Saturday, November 27, 2010

Yolly Ong, former Usec. Vicente Romano III, and "Pilipinas kay ganda"

(This is a guest post from Pancho Villacorta, who says he is a Taho vendor who used to know people in advertising.  He justifies his attempts at opinion writing by saying, "If anybody can be President and have a crack at running the country to the ground, then I can most certainly inflict my opinions on others without guilt.")

-- Multi-awarded advertising hotshot Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) delivering a pitch
that was later rejected by the client for being too risqué. 

Nelson: What did ya ask us for? Edge! This is edge!
Client: We're going with Baker and Bohan.
Nelson: I've seen your sales. You're in trouble.
Client: We are America's favorite hotdog son.
Nelson: Were! Were! You're a dinosaur! You're flatlining.  You're dead meat!
Client: And you just went too far!  And let me tell you what I really think of your campaign, this is cheap and tasteless crap.
Nelson: Well, that's funny! So is your product!
I've seen advertising pitches before and most of them are as boring as hell. Of course, there are times when the advertising pitch actually becomes anywhere from mildly interesting to exciting and these are the times when it doesn't involve being shown presentations.

They become mildly interesting and in some cases exciting when the advertising agency takes you out for a night on the town, in the hopes of softening you up and getting you to sign up for the campaign.

That's when the food and booze flows.  There may be a couple of pretty girls or boys or what-have-you during the presentation and during the night on the town. 

Oh well!  The thing is, that's how some advertising agencies do business and nothing, ever, is free.  Especially with advertising firms, at least, here in the PH.

Like, come on! I wasn't born yesterday and while I don't know a lot, I do know that there's no such thing as pro bono.  Sure, it may not involve money, but it doesn't mean that pro bono projects are pursued completely without any regard for any gain later.

So, here I am, tapping away at my keyboard after reading Yolly Ong's column in the Philippine Star (known for its Gucci Gang influencers and plagiarism -- how many times has a blogger's freework been copy pasted by writers of this broadsheet?).

"Light me up!"
And I am wondering just how mind numbing the pro bono mind numbing pitch must have been.  

I can imagine whoever it was that was pitching for Campaigns and Grey together with former Undersecretary Vicente Romano III showing the slides to Tourism Secretary Bertie Lim and President Noynoy Aquino.

Did that Campaigns and Grey employee shout, "It's PILIPINAS KAY GANDA Mr. President. It's PILIPINAS! KAY! GAN! DAAAAAHHH! "

Did President Aquino say, "Wow! Light me up maaaan! And, while you're at it, lagyan mo ng tarsier at coconut tree iyong slogan."

In any case, let us go through Yolly Ong's column bit by bit:

First and sentence, third paragraph:
Never has such coordinated online outrage been more violently expressed, eclipsing the anger over the Maguindanao massacre, Morong 43 or the unresolved murders of journalists combined!  One friend accurately described it as mass hysteria over a test logo! 
This is a bit overstated.  No one held candle light vigils, there weren't people massing in the streets, there were no gory photographs all over the net or on TV, no one shaved their heads or burned effigies.  People weren't running around the middle of Ayala screaming.

So really, how could Ms. Ong's "friend" say it was "mass hysteria"?  Maybe there is or was hysteria, but, perhaps, not at all massive.  Just plain old hysteria.

Here is an interesting and commonly known definition of hysteria from the Wikipedia:
In the Western world, until the seventeenth century, hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus (from the Greek ὑστέρα "hystera" = uterus).

Third, fourth, and fifth sentence, third paragraph:
People screamed, why was it in Pilipino when we’re talking to tourists? Actually, the logo included an English translation and pronunciation guide. Blinded by rage or possibly other motives, they didn’t see it. Or didn’t want to.
Perhaps, Ms. Ong should probably remember that when the executions of concepts are unveiled for testing, ALL REACTIONS ARE VALID.  (Unless of course, the reactions are directed at the pretty girls or pretty boys doing the presentation.) 

So, in the test or preview of Pilipinas kay ganda, the REACTIONS to it make it clear that NOT A HECK OF A LOT OF PEOPLE SAW THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION.  Heck! The DoT shouldn't have spent P4.7 Million for a preview when the logo could have been tested before a smaller group not really for ATTRACTIVENESS BUT FOR READABILITY.

I'm no expert in analyzing ads or logos, but perhaps I can guess rightly that an ad or logo must be recognized or understood in two or three seconds if it is to do anything more than look like some colorful blotch.

Now I know that I will be repeating what has already been said about the logo, but here it goes anyway.

The first thing I noticed about the logo was that the fonts that were used are hard to read.  It didn't help, of course, that in the word "Pilipinas" one "i" has a tarsier, the "l" has a smiling whatever, and another "i" seems hidden.  I could barely make out "Kay Ganda" and it's actually a reach to read the translation.

Now, for those of you who might want to go into advertising in the future, here's something I nabbed from another website and it briefly describes a thing or two about readability according to Ogilvy:
The most important objective for your board is to effectively communicate the facts about your project. You can only achieve that objective if it's easy to read. Over the years, expert newspaper editors, as well as advertisers (Ogilvy 1983, 90) have formulated many rules of thumb for readability that we have translated for use on science project display boards.
  • Use a font size of at least 16 points for your main body text. Anything smaller is too hard to read. (See tables below for more information on text size.)
  • Stick with traditional fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or similar typefaces.
  • Use italics or bold for emphasis, not for all your text.
  • Don't place your text on top of a picture; that makes it difficult to read.
  • Don't use reverse type (white text on a dark background).
    It is hard to read. Use black characters on a white (or pastel) background.
  • Artistic Font
    They are much harder to read.
  • Don't use more than two or three different fonts on your board. Times New Roman for body copy and Arial for headings makes for a nice combination.

