The recently released web spot for Philippines Tourism drew plenty of ire from the Internet. And the ire was well earned: the spot, with its banal call-to-action “Experience the Philippines,” complete misreading of the national tenor, and apparent similarities to a South African tourism spot, was really quite bad. And there are many ways to parse this issue, which is actually much more complicated than one might initially think. But we are a website on the Internet, and nuance doesn’t bring the clicks. So we’re just going to tell you who deserves the blame for this fiasco.
THE ACCUSED: THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
Obviously, the government department that was behind this whole project should be the first suspect in any investigation of how that awful spot came to be. As much as their subsequent ALL CAPS statement seemed to make it out that McCann had acted as a rogue agency who tried to trick the DOT with their plagiarized material, the truth is likely that they had worked very closely with McCann, and had approval of every last component of this ad. They had every chance to turn this thing down, or check on whether its elements had been done before. But you do have to have some sympathy for the DOT, whose job can’t be easy to do while the president cusses out foreigners and keeps talking about how he likes to murder people. But now they’re just going back to “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” a slogan that just isn’t as true anymore.
BLAMEWORTHINESS LEVEL: It’s Less Fun in the Philippines
THE ACCUSED: MCCANN WORLDGROUP PHILIPPINES
McCann has already been fired for their part in this debacle, so it’s clear that they’re absorbing a lot of the blame. Plagiarism has dominated the conversation regarding the ad, but the agency’s failures go well beyond the possible aping of another work, which if we’re being honest, is much more common than the entire industry is willing to admit. McCann could have done a better job reading the current situation and how it might affect the reaction to a spot. Trying to go heartwarming in this current environment of violent impunity was only ever going to draw ire. Also: “Experience the Philippines” is so bland that it might as well have been “The Philippines is a Place.” But let’s give the agency their due here: the DOT likely had final approval over everything, and if they had any better sense, they could have turned this whole thing down.
BLAMEWORTHINESS LEVEL: Don Draper Disapproves
THE ACCUSED: PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE
But we might as well go all the way up to the top of the approval chain. The president appointed the current DOT secretary, and by extension endorses everything that the department puts out. And let’s not forget that his PR disaster of a presidency is responsible for the challenges of selling the country in the first place. I mean, what kind of campaign can you really put together when the nation is regularly making international headlines for the current spate of extrajudicial killings and all the crazy things that the president says.
BLAMEWORTHINESS LEVEL: My gahd
THE ACCUSED: THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA
While we’re at it, why not the point the finger at the people publishing all those stories? The government certainly has. They once made the argument that the international press shouldn’t be so focused on publishing stories about how people are being murdered all over the country, since it hurts our tourism. A more responsible press would take that into account, apparently. For every story they write about a family killed because of the president’s drug war, they could also be publishing a listicle about the top five beaches in the Philippines you could visit. Or something.
BLAMEWORTHINESS LEVEL: It’s called the New York Times. Stick to New York!
THE ACCUSED: PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO
And of course, any controversy in the Philippines always has to go back to the previous administration and whatever sins they committed to directly cause whatever problems we’re facing today. In this case, it’s how “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” became so successful that it casts a shadow over any of the efforts of the current administration to sell our country to the world. The fact that the previous administration seemed to be so proud of the whole campaign completely undermines any attempt to come up with anything new, even if its tone would be completely inappropriate for the current environment in our country.
BLAMEWORTHINESS LEVEL: DILAWAN! DILAWAN! DILAWAN!