Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Digital Best: Museums

I've visited many museums as I've travelled through different countries, definitely one of my favorite parts of getting to know new cities.

My all-time favorite is definitely MoMA. I have a soft spot for lots of New York museums because I guess I've spent the most travel time there. The Met, the Whitney, the American Museum of Natural History are some of my favorites. The Tate Modern, National Gallery and British Museum in London struck a chord as well. Some historic sites like the Tower of London and Hampton Court, while not exactly museums, had wonderful displays of information and artifacts.

Two things I've learned over the years that inspire me as a marketing professional:
*Museums make some of the best use of digital technology through Participative strategies that invite feedback and interaction. This makes what can be complicated or intimidating art or history more accessible and personal. (This also reinforces a belief I've had for a long time, which is that advertisers are often not the most advanced at digital use.)

*Museums are a fantastic model for Engagement Planning: They strategize how to present content and lead visitors through multiple content areas to deliver a narrative. They need to account for first-time, second-time, seasoned visitors. They acknowledge that different people will have their own preferences and make their own choices about moving around their content space. And they can opt to invite as much or as little participation as possible.

I have some fantastic examples for each of these points, gathered from museum visits through the years, which I'll share in a couple of future posts. (Glad I've gotten these thoughts down as they've been percolating for quite some time!) Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mobile Philippines: 2014 Update

Last Five Years: Re-examining mobile penetration and marketing 

Mobile is one of the most exciting digital arenas. I first wrote about Philippine mobile adoption in 2010. I spent a good chunk of 2010 in New York and mobile was the biggest buzzword. Everyone seemed to be asking, What's your mobile strategy? You end up comparing the digital trends in developed markets with our own situation. Everybody here seemed to be buzzing about the "killer app", but it didn't come, at least not from a local brand. Even for some of the clients I worked with who were ready to forge ahead with mobile, it was tough to strategize given the market gaps. New technology was mostly available on smartphones, which for a long time was Apple-dominated and limited to higher-income brackets and which excluded lower-income segments still on legacy phones. Despite our established mobile penetration, it has taken awhile to see significant numbers in smartphone penetration.

This year seems to be a tipping point. Digital and marketing experts are now asking local brands to ensure that their mobile strategy in place. We have some encouraging numbers – 15% smartphone penetration, still much lower compared to our Southeast Asian counterparts, but this is expected to surge to 50% in 2015.

In recent years we've seen stronger Pinoy adoption of global digital trends.

Major Developments
In 2010 I identified three key areas that were barriers to mobile adoption in the Philippines. Major developments in these areas have driven local penetration and usage.

Hardware: The Android OS accelerated the launch of local phone manufacturers and lowered phone price for lower-income segments, driving smart- and feature phone penetration. MyPhone, Cherry Mobile and Star Mobile have spurred smartphone growth with handsets priced in the USD 50 – 250 range. Even these lower-priced phones have cameras and can access the web, and through Android have access to the Play Store for apps. Android is the most popular operating system, with 91% of Philippine smartphones running on it. (Pinaroc, 2013)

Connectivity: Telcos have done their part! They've been offering data plans and products for prepaid users - such as standalone mobile browsing offers and social networking access bundled with Unli products - to make it easier to go online.




The next hurdle: Speed and reliability is still a big issue, however. Many Filipinos are not satisfied with their internet speeds on PC, let alone on mobile. This is definitely a gap area that needs to be addressed.

Content: With access to the Apple App store or the Google Play store, users now have so many apps to choose from. "32% of smartphone owners download six or more apps per month." (OnDevice, 2014) Social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, what I would guess are the most popular mobile apps in the country, all have mobile interfaces. Games remain to be the most popular type of app download, and music streaming services like Spotify or local Spinnr have become extremely popular.

The next opportunity: Locally-created, locally-contextualized apps and social/mobile content. We're using a lot of global social networks and apps but when will we find our clear voice in software content?

You're Up, Marketing!

There seem to be different grades of mobile strategy adoption. The most aggressive I've seen locally has probably been ABSCBN Mobile - an entirely new convergent product segment built with a bet on mobile and content.

Marketers certainly have more toys to play with now, depending on what is optimal for their digital strategy: Mobile Ads, Apps for Enterprise-level (e.g. pizza delivery), Apps for campaigns, Mobile content (e.g. Spotify for Coke or Spinnr for Smart), Mobile Commerce. On a more basic level much of the content developed for Twitter, Facebook and especially Instagram are accessible on mobile and can/should be considered part of a mobile strategy.

Local brands may not have maximized mobile yet, but it's encouraging that penetration is growing. The exact areas I identified in 2010 as barriers to mobile adoption have all been at least partially addressed. The landscape is ripe for innovation.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brand PH: Filipino cuisine

Our food is our secret weapon in building Brand Philippines.

I wrote about how our exports can be our best brand experience products. With the continued rise of Filipino cuisine that may be happening.

Last summer, a Halo-halo explosion.

This year, Anthony Bourdain sampled Jollibee. Wonder what his expectations were after such a memorable food trip here in 2009.

Bourdain may have inspired the fun-loving staff at Buzzfeed to taste it for themselves.

