Fire Frasco for the fiasco

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I COULDN’T help but use that catchy headline, a rare one as it has both alliteration and rhyme. Perhaps the universe indeed is conspiring against the tourism secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and her P49-million tourism slogan, “Love the Philippines.” It has turned out to be a fiasco, and will go down in the department’s history as the most ridiculed and disliked among our past six slogans.

An official video for the slogan telling the world to travel to the Philippines and they’ll love the country, yet having scenes from Brazil, Indonesia, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates misrepresented as “lovable” sites here? Ridiculous.

The fiasco is a case study of the high risk of having top officials with no experience in the tourism industry and letting the department head take in as his or her core staff her home-province amigas.

Frasco, one of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first appointees, has no experience in the tourism industry and her appointment was obviously a spoils-of-war post. She is with the powerful Garcia clan that has ruled the province for decades, the daughter of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, and the representative of Cebu’s third congressional district from 2013 to 2019. Her husband is Vincent “Duke” Frasco, representative of Cebu province’s fifth district, also a deputy speaker.

Frasco’s main work experience had been as a litigation lawyer with a top Manila-based law firm, until she won in 2022 as mayor of Liloan municipality adjacent to Cebu City.

As soon as she was appointed to her post, Frasco immediately replaced three of the department’s four top secretaries with Cebu officials: Ferdinand Jumapao, a councilor from Liloan; Ronald Canopio, her mother’s private secretary and Cebu City’s chief protocol officer; and Elaine Bathan, former chief of staff of former Mandaue City mayor Luigi Quisumbing, a close Garcia clan ally.

Provincial

As smart as Frasco and her three top officials may be, they couldn’t have learned the ropes of the tourism industry or advertising in just a year.

These former provincial officials would have been putty in the hands of DDB (Doyle Dane and Bernbach) Worldwide Communications Group LLC, owned by the New York-based Omnicom, the world’s largest advertising holdings group. Or perhaps DDB left everything to their incompetent local unit DDB Philippines, a tiny client for the global DDB.

Frasco promptly terminated DDB’s contract with her department when the fiasco came into public light. The DoT issued a statement “expressing outrage at the use of non-original stock footage purporting to be scenes from the Philippines.” DDB “profusely apologized” but not really: “While the use of stock footage in mood videos is standard practice in the industry, the use of foreign stock footage was an unfortunate oversight on our agency’s part.”

I haven’t read anything about Frasco apologizing for the fiasco. Whether she asked for it or had nothing to do with it, her clan’s supporters and allies who called themselves One Cebu Island, issued a statement that “the recent criticisms against the DoT and Frasco are a ‘coordinated demolition job’ directed at her.”

” We maintain that this barrage of criticisms in social and mainstream media is aimed at destroying neither the DoT nor the concerned private advertisement agency, but Secretary Frasco herself,” the group’s statement claimed. It’s just politics, Frasco’s supporters are in effect saying.

Who approved it?

Yes, it was the DDB that produced the embarrassingly plagiarized video. But who approved it? Certainly Frasco as chief of the entity that commissioned it, or she could not been doing her job. But who among her three top undersecretaries and close officials reviewed it, and submitted it to her for approval? Her officials are beyond accountability and reproach, it certainly seems.

Did she herself or any of her officials actually view the video presentation? For a video to be viewed globally – its intention as it is an advertising campaign – didn’t she ask experts outside the department to vet it? Is she so loyal to her Cebuano officials she can’t even disclose who were responsible for this fiasco?

A more professional CEO, whether in government or private corporation, would have immediately fired the officials responsible for the boo-boo. She herself should resign, or her “Love the Philippines” slogan β€” if the DoT insists should not be dropped β€” will forever be referred to as “Frasco’s Fiasco.”

Even before popular blogger and investigative journalist Sass Rogando Sasot posted two weeks ago on Facebook that several images in the campaign video were from other countries (see https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10161101748534085&id=578854084&mibextid=Nif5oz), I already disliked the “Love the Philippines” slogan thinking that it was just thought of by some smarty-pants official at the DoT.

DDB

I was shocked how a global advertising firm like DDB β€” legendary for its “Think Small” slogan for the Volkswagen Beetle and Avis ” We Try Harder” β€” could have proposed such an overused, syrupy slogan, unabashedly borrowed from New York City’s “I love NY” tourism slogan created half a century ago. At least that slogan was a tribute from someone presumably visiting the city, not something that had some commanding tone.

Since the practice became popular in the 1990s, some 142 countries have adopted tourism slogans, many of them costing millions of dollars to concoct as rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore commissioned top global advertising firms to formulate one for them. Not a single one of these 142 countries’ slogans use the clichΓ©d term “love.”

Did these 142 countries and their ad firms miss something so attractive as the power of the word “love” in a slogan that only DDB Philippines and the DoT could see?

Among the 10 best, according to a Sydney Morning Herald article, are: Djibouti – “Djibeauty; “Scotland – “A spirit of its own; Morocco – “Much mor”; Cape Verde – “No stress”; Greece – “All time classic”; Latvia – “Best enjoyed slowly”; Argentina – “Beats to your rhythm”; Norway – “Powered by nature”; Austria – “Arrive and revive”; and Turkey – “Be our guest.”

Among the 10 worst: Hungary – “Think Hungary more than expected”; Slovakia – “Travel in Slovakia – good idea”; Lithuania – “Real is beautiful”; Tunisia – “I feel like Tunisia”; Cyprus – “Cyprus in your heart”; Honduras – “Everything is here”; Ecuador – “All you need is Ecuador”; Uruguay – “Uruguay natural”; Qatar – “Where dreams come to life”; Luxembourg – “Live your unexpected Luxembourg.”

If Frasco insists on having “Love the Philippines,” a new category would have to be invented: the corniest, and probably the shortest-lived.

Mar to head agri?

A source told me that Mar Roxas β€” yes, the failed crown prince of the Yellow Cult β€” will soon be named by the President as secretary of the Agriculture department, a post Marcos has held on a concurrent basis for nearly a year since assuming office.

Finally his dream fulfilled: Roxas carrying onions in one of his campaign images in 2016.

I often hear about this guy or that soon being head of this or that, which I don’t report at all. This time though a very apolitical source told me that it was Roxas who disclosed his coming appointment to a group of friends very recently. Asked about it, Cheloy Garafi, secretary of the Presidential Communications Office, couldn’t confirm nor deny the report saying: “That rumor has been going around for some time now.”

One explanation for such a move by Marcos is that his wife Marie Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos is a second cousin to Roxas, her father being the first cousin of Judith “Judy” Araneta-Roxas, the latter’s mother.

Liza and Mar are said to have been close, even during the Yellow regime’s rule. President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s executive secretary in the six years of his administration, Paquito Ochoa Jr. was also a close associate of Liza, with both being two of the founders of the Marcos, Ochoa, Serapio, and Tan law firm.

If Roxas does get into Marcos’ Cabinet, he would be the most experienced in government, having been in Congress as representative and senator for 16 years, Trade and Industry secretary during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s watch until he became a fierce critic of that presidency when he ran and won as senator in 2004.

That move I think was his opportunistic calculation to put him in a surer path to capture the presidency, since Arroyo’s popularity was steeply going down, and he would be the most likely candidate of the Liberal Party-headed opposition. The opposition though decided that the better candidate was Benigno Aquino 3rd, if only for his name. Roxas became head of the Interior and Local Government and then transport and communications during Aquino’s term.

Roxas certainly could fire up the Agriculture department which has been, to understate it, in the doldrums since Marcos headed it on the ground that it needed his leadership, that the job required the utmost support of other government agencies. Worse, the department de facto head β€” as Marcos has been so busy that he has visited the department’s headquarters only six times so far β€” is undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, an octogenarian whose years are certainly showing. This has had a serious impact on our well-being: The high inflation rates in the first year of Marcos administration have been due to a large extent to the soaring prices of agricultural products.

As it has been always, politics and who-rules-this-time have been just a game of the elite.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dorina S. Rojas

    Love to love the Philippines –how about that, sounds better I think. About Mar Roxas being appointed as DA Sec, I doubt his sincerity much more than his ability.

  2. manly garcia

    If DDB Philippines has not been paid indeed, then it does own proprietary IP rights over the slogan “Love the Philippines.” Therefore DOT should refrain from using these simple bush words.

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