The Department of Tourism (DOT) has terminated the P650 million contract it signed with an advertising agency for the latest commercial on the Philippines that was severely criticized on social media after it was released on June 12.
The DOT said in a press conference on Thursday that “after a diligent review of the ad materials in question, the DOT has decided to discontinue its partnership with McCann Worldgroup Philippines.”
The new tourism promotional clip entitled “Sights,” released during the 119th anniversary of the country’s independence, featured blind Japanese retiree M. Uchimura island hopping in the Hundred Islands of Pangasinan, dancing with the locals in the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, riding an ATV in the Paoay Sand Dunes, and enjoying his snacks on the cobblestoned Calle Crisologo in Vigan.
Netizens pointed out the video’s striking similarity to a South African tourism ad which also featured a blind man whose disability was revealed when he pulled out a walking cane.
McCann, in a statement on Friday, said it only learned of the decision on Thursday afternoon, through various news reports and the press conference the DOT called to announce its decision.
“At the time of this press release, however, McCann has not received a formal communication from the DOT about termination of our contract. Nevertheless, we respect any decision made by the DOT and, while regrettable, we thank the DOT for the opportunity to serve, and we wish them continued success in their future endeavors,” the advertising firm said.
DOT Assistant Secretary and spokesman Ricky Alegre said the DOT communicated to McCann its decision at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The decision appeared to be a sudden change of the DOT’s Wednesday decision to continue the new ads about the country’s projection in the international committee in spite of the negative feedback on it.
Alegre on Wednesday said to media in a press briefing that the DOT will definitely stick to the commercial done by McCann and will not withdraw it because it projects the “spirit” of the Filipinos.
The critics asserted that the DOT commercial was apparently copied from South African tourism campaign in 2014.
It was approved by DOT top officials, including Secretary Wanda Teo, McCann said. In fact, McCann disclosed that it has started working on another DOT commercial that is about the Visayas region.
Alegre confirmed this on Wednesday.
However, these were all disregarded when the DOT announced the termination of the contract between the DOT and the McCann worth P650 million that started in the previous administration.
Aside from the termination, the DOT also urged McCann to make a public apology over the negative feedback that the department has been receiving owing to the glaring similarities between McCann’s “Sights” ad and South Africa’s 2014 ad.
“We acknowledge the feedback that the way this story was told may have similarities with the South African tourism campaign,” McCann said.
Moreover, McCann added, “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 also wish to announce that we will reopen the procurement process for the production of a new advertising material which will be consistent with the current slogan, ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines,’” the DOT statement on Thursday said.
“Thus, we encourage those with fresh and original ideas that will showcase our diversely-rich tourist destinations and the unique Filipino hospitality to join this venture,” it added.
NELSON BADILLA and RAADEE S. SAUSA