"It's more fun in the Philippines."
That's the new slogan that will brand the new Philippine tourism campaign to be rolled out in international markets starting April this year.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., in an exclusive briefing for InterAksyon.com prior to today's public launch of the campaign, said the slogan created by advertising firm BBDO Guerrero | Proximity Philippines, answers the fundamental question, "Why the Philippines?"
"What differentiates the Philippines from every [other place] in the world, as we said from the start, is the Filipino. [It's] his special gift for transforming what is already a beautiful place into an unforgettable special place," Jimenez said. "You take two identical islands, put Filipinos in one, it’s going to be more fun there."
Also launched on Friday was a new logo, which is a "banig weave that forms the map of the Philippines. It's very colorful, very graphic, sa biglang tingin [at first glance], it's a pixelized version of the map. It has that very modern feel also," Jimenez said. President Benigno S. Aquino III, he noted, also gave his inputs on the colors.
The Philippines hopes to attract 12 million visitors by 2016, when Aquino steps down from office.
The new brand campaign was presented to the President some three weeks ago with a number of his Cabinet members in attendance.
Asked about the President's reaction, Jimenez said: "He was very relieved. He was worried that it was going to be a more exotic kind of controversial [slogan]." The President had previously approved the controversial "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (How Beautiful, the Philippines) slogan launched by the DOT in November 2010, which was later scrapped due to massive public outcry.
Jimenez said he had to ask the President for more funds to produce and roll out the campaign more effectively. While he declined to reveal the exact amount, the DOT chief said Aquino "gave us more money than what we initially asked for."
Admittedly, the country's campaign funds will probably not compare to the advertising budgets of other countries, so the DOT is relying on social media as well, to help push the campaign.
Thus, along with the international slogan is a "hashtag", which will be at the center of a “reflection campaign” to be used domestically, and primed purposely for social media use: “#1forfun”. (In social networking sites like Twitter, the hashtag symbol (#) used before a word or group of words signifies a topic or message category. It makes searching for relevant keywords or topics much easier.
"So the hashtag is crucial…it allows the line to multiply like a virus, and it will be easy for us to do trending," Jimenez stressed.
Although schooled in the traditional forms of advertising and marketing, the DOT chief believes social media is key to mounting a successful brand campaign, considering that his agency has a budget of only P2 billion a year.
"There is a resource we cannot easily quantify, the support of Filipinos everywhere. We are far and away the most savvy Internet communicators in this part of the world. In fact we're so savvy, Filipinos are the only Asians who can cause trends on Twitter."
Jimenez himself has taken to social media and tweets under the account "MonJQuotes." Since Wednesday, he has been tweeting hints about the new slogan in an apparent countdown to today’s launch.
He described the new international slogan as "so deceptively simple" that traditional advertising and marketing people may find the new tag line "a little strange because it is a thought almost drawn from social media…. In a very real sense, it is a very modern 21st century kind of campaign. But it's something Filipinos immediately can get behind, because it's true."
Jimenez stressed that in fact, the word "fun" in relation to the Philippines, is tweeted every six minutes, as per BBDO’s research.
The slogan thus allows Filipinos "to take hold of the line and make it their own." There are "endless possibilities" for the campaign, he said, "if you play around with it in your head.” Whatever activity a tourist wants to engage in e.g. scuba diving, hiking, “even planking,” he jested, the answer will be, “it’s more fun in the Philippines."
He cited ways by which the campaign would be carried out in key markets.
"Next year, for example, we hope to buy space over a parking lot in New York City with a billboard that shows bancas lined up along the beach of Puerto Galera with the people laughing. Their bancas have funny names like 'Tom Cruises' and the headline says, 'Parking. It's more fun in the Philippines.'"
He continues: "You'll see a poster coming up from the Underground in London, of the Banaue Rice Terraces, with Igorot guides along with tourists and it says, 'Climbing stairs. It's more fun in the Philippines.'"
The domestic campaign can commence as soon as next week, Jimenez said, as BBDO is expected to set up a web site and a Facebook account to encapsulate the campaign’s key elements.
"I'm hoping the domestic campaign will be covered by well-meaning private organizations and the networks doing their own thing," he added. The Advertising Board of the Philippines has already committed to give free billboard space in certain key areas in Metro Manila, he said, while Smart Communications' will also be using the new line in lieu of its "Tara Na" (Let's Go) promotion.
Jimenez has also been meeting with several media company and broadcasting network representatives to persuade them to get behind the new brand campaign.
Other tourism slogans long used by the country’s competitors in Asia include: Amazing Thailand, Malaysia Truly Asia, Incredible India, etc. In 2010, Australia launched "Nothing like Australia", Spain had "I need Spain", and just last month, Vietnam launched its "Timeless Charm" promotion.
BBDO Guerrero bested seven other ad agencies in last year's bid for the P5.6-million "Philippine Brand Campaign focusing on Tourism". It was also responsible for the hugely successful "WOW Philippines: More than the Usual" brand campaign used by the DOT since 2001.