trait in gov’t. officials.

    I nominate Greg B. Macabenta for the position.

    A warning though. Even a copywriter should not copy anything without attribution to the original author. And, copywriters should not direct his/her target market to a porno site.

  2. For a guy who considers himself in the company of nmovers and shakers in the Bay Area (Daly City, San Francisco and other cities heavily populated) by Filipinos and Asians, Macabenta thinks that Philippines or for Pilipinas for that matter can easily be remembered just by showing the logo.

    I am watching an ad about Puerto Rico, right now. No need to get a translator. The copy is simple. “See puerto rico and find out.”

    In the Bay Area, where you can not walk farther than 5 feet without hearing Tagalog spoken, that may be true.

    But in the East Coast where the only popular Filipino is a chef in the White House with a foreign sounding last name, many a time you would be met by a question, where is the Philippines when you’re asked where you are from. Di lalo na ang Pilipinas.

    Besides, I think the netizens were not only after the bad copy but the fact that it was lifted somewhere and then then the lies after lies to cover up for the fiasco which could have turned these govt. execs to Pinnochios.

    I still have to remind Macabenta who expects his name to ring a bell to Filipinos in SF when I met him and he acted as if “You do not know me, shame on you” that copywriting is not the end of a promotion effort. It is just the beginning. Somehow, somewhere it has to be tested. May be I really did not know him because I did not watch the movies of action stars where he was a screenplay writer something something.

  3. UP nn grad

    bert: I think macabenta’s open-letter is to GabbyD, ellenTordesillas, ReynaElena and many bloggers who commented negatively about the “Ganda Pilipinas” logo and the new program. What macabenta says is that these bloggers are simply amateurs who do not understand the business.

    Macabenta’s message is this — Huwag kayong makialam, we are the professionals, leave us alone, you are not qualified to contribute at all!!!!

  4. yes, its “onli in the pilipins” (popularized by Leo martinez in his political-comedy TV show), where we speak the same national language , but our sense of national direction are diversed, confused, off-tangent and inconsistent depending on your intellectual level, social and tribal class. That’s why, we will never move forward as nation since we lack this behavioural attitude of national patriotism and cultural cohesion. Greg is right, we have 95 million copywriters with the right to be right, even how mediocre it seems.

  5. i never commented negatively about the pilipinas kay ganda. in fact, i dont know why its “plagiarized”.

    The slogan is a brand which includes the name, the symbol and the color combination.

    If it is covered by patent, it becomes a trademark. Copy just one of the symbols and you will deal with patent lawyers, a very lucrative legal practice.

    The cancer awareness is a concept developed by American Cancer Society. Every kind of cancer is represented with a different color.

    The yellow ribbon adopted by the Aquino campaign symbolized liver cancer.

    I do not know if the “architect” of the yellow ribbon is aware of it.

    I am not referring only to the color but also to the way the ribbon was designed.

  6. “And Macabenta also says “I have a plan that will work, hire me, hire me!!!””-UP n

    Yes, UP n, it’s very, very clear, I thought of that too, that’s why I nominated him for the position. But I gave Macabenta the warnings that if he the professional copywriter do a Campaigns and Grey again, we, the 85 millions amateur copywriters will give him another lessons on copywritings again.

  7. UP nn grad

    In my opinion, there is no need for unanimity in the hundreds of thousands of Pinoys speaking about governance topics.

    What is needed is competency in government. The “Kay Ganda” got trashed on many fronts, and the basic undertone is incompetency — a “puwede-na-ito” grade-C or worse achievement by the Nonoy adminsitration folks who worked on “Kay Ganda”.

    Not to forget that the ellenTordesillas-and-company that unearthed the lies or hints-of-lies (Pro-bono… “The government has not spent a single pesos yet!”, said DeptTourism big names).

    Macabenta is inane in asking for the many of voices of Pinoys to be stifled. Macabenta saying “I could have done a better job!” is acceptable; Macabenta is flat-out wrong and he is out of line when he writes that EllenTordesillas and the many voices that spoke against “Kay Ganda” were of no service to Pilipinas.

  8. teka ;) in fairness to macabenta, i thought the piece was worth posting because it’s true, as he points out, that a tourism campaign needs more than a slogan/logo but also a lot of money and a whole infrastructure of people and agencies dedicated to making it work.

    also, natawa ako kasi totoo rin na ang dami nang nakikialam in these age of the internet, ang daming know-it-all, kasali na tayo doon, hehe, pero talaga naman, they can’t wish us out of existence or command our silence, no?

    if DOT insists on replacing rather than upgrading wow philippines, then they’ll just have to come up with something new and original, something they’re sure is good enough because it’s been tested etc. and something they can defend. itong pilipinas-kay-ganda, wala naman talagang nag-defend, lim’s excuses were lame, and campaigns and grey did not even try except to point fingers elsewhere.

  9. “If it is covered by patent, it becomes a trademark. Copy just one of the symbols and you will deal with patent lawyers, a very lucrative legal practice.”

    thats ONLY true IF there is a possiblity of confusion between the trademarks.

    that is: when u see the pilipinas logo, could u mistake it for the polska logo?

    the answer is NO.

  10. Gabbyd,

    No gabby d, even if there is no confusion and even if the product is not yet commercially produced, the patent/copyright lawyers can send a not so original concept to the graveyard of dead ideas. that’s what they are being paid for. Copyright/trademark infringements, plagiarism and product replication are rampant not only in the Philippines but also in other Asian countries that many think it is no big deal to copy a little from many sources and pass off the finished product as original.

  11. @cat

    under what idea/law?

    from googling:

    “In many ways, trademark is much more broad than copyright. Where copyright doesn’t expand to things such as names, colors, typefaces, designs, etc. trademark does or at least can. However, trademark is also much more limited than copyright in that, where copyright is designed to protect against almost all unlicensed copying that is outside of fair use, trademark only deals with use of the mark that causes confusion in that company’s marketplace.”

  12. the head of campaigns and grey was on rundown. good explanations. too bad they had to rush the execution, so it became too politically hot.

    it couldve worked. now we’ll never know as no one might want to try something radical in the future.

  13. Nag-backtrack kaagad kayo dahil may kung-sinong copywriter na pa-rational daw. He’s making it sound like producing an ad can be compared to constructing a bridge or a space shuttle. We’re not copywriters, we’re consumers! Hangang ngayon ba naman namamangha pa rin kayo sa pa-credential credential? Sino ba ang may last word kung ang ad ay pangit? Di tayo. Diba diba?

    I’m not an expert but take a closer look at his statement here:

    “I think it’s a good advertising theme, reminiscent of America, the Beautiful.’ But to make this campaign fly, we need to work on our national psyche and imbue our people with genuine pride in ourselves as a nation.”

    Which only means we have to invest billions and generations of hard work to improve ourselves first (baka kailangan pa natin manalo sa gyera para mag-karoon ng genuine pride) before we can have a tourism campaign that flies! Anak nang… Ad man ba ito o diplomat? Isn’t his work to sell crap?

  14. UP nn grad

    France just commented on Pilipinas Kay Ganda.

    France just issued a TRAVEL ADVISORY (because of kidnappings, robbery). Worse, the French issued an English-translation (Sec Coloma should protest — Why in English????)

    Asian Human Rights Commission also commented on Pilipinas Kay Ganda.