And just a few months later, All hail, sisig! by the New York Times.
"Ears, jowls, belly. They come brined, blanched, shattered and fried, each tip blackened and alchemized, each pocket of fat approaching liquefaction. A raw yolk idles on top. Stab it and churn. This is sisig, the greatest pork hash — arguably greatest pork dish — on earth. Say the name with two flicks of the tongue, somewhere between a whisper and a hiss."
He also loved halo-halo: The lone dessert is a knockout: halo-halo (which is pronounced “hollow-hollow” and means “mix-mix” in Tagalog) is a funnel of shaved ice — not a powdery snow but coarse, so it knocks against the teeth — with aerated milk percolating down strata of fresh young coconut and coconut jelly; bananas sticky from simple syrup; spongy see-through palm seeds; and whatever berries are in season. At the top is a hunk of leche flan under an up-do of lavender-hued whipped cream, infused with ube (purple yam) and studded with popcorn. ... It is over the top yet somehow demure, Audrey Hepburn hiding the heart of Anna Nicole. When it was handed to me, everyone in the room hushed.

The lovely people at Buzzfeed have completely jumped on Pinoy food bandwagon.

Sampling Street Food

Sampling our Junk Food
I have to say though, they missed out on the really good stuff -- Chippy, Piattos, Curly Tops, local haw flakes..!

They've also listed "The 24 Filipino Foods You Need In Your Life"
And (as a result of their Pinoy immersion?) seem to have developed a very odd fascination with Sam Milby..! Whaaaa?

Cuisine as Brand-Builder
Our food might say more about us than we think. Thought when Anthony Bourdain came to the Philippines for his show he seemed frustrated not to be able to encapsulate what our cuisine is all about. That might be one reason we've had a hard time presenting it to the world. But you can sum up Filipinos in four F's: Family, Friends, Faith, Food. That's really what we have at our core. Food isn't a passion point, it's just such a big part of who we are. It's at the center of every social gathering and maybe even the main reason to get together. Now that we're spreading across the globe it makes sense that we would bring our cuisine with us. With Pinoy chefs and cooks making their mark across the US (count them on Top Chef!), we might be getting a new-generation hand at presenting our food.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Virality Lessons: Ice Bucket Challenge

Breaking down the #icebucketchallenge engagement drivers 

You've probably seen loads ofcelebrity Ice Bucket Challenge videos. I first saw my favorite late night host Jimmy Fallon doing it, after being challenged by his bestie Justin Timberlake. There are throngs of actors, musicians, athletes, even people from the tech sector accepting the challenge with their own content posts.

It started as a way to promote pet charity projects (Matt Lauer was one of the first to do it on the Today Show), but ended up attached to ALS awareness and fundraising after golfer Chris Kennedy challenged a cousin whose husband has ALS.

The trend caught on and "more than 15 million people have joined in on the conversation about the ice bucket challenge on Facebook, including posting, commenting or Liking a challenge post" (Mashable).

Besides the gimmick and content spread, the challenge has also led to conversion. "As of Thursday, the ALS Association, a national advocacy, care and research association with 38 chapters, had raised $7.6 million in donations in two weeks. That compares with $1.4 million raised during the same two-week period last year. The donations came from existing donors and 145,918 new donors" (WSJ)

#icebuckethcallenge engagement drivers

In the past couple of years we've seen the spread of user-generated virals like "Call Me Maybe" and last year's "Harlem Shake" videos. The #icebucketchallenge seems to have picked up faster and has proven to be effective at both awareness and conversion.

Different organizations have tried to use social to spread awareness for different causes, such as the cryptic messages for the "I like it on..." breast cancer awareness meme a few years ago or drives that ask users to change their status images to show support. I don't think we've seen a massive success of either type of campaign locally so this is an interesting case to learn from in terms of engagement drivers.

How the challenge works: You get challenged. If you accept, you fill a bucket with ice-cold water (may or may not have actual cubes, or may be mostly ice cubes ala Martha Stewart) and pour the water on yourself (it can also get poured on you by someone else as was done for the awesome Chris Pratt or by your own custom bucket-pouring contraption ala Bill Gates). You are then allowed to nominate another person to do it who must comply within 24 hours. If they refuse they must donate cash to support ALS.

This meme has several spreadability factors working for it
  • It's simple to execute
  • The result is visually compelling to watch and share, especially when done by celebrities willing to look stupid online (except for you, Justin Bieber)
  • Most of all the mechanic of challenging someone else, of tagging them, fuels the spread. The call-to-action is one-on-one and when your name is called to do something, you are more compelled to answer and participate
Most interesting is that it hits two major marketing objectives at the same time, awareness and sales or conversion.

Social for good, highly participative, inherently viral, pretty brilliant.

Friday, August 1, 2014

last year

It took days to sort through a year's worth of Shanghai photos. There was much to see, but the most prominent subject (besides the mandatory yes-I'm-Asian-ok-fine-I'm-Filipino food shots) was of the nieghborhood. One of my favorite things about Shanghai is that it is both coming and going, some pieces stuck in humble local life, and some bits zooming ahead and pioneering the future. My stroll down photo memory lane reminded me that this year was more about the lively, maddening city than about work life. I've never been able to say this as a working adult. This year has done wonders for my soul.

