BY DINDO A. DANAO
It is unfortunate that the Department of Tourism’s latest campaign drew negative reactions, instead of the desired positive attention to the Philippines.
This should not have been the case, if the parties involved understood a principle widely observed in the advertising industry. Any campaign output is a work in progress with the conjugal consent of the client and the ad agency.
It is essential that we tackle first the root cause of the controversy—the alleged copying by McCann WorldGroup Philippines of a 2014 South African tourism campaign.
After several netizens pointed out the similarities between the two ads, the DOT itself denied copying the South African and noted that the campaign material was based on a true story of a Japanese retiree in the Philippines.
Following this, McCann WorldGroup also released a statement on June 13, acknowledging that the flow of the story in the Philippine tourism ad “may have similarities with the South African tourism campaign” but denied that it was copied.
McCann Worldgroup Philippines underscored that there has never been any intention to copy others’ creative work, and stood by “the integrity with which this campaign was developed.”
It said that the ad campaign titled “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.
However, as the issue developed, the DOT on June 16 decided to discontinue its partnership with McCann, giving in to the pressure of the public.
I am no expert to lecture on the legal aspects of the issue but the accusation of plagiarism was denied by McCann WorldGroup Philippines. The allegation of plagiarism was not proven and is therefore a challenge for legal authorities to address.
As a professional in the advertising and public relations industry, I would like to emphasize that formulating a campaign material entails a long process, with each of its subset requiring approval from the client. Ergo, in the relationship of client-agency, the success or failure of one is also the success or failure of the entire team or partnership.
I am concerned that McCann was unfairly thrown under the bus, apparently solely being blamed for the controversy. It is wrong.
The creation of an ad is a conjugal consent between the client and the advertising agency.
To give our legislators, who want to probe the controversy, an insight on protocols of creating advertising materials between the client and the ad agency, let me cite the step-by-step process globally recognized by international clients and multinational agencies.
1. The first step involves the client giving the communication brief to the agency.
2. Afterwards, the agency gets market insights through market research.
3. The client then is informed on the results of research, which may be rather through qualitative, quantitative, focus group discussions or other means.
4. After this, the client gives conformity to research data.
5. The agency sits down with the client for strategic planning, which entails a series of client-agency meetings.
6. After concluding client-agency meetings for strategic planning, the latter then presents the strategic plans on a wholistic approach.
7. With the presentation, the client either approves or rejects the campaign strategy framework.
8. Once the client gives the go signal, the agency prepares creative materials for television commercial, radio, print, new media, activation and other related supports for the campaign.
9. With this long process, story boards and concepts are developed and revised repeatedly until the client again gives the green light.
10. Once approval is given, production cost estimates are prepared by the agency and signed in conformity by the client.
11. After the above mentioned process, long and arduous production work begins, from filming, editing, dubbing, color enhancements, quality assurance, etc.
12. Post-production works and outputs are approved by the client.
13. Pre-airing researches are also done with the consent of the client.
14. Only after consultation and repeated approvals will airing come next, which was devised from a media plan, again, with the approval of the client.
When the issue surfaced, the DOT stood by the data gathered by their team, which included McCann WorldGroup Philippines. They stood firm that the copy was based on a true-to-life story, and that it is “not a rip off” (ABS-CBN, June 13).
It is unfortunate that drastic action, such as the termination of McCann WorldGroup Philippines’ contract, was taken. In a partnership such as this, there has to be a shared responsibility, since again, a TV production is a work in progress, with the conjugal consent of client and agency.
(Dindo Danao is a public relations and advertising professional with a 38-year experience in the industry.)