First sentence, fourth paragraph:
In a democracy everyone is free to express his opinion. But not all opinions carry equal weight, not all reactions are intended to help.
Of course this is true and there are so many ways of reading this sentence.

Taken in a bad way, it could be Ms. Ong betraying her hubris.  

I just hope that Ms. Ong remembers that while she and her agency was instrumental in helping President Aquino win his victory in 2010, it is still US the people who are just FREE to express their opinion that carry the BURDEN of paying for GOVERNMENT.

It could lead to people thinking that while others are just FREE to express their opinions, her opinion carries WEIGHT.  And perhaps, that could be true.  

Perhaps not solely because her agency's "Pilipinas kay ganda" slogan and logo carried any merit of its own.  If it did have merit and it everybody lapped it up, no one would have to defend it, certainly not the owner of the agency herself.

By saying that "not all reactions are intended to help" really depends on how one takes those reactions and what she means becomes clearer in the succeeding paragraphs.

Third sentence, fourth paragraph and fifth paragraph:
Not all objectives were about national branding, but aimed to achieve more sinister results.
Right after the DOT event, a dyed-in-the-wool ex-cabinet member of the past regime called to “console” and probe me about the controversy. I immediately knew that the Gruesome Malicious Army will seize this golden opportunity to wreak havoc on the new, popular government. I was needled: Do I still support this “incompetent, weak and indecisive leader”? You mean will I always be on the side of an honest and incorruptible President? Absolutely YES! But my antenna was up. I knew a tidal wave of malevolence was about to hit.
This is where Ms. Ong gets into a frenzy with a bout of Gloria-phobia, probably a reflex trained during the pre-campaign and campaign-proper days when all that was evil in the Philippines was because of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Just as when everything that was Marcos was vilified during the early days of the first Aquino Administration -- those were the days when Campaigns and Grey was still new and still much talked about.

Perhaps the gaffe could have given the perceived enemies of the Second Aquino Administration an opportunity to attack and perhaps they did use this opportunity to attack.

But, certainly, that opportunity would not have been made available to them had the Tourism Department and Campaigns and Grey done their job right.

After essentially saying that the negative criticism lobbed at Pilipinas Kay Ganda was the work of Gloria the Evil, in the succeeding paragraphs of her column, Ms. Ong now then points her fingers at competitors in the industry, people in government, and even an air transport operator.

Really, if we are believe Ms. Ong, it seems the entire world is against her.

Paragraphs 7, 8,  9, :
In the advertising business, rejection is par for the course. Recommendations get turned down everyday. It’s a client’s prerogative to follow the execution he deems best suited for a product that he knows best. It’s also a cutthroat industry. A thick hide and Pacman resilience are necessary survival tools.
But the bile that gorged out of faded advertising luminaries was too toxic even by industry standards. One accused us of being irresponsible for allowing the client to make us party to supposed plagiarism. That could have passed as a high-minded comment if his own brother wasn’t sued by a leading ad agency and ordered by the Adboard to cease and desist from airing a TV ad that was judged copied from Coke!
Then there was a former Creative Director for an airline account who mocked my Harvard degree as ironic under the circumstances. How quickly he forgot that he was fired by his Agency for allegedly receiving kickbacks from production suppliers!
Much of the indignation was spurred by lack of consultation with stakeholders. In May 2009 now Cong. Gloria Arroyo signed the Tourism Act that replaced PCVC with the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB). After three attempts, Cynthia Carrion, GMA’s aerobics buddy, was voted COO in March 2010. But Secretary Lim wanted a fresh start and terminated her, creating enmity between DOT and TPB. As one senator confided, the fight is not about who should lead the marketing effort, but who will disburse the marketing monies.
Then there are the opponents of the Open-Skies policy that Secretary Lim has been advocating since he was with the Civil Aeronautics Board. Even then, those with threatened business interests immediately mounted a well-funded vilification campaign complete with trumped-up charges of corruption that didn’t stick.
It’s easier to detach and be amused at the degree of passionate global engagement that ensued. Imagine, a leading publication violated its own masthead just to thrash a logo study! Bad news must really sell more newspapers! But what finally made me decide to write is this last item of iniquity.

It was a flop launched in a grand way, what did Ms. Ong expect in what she describes as a "cutthroat industry"?

Well, moving on... Ms. Ong then goes to briefly canonize Mr. Vicente Romano III who recently admitted himself that he had hired his own daughter for the launch of the Pilipinas Kay Ganda.

When Undersecretary Vicente “Enteng” Romano exited with grace, he demonstrated a miracle of public office never witnessed in this country: a government official taking full ownership of a tempest-in-a-teacup-blown-up-into-a-Category-5-hurricane. Although his heroic gesture was praised by many, a malicious text immediately circulated: “Enteng Romano commissioned a company for P5M for the grand launch of the new DOT slogan. The company has reported ties to Enteng’s son. This is accdg to some sources in media.” I got this SMS three times.
What makes this so nauseating? First, the information is fundamentally wrong. Enteng has no son. Second, all the Media who attended the event said it was too lavish to be considered a “preview”. Therefore if P4.7M was really spent, every centavo must have gone to food, drinks, fireworks, talents, staging, etc. It didn’t line anyone’s pockets, much less an imagined son’s. Would a thinking man risk criminal jail-time to steal a paltry $105K? Were these braying critics just as indignant when “BurjerBen”, FG and cohorts were allegedly skimming $130M from NBN-ZTE?
Oh well...

(More later, if I feel like it...)

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