Despite the claim it was based on a true story, some find the “Sights” ad too incredible. Worse, it could even put the life of a tourist in danger.
“It’s an absolute lie that a blind tourist can travel alone to the Philippines and go around safely. Even locals are wary of traveling alone in this country. There is also nothing PWD-friendly about our streets, facilities, and infrastructure either,” wrote columnist Katrina Stuart Santiago in the Manila Times. “To me, this ad was reckless endangerment of any and all tourists who might believe that one can travel around here blind.”
In a scathing commentary published June 18 against the Department of Tourism and advertising agency McCann Worldgroup Philippines over the controversial campaign video (the second in a series of ads) that quickly drew accusations of plagiarism soon after it first aired on June 12, Santiago minced no words in criticizing it for eerie similarities to a 2014 tourism ad of South Africa.
“When people questioned this ad’s similarities with an existing ad, the DOT stood by it and said it was part of their campaign to encourage foreigners to retire in the Philippines. It’s also critical to point out that similar to the first ad, this second ad ends with a quote from purportedly Japanese retiree M. Uchimura, who says: ‘Life feels better when with Filipinos.’ Does that make sense given what the ad contains? No. Is it good copy? Absolutely not. Which makes me wonder really if any of this even comes from McCann at all or if this is actually DoT’s fantastic team demanding of McCann that they churn out these horrible ads with terrible copy,” Santiago said.
McCann stressed “there has never been any intention to copy others’ creative work” and that what it did was “to highlight the testimonial of a real retiree.” But the ad agency’s credibility appears questionable amid last Sunday’s interview on CNN Philippines of Uchimura’s Filipino wife, Kukai Nye, who said that while most of the scenes depicted in the ad occurred, the ending scene in Vigan was not true.
Amid the raging controversy the DOT has gotten into, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo still deserves credit for doing right in deciding to terminate its P650-million deal with McCann.
And DOT could win back the respect and admiration of Filipinos if it strives harder to meet the challenges it faces amid the various “hiccups” brought about by the tragedy at Resorts World Manila that claimed 37 innocent lives, and the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report that called the Philippines the “11th most dangerous country for tourists.”
So what needs to be done to boost tourism? For starters, DOT could tap the vast creative potential of netizens and the internet’s “all-seeing eye” to get fresh insights and original ideas for ad campaigns, instead of relying solely on ad agencies that charge huge amounts of taxpayers’ money.
And DOT ought to actively seek the support of leading international travel publications like the New York-based Travel+Leisure Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Lonely Planet in promoting our country and people. Also, glowing endorsements in the past may be revitalized and further exploited in new campaigns.
“For travelers willing to go the extra thousand miles for a deserted beach, the Philippines has around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world,” Condé Nast Traveler said about four years ago as it noted international divers come for “the incredible underwater life, unspoiled coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles and dugongs.”
Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher, declared the Philippines as “the world’s 8th best country to visit in 2015,” saying travelers are in for unique adventures like “clinging to the back of a jeepney speeding through the crowded streets of Metro Manila” and enjoying a variety of food festivals, street parades, live music shows, and many more.
“With more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines has one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, fringed by dive-tastic coral reefs, sprinkled with sunbathe-ready white sand, backed by swaying palm trees and dotted with simple resorts of nipa-palm thatched huts,” says an article in the Lonely Planet website.
Even the New York Times had promoted our “idyllic white sand beaches” and “pristine reefs” as it put our country at No. 17 in its own list of “46 Places to go in 2013.”
All the truisms about the splendor and natural beauty of tourist spots here, as well as the vaunted hospitality and friendliness of smiling Filipinos – often counted among the happiest people on earth – can certainly be put to good use and maximized in tourism campaigns.