Despite being one of the most naturally gifted countries in the region, Philippines lags behind its neighbors as a tourist destination due to decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies, as well as kidnappings by Islamist militants.
Needless to say, the Department of Tourism has been trying to attract travelers from across the world for quite a few years now. One of its recent productions, an ad titled ‘Sights’, however, ended up doing more harm than good.
The one thing that the internet, more specifically the social media, has done in recent years is that it has made it harder to get away with fraud. Before releasing anything subpar on the internet, one has to consider the millions of people who’ll be watching the content, and that they will be called out on their bullshit by someone or the other, sooner or later. There’s no getting past netizens – something that Philippines’ tourism department, or rather, their advertising firm, failed to understand.
The ad showed an elderly tourist enjoying his trip to the Philippines and ends with him whipping out a blind man's walking stick. It was ridiculed in social media for what netizens described as its uncanny similarity to the "Rediscover South Africa" ad from 2014.
‘Sights’ was taken down almost immediately after the backlash, although the DOT initially did stand by McCann Worldgroup Philippines, the ad agency that had created the copied work. Later, however, in a press conference on Thursday, June 15, DOT announced the termination of its contract with McCann. DOT Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre also said that they are considering filing legal charges and are expecting a public apology over the entire controversy that it had been subjected to.
In reply, the ad firm acknowledged the contract termination, but no apology was presented.
“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 this matter,” the McCann statement read.
In the meanwhile, DOT has taken to damage control by encouraging “those with fresh and original ideas that will showcase our diversely-rich tourist destinations and the unique Filipino hospitality to join this venture.”
Creatives of Manila, a spoof Twitter account run by a group of ad industry members, has, in turn, come up with a beautiful, unofficial tourism video for the Philippines that speaks volumes about the perception regarding the country as opposed to what it truly has to offer.