The Department of Tourism was ecstatic and proud when it first presented its ‘Experience the Philippines’ ad to the press on June 7. Initial feedback about the 60-second video was generally warm.
The tourism ad was rolled simultaneously in different locations in the country during the commemoration of the 119th Independence Day on June 12. The next day (June 13), DOT Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre did the rounds in various media outlets to earn praises for the well-received ad. But by that time, several netizens were already starting to make allegations that the video was copied from ‘Reconsider South Africa‘ ad released in 2014.
Wednesday (June 14), Alegre and McCann Philippines AVP for Corporate Affairs Niña Terrol called a press conference to dismiss allegations of plagiarism. DOT then defended the ad and assured that it will stand by its contractor, which for its part took full responsibility over the issue. Alegre and Terrol set the message clear—that it was a coincidence that both ads (theirs and South Africa’s) featured a blind man and that there obviously was a big difference in execution. Both parties continued to draw flak over the controversy, though. That afternoon, a closed-door meeting with McCann was called by DOT.
The following day (June 15), DOT called another media briefing, announcing its decision to terminate its P650-million ad contract with McCann. “After a diligent review of the ad materials in question, the Department of Tourism has decided to discontinue its partnership with McCann Worldgroup Philippines,” Alegre said.
He continued explaining, “After listening to all the tourism stakeholders in which Secretary (Wanda) Teo is sensitive to, after all this and exhausting all what we see online and offline, we figured that this is the way to move forward.” DOT expects a public apology from McCann over the controversy.
Alegre even stressed that DOT’s contract with the ad agency was inked during the Aquino administration. He expressed satisfaction working with McCann until the controversy exploded. Thus, DOT announced plans to reopen public bidding for the production of new promotional ads, which it said will re-align with the popular slogan ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines.’
McCann speaks up
For its part, McCann disclosed that as of press time, it has yet to receive a notice about the contract termination. The ad agency revealed that it only learned about DOT’s decision through news reports.
“While we regret the decision of the DOT to discontinue our partnership, we continue to believe that it is in the best interest of all parties to discuss a sensible resolution to the matter,” McCann said in a statement. “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 ‘Experience the Philippines’ controversy was the third time DOT had been criticized for allegedly plagiarizing others’ work. In 2011, its ‘Pilipinas Kay Ganda’ campaign allegedly used a logo that resembled artwork of a previous Polish tourism campaign.
In 2012, the campaign ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ tagline drew flak for allegedly ripping off the 1961 tourism ad of Switzerland, ‘It’s more fun in Switzerland!’
For its part, McCann was also previously accused of ripping off creative ideas when it produced the popular viral video ‘Vow’ for client Jollibee in Valentine’s season 2017. Some netizens accused the team of copying the plot of ‘First Love’ TV ad ironically released in 2009 by Jollibee’s rival McDonald’s.