Social media fiasco: It’s more fun in the Philippines

Five days ago, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon “Mon” Jimenez announced in a private sit-down conversation with “social news network” site his decision to “crowd-source” a new Philippine tourism campaign using “social media” as its primary propagation medium. In the interview, Jimenez who boasts “35 years of experience in advertising” which supposedly “taught him to think openly and creatively” admitted that “he [was] taking a risk” in this “most major social media project he has ever undertaken”.

The centrepiece of this project was Jimenez’s “new” tourism slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. Influential “social media” mavens were enlisted (not necessarily paid) to help create a buzz across the Web and various “social media” artifacts were prescribed as organising points for this buzz, the main one being the Twitter “hashtag” #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines.

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Today it seems evident that the campaign raised much public awareness of things about the Philippines one would not normally highlight in a tourism promotion campaign — decrepit infrastructure, a tired and denuded natural landscape, endemic crime, an unstable government, and a public made cynical by the palpable decades-long slow decline of a Republic once made out to be the poster-child of American-style “democracy” in Southeast Asia. While the #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines Twitter hashtag was intended to attract a flurry of “supportive” tweets from Filipinos, it also became the butt of punchy jokes that were just as (and most possibly vastly more) creative than the campaign itself.

The, in a report on rising criminality cited the year-end report of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) in which VACC president and founding chairman Dante Jimenez said, “The Department of Tourism’s latest travel slogan ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ should read ‘It’s more dangerous to be in the Philippines’.”

“The government is perceived by criminals as weak, thereby emboldening them,” Jimenez said, citing the rising cases of Chinese criminal syndicates who have chosen the Philippines as the “best place” to manufacture illegal drugs and engage in the trafficking of women and children.

Pachico A. Seares writing for the Sun Star Cebu for his part identified what is likely to be the most realistic positive spin on this most recent fiasco…

The slogan may be useful for another purpose: to jolt our people and leaders into doing something about conditions and traits that are anything but funny.

Jimenez was right about a campaign relying on “social media” to spread memes being a “risk”. He was also right about this 21st Century marketing approach being powerful and “a medium that traditionalists are frightened to even explore”. Same as with most powerful forces that are ill-understood; the consequences of mishandling “social media” can be disastrous. Said power can turn against its wielder.

The fundamental problem of the ill-fated “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign was that the DOT creative team designed the slogan to be the meme by and of itself. Technically, it was a successful meme. The hashtag “#ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines” became a “trending” topic worldwide shortly after its launch. In that sense — based on the numbers alone — the campaign to spread the slogan was successful.

Unfortunately users of social networking sites were at liberty to apply their own contexts to the slogan. Not only was the slogan not underpinned by any precise message or substance, the DOT campaign team encouraged Filipinos to “own” the slogan. Which is precisely what they did — fill the void where substance should have been. And what rich substance the “crowd” did provide over the last five days.

Though there are no reliable statistics to tell us whether the weight of public contribution to the meaning of the slogan tilts the campaign positively to or negatively from its intended outcome, the way Malacañang reportedly insists that “Filipinos are ‘getting on board’ with the new tourism slogan” is telling. Why would one need to “insist” that something is so if the readily-apparent evidence supports the claim that said something is likely to be so? But then, as the GMA Network observes, the statement was issued “even as [the palace] continued to fend off criticisms [sic] against the new catchphrase”.

What the DOT team, perhaps, failed to get about Net campaigns is that the Net favours bottom-up emergence of outcomes. Jimenez did not see the irony in what he said in his Rappler interview; that,

“Social networking was born in EDSA […] You don’t have to convince a Filipino… we have an almost instinctive trust in that system. Crowd-sourcing is, historically in fact, something we bumped into long before the rest of the world did.”

Yet he proceeded to engineer the DOT campaign by applying a top-down approach — prescribing the slogan, then expecting the “crowd” to backward-engineer a message from it. The EDSA “revolution” Jimenez touted as analogous to the outcome he envisioned was, in fact, the complete anti-thesis of his campaign. When the first street parliamentarians first trooped into EDSA, nobody could have possibly guessed the scale of the movement that these first trickling of humanity into the now fabled highway would grow to.

The presumption of some “consultants” to apply their quack “expertise” to engineer a “social media” campaign finds another victim in the Department of Tourism. It’s no different from the way the new new “online journalist” clique foisted upon a bemused Net community the notion that they are a “social news network” without clarifying precisely what the phrase actually means.

Perhaps the architects of the next brainwave of a campaign that hopes to involve “social media” should instead hire a barkada of 17-year-olds looking to make some summer holiday money. Their fees are likely to be more reasonable than that of old farts that write “35 years of experience in advertising” on their resume.

26 Replies to “Social media fiasco: It’s more fun in the Philippines”

  1. this is the result of giving jobs to non-achieving friends who are well past their sell-by date.
    the position demanded a strategist and marketeer. admen are the gofers not the thinkers or leaders.
    clearly there is not a strategy, target markets, etc just a ‘ comprehensive sketch’. 1-2 days work.
    next – a world trip no doubt.
    and more praise from the far from independent rappler. who is funding them?!

    1. I worked in ad agency before. There was a running joke then that admen are among the greatest liars and propagandists. Look up Edward Bernays.

  2. Any artist could easily come up with a ‘catchphrase’ with more substance than the alleged campaign slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines”, not to mention it was “plagiarized” from a vintage Swiss tourism campaign. Obviously it wasn’t carefully thought of.

    I remember an article from News headlines regarding the said slogan: “DOT unveils new tourism campaign slogan” followed by an query “it is a hit or miss?”

    Well it has been answered as soon as it was launched. 😀

    1. It isn’t “alleged.” It IS the slogan. If it doesn’t get canned, we’re pretty much stuck with it. If the DoT decides to stick to their guns, “hit or miss” is hardly a question worth settling anymore.

      Anyway, I wonder if tourism efforts are frozen because of concerns about slogans.

      Did tourism numbers go down last year when the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” slogan was shot out of the sky?

  3. It annoys me when they brand people who dislike the new DOT slogan as haters. First off, it’s a debatable line, which I don’t know if that was done intentionally, being an advertising formula to catch people’s attention. And if that was the idea, then don’t expect everyone to be one-sided! Please, don’t BEG people to love every inch of it. And if the DOT team had foreseen that not everybody will be positive about this, they should have thought twice using this platform.

    1. They are using emotional blackmail. They are trying to make Filipinos who don’t like it feel guilty. They use lame arguments such as “If you really love the Philippines…” blah blah blah. It’s really pathetic.

      I don’t like the slogan at all.

      1. I know! And to think some nasty comments are coming from the advertising industry. I don’t like the slogan. I’m based abroad and my foreign colleagues do a lot of travelling. They would share their experiences in Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan. I get embarrassed when I tell them about our nice beaches and they’d ask about the Abu Sayyaf. Safety, security, cleanliness and orderliness should be the main concerns to be worked on.

        1. I don’t like it either. The words “It’s More Fun…” is a disaster whether it was copied or not. It’s going to be a feast for predators, pedophiles, slave trade, syndicates, etc. since “It’s More FUN” using Filipinos.

          To those who loves the new slogan: Di ko “binababoy.” I’m being realistic about it.

          I have asked this question before when “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” was launched – WHY did they change “WOW PHILIPPINES”???!!!

        2. Yeah, “WOW Philippines!” was the best tourism slogan so far. Simple, and the word wow is understood in all languages, it’s universal.

          Can’t we just use it again? Here’s 1 vote for the re-use of “WOW Philippines” as our tourism slogan.

  4. @ Brianitus. I think the idea of the campaign is great but timing is bad. How can you say its more fun in the Philippines after Sendong, an Aussie was recently kidnapped by Abusayaf. Arroyo cases. etc. Military men ambushed by MNILF. Philippines must recognize the problem about security and do something about it.

  5. As a foreigner – who visited Cebu twice – all I can say is this: I know many more other countries where to find more fun then in the Philippines. During my first visit I was surprised to see a young dutch couple visiting Cebu as well. Their aim/goal was diving. As tourist I want to see things like the equivalents of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Twin Towers, beautiful forests/woods, great architectural buildings, great museums, theater plays, good cuisine, but also efficient public transport, no blowing of car horns, no funeral processions that block my journey.

    I was never afraid of getting kidnapped although I may be a target being a white caucasion westerner.

    So to wrap things up: the slogan is totally wrong and untimely.

    1. “As tourist I want to see things like the equivalents of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Twin Towers, beautiful forests/woods, great architectural buildings, great museums, theater plays, good cuisine…”

      LOL you actually expect to see those in the Philippines? There’s always Google, you know.

  6. I think that timing is a valid concern. Well, I say let them figure it out.

    The DoT needs to be specific on what it intends to do. That’s the problem with “launches.” It’s usually incomplete.

    1. i agree.
      the slogan is like the artwork on the front cover of a book. it can grab your attention but there needs to be something of substance inside and it needs to be good to be a best seller.
      so far all we know/have are blank pages

  7. I have not checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  8. One big problem with this whole campaign (and the last abortion, for that matter) is that they’re really hanging its success on pitching the “welcoming nature” of the people. What they don’t seem to realize is that: A) Advertising that you’re better as a social group than everyone else tends to be a little offensive to everyone else, and B) Friendly, welcoming people who treat visitors courteously and appreciate their business is a standard expectation of tourists. It’s not a special feature, it’s a minimum requirement. So making that a key part of the pitch is really aiming pretty low.

  9. I don’t really demand pulling the slogan out, and neither did I want that for “Pilipinas Kay Ganda.” But the real challenge was made by the great Dick Gordon himself: justify it. That’s gonna be hard following BenK’s explanation above.

  10. A good choice. We pilipinos are always smiling even when queing for relief goods after a calamity. and nobody can beat that. So its more fun in the Philippines

    1. So, in other words, “mababaw ang kaligayahan”…
      We always settle for the mediocre, when we should always be gunning for number 1!

  11. You got that wrong. It’s also as bad here in the US with their bias against Ron Paul.

    On the other hand, where was PH’s media based from?

  12. Whats up! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good information you have right here on this post. I will probably be coming again to your weblog for extra soon.

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