Why did it end? Mis-fit, is all I'll say here - not one I regret and definitely not with the city.

Shanghai is a million things, soothing and crazy at the same time. It wasn't at all where I thought I'd end up in my first post outside Manila. It was at first disconcerting how little of my comfort zone there was to be found there - food safety, air quality, English all missing, but especially friends, a serious deficit at the start. In time I came to relish the feeling of having my own corner of the world, with nobody from my past in it and the great new people I met almost a completely different set from everyone else I know back home. Even if I've left, probably for good, part of me will feel like I can disappear into the city again if I ever need a break.

Shanghai was my next work move, which by all means I got, but the surprise was being able to focus on the not work. As regional posts go, the pace was slower and I got to spend more time outside, seeing, tasting, trying, doing.

I've come to appreciate the slow-down, even if it was never the plan and though the free time was at first quite jarring. My highest-Liked Facebook post to date broached the possibility that I'd entered an alternate advertising universe one can have work-life because our whole team would start packing up at 5:45 everyday and actually leave by 6. My teammates would tell me their after-work or dinner plans and I couldn't believe anyone would really be able to keep their appointments. Who knew.

I'm holding on to this a little longer, milking it and maybe reinvesting in my sanity. Recovering after eight straight hard years, or maybe preparing for the next intense set. The thought freaked me out at first, even if my gut told me I absolute wanted to lie low instead of jumping right into a new role. This isn't me; I'm usually so gung-ho about work. A former teammate who recently found himself in the same ad work limbo said he was raring to go, that he was still hungry. I don't think my professional appetite has been satiated of advertising but I do need to stop for a bit and maybe taste new things. Maybe things moved too fast for too long. Maybe the politics tainted my love of the industry and the work. I'm giving myself three months to figure it out, no commitments, no matter how much that scares me.

I need to stay out of things for just a little longer, and find something old or new to inspire me. Who knows. But if there's anything I learned from Shanghai, it's the joy of discovery, that there's a new street full of low-key watering holes or cool little boutiques just waiting to be chanced-upon. That finding something meaningful doesn't mean you've been aggressively searching. That being open can be better than knowing what you want. Some of the good stuff is unscripted, meant to be chanced upon or discovered just when you thought you'd never been more lost.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Travel Local

How globalization sorta works out 

In one of our media studies classes at university we discussed globalization and the potential effects of “McDonaldization”. The worst possible outcome would be for cities to turn into generic collections of the same brands, uniqueness eliminated across the board. I have experienced this in a funny way – seeing a dress worn by another girl on the Singapore subway that I had wanted to buy in Manila. Or finding one of my favorite New York ice cream shops in Tokyo. Surreal.

The newness of traveling to a city can be diminished because so many of the brands are already familiar and accessible at home. It reinforces the feeling that we are just moving from one concrete cookie cutter city to the next.

When we were kids going to LA or Hong Kong we’d wind ourselves up in excitement over going to Toys’R Us, supertoystores with all the imported kid brands not having been set up yet in Manila. On another HK visit when I was eleven or twelve I remember when my mom let me try Mrs. Fields for the first time. Or, much later, the joy of spending hours in H&M and Uniqlo during trips to Singapore. And hoarding Muji notebooks in New York not knowing they would eventually end up here. A friend told me when she found out that Zara was coming here that she would be down one Euro shopping treat.

The influx of imported brands has even sped up in the last couple of years. Gap, Forever 21, Keihl’s, Muji, Michael Kors, etc, etc, etc.  Even food chains have arrived en masse – Starbucks and CPK were some of the first and now Ihop, Ippudo, Jamba Juice and Pinkberry are here. This year we’re seeing a slew of brand launches that I never would have imagined would make it to Manila – Pottery Barn, H&M… we’re just missing Ikea. It is a great time for Philippine consumers.

I can’t deny though that having all these brands so easily accessible has taken some of the fun out of traveling, especially on the shopping side. Now Manila has everything! Many brands we can find in a mall in Shanghai are now likely in Manila, Singapore, Jakarta, LA. And, following the imported brand trend, if something is popular it is probably just a matter of time before it gets here.

Even if a brand doesn’t have its own retail presence, someone, somewhere is importing them. Malen+Goetz are in Adora, Mario Badescu is now in Rustan’s, and Trader Joe’s stuff can be found in the SM grocery. A friend told me he was overjoyed when he found a Herschel bag in Hong Kong, but just a few months later I found them being sold at Bratpack. I even found Vosges chocolate bars in Healthy Options.

If we now have access to so many of the most coveted global brands right in our malls, is the thrill gone from shopping and other branded experiences when we’re abroad?

The gift of globalization may be that it neutralizes the exclusivity of the massively commercial. Because we have so many international brands that we don’t have to wait to get to other countries to experience, this frees us up to find the locally unique wherever we go. Friends took me to Symmetry and Bar Stories in Singapore, two wonderfully local joints. In New York I enjoyed shopping at Evolution and Kiosk, both awesomely local. In Shanghai I