DOT: Using ‘More fun’ slogan would be insensitive; ‘Sights’ video not plagiarized

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DOT Asec. Ricky Alegre (right) and McCann Philippines AVP for Corporate Affairs Niña Terol face members of media to clarify matters on the tourism department's allegedly plagiarized 'Sights' tourism brand video, June 13, 2017. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

After the Independence Day release of its newest 60-seconder video ad ‘Sights,’ the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday afternoon was prompted to hold a media conference to address accusations that its newest video campaign ‘Sights’ was plagiarized from a South African tourism brand video.

DOT Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre and Niña Terol, AVP for Corporate Affairs of McCann Worldgroup Philippines faced members of media as the latter read a statement on behalf of the ad agency.

Here is the official statement of McCann Worldgroup Philippines on the ‘Sights’ tourism campaign:

In working with the Department of Tourism (DOT), we have been inspired by the many stories we have seen and heard, about why foreigners choose to visit the Philippines. Many of them have spoken about our innate warmth, the genuine friendships they have developed here, our hospitality that extends to a sense of family, and the many reasons why it is the Filipino people that truly make it “more fun in the Philippines.”

Our research has also shown that, of the millions of visitors who visit the Philippines, thousands of foreigners from over 100 countries have chosen to live and retire here.

Our latest film, “Sights,” was particularly inspired by the story of a visually-impaired foreigner who has made the Philippines his home and who has come to experience the Philippines in different ways.

We acknowledge the feedback that the way this story was told may have similarities with the South African tourism campaign. It is unfortunate that the DOT has been called out and accused of plagiarism, for work we have done to highlight the testimonial of a real retiree.

We take full responsibility as ALL ideas and storyboards presented were conceptualized by McCann Worldgroup Philippines. 

However, we underscore that there has never been any intention to copy others’ creative work. McCann Worldgroup Philippines has always strived to adhere to our guiding principle, “Truth Well Told”, in everything we do. We stand by the integrity with which this campaign was developed.

Not plagiarized
The Sights” video features a blind Japanese retiree named M. Uchimura who has decided to live in the Philippines. It shows the elderly traveler engaging his senses and interacting with locals in destinations that include the Banaue Rice Terraces, Paoay Sand Dunes, and Calle Crisologo in Vigan.

Watch DOT’s “Sights” video campaign:

The South African brand campaign video, meanwhile, also presents a visually-impaired male traveler and his experiences discovering the beauty of the place and its people.

On social media, the “Sights” video has been ridiculed and criticized for being plagiarized, as netizens noted that both videos uncannily have similar opening and ending scenes, and carry the same story approach.

Be the judge, here’s the South African brand video:

At Tuesday’s press conference, however, Asec. Alegre asserted, “We stand by McCann, we stand by the creative execution. We know for a fact that the Philippines is a choice destination, it’s a choice destination to stay among retirees. It’s all part of the series of ads to show the spirit of the Filipino.”

Asec. Alegre also pointed out that the video is part of a series that aims to address particular tourist markets. The first video released earlier this year was called “Anak” and shows a Caucasian guy being welcomed by a woman who tenderly calls her anak or child. The video was shot in Hinatuan, Surigao. Asec. Alegre described the video as very “millennial.”

“Sights,” meanwhile, is geared for the eldrly market. Asec. Alegre added, “It’s important to not that under the Philippine law, we have the Philippine Retirement Authority and we have around 27,000 with special visas. And we know for a fact that Japan is one of the countries that have chosen the Philippines as a retirement place. We know that there’s a growing market of retirees globally that want to come here and we are happy about that. “

He reiterated that the “Sights” video featured a real Japanese retiree who chose to stay in the Philippines. The video will be launched in countries with a large elderly population like Japan, Korean, and Europe.

He added that a third DOT video is already being shot in the Visayas. “It’s really exciting but I can’t tell you right now what it is all about right now.”

Not the first time
This isn’t the first time that controversy hit a DOT brand campaign. In 2010, the “Pilipinas Kayganda” logo was criticized for being lifted from a Poland logo. In 2012, the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan created by agency BBDO Guerrero was criticized as allegedly being copied from a 1951 Swiss tourism slogan.

In a sea of global tourism campaigns, however, Asec. Ricky Alegre who is a former journalist and Ad Board chairman believes that the possibility of creating materials that may be comparable to each other is very likely to happen.

He continues to defend the video: “This was really based on a real story, a real testimonial and we stand by the story from which it was inspired.

“I’ve been in the media and advertising industry for a long time. There are really creative executions to similarly situated stories but have unique propositions. It can be anything under the sun, the experience, but we can use it in a different time, but that’s accepted. It’s something that’s accepted in the advertising industry.

The tourism department’s new campaign brand slogan.

‘More Fun’ not sensitive
Another controversy facing DOT is its newly launched “Experience the Philippines” secondary slogan and is said to be the second phase of the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tourism brand campaign.

Netizens have been criticizing the slogan’s introduction against the popularity of the already established “More Fun” campaign internationally and the idea that the new slogan may also connote negative images of certain issues and events happening in the country.

On the contrary, said Asec. Alegre, the secondary slogan was thought up with the consideration of particular developments in the country.

“At this moment, our soldiers are getting killed, there is Martial Law in Marawi. And you will mention “fun”? I mean, guys, come on, have a heart. I mean, really, it’s still ‘It’s more fun in the Philipines.’ But we wanted to show a call to action.

“Look at it this way, how did we know that these things will turn this way in Marawi. We produced the ad and we said (let’s go) North. And it’s perfect to promote the North right now; it’s very hard to promote Marawi. We’re very sensitive that our troops are being killed, we’re very sensitive that people are being misplaced in Marawi . Such a beautiful place and this is happening. ‘Fun’ is not quite appropriate at this moment. But in an area where it is safe—definitely there is an experience that you can have.”

Asec. Alegre added that the primary slogan remains as “It’s more fun in the Philippines” but delving deeper into the tourist’s experience. He said, “It’s not a last ditch effort but considering the situation, we cannot detach ourselves from what we are seeing and what is happening and we’re just being sensitive.

The new slogan, he said, is one of DOT Secretary Wanda Teo’s vision: “The secretary (Teo) now wants that to be the centerpiece of the campaign. We have that warm hospitality as a people. Let’s get it out because that’s what we’re known for.”

Asec. Alegre also shared that McCann has a contract with DOT that was signed during the previous adminstration. He disclosed that the second phase of the “More Fun’ campaign is at Php650 million, with Php520 million to Php600 million alocatted for media placements and the remaining budget for the creative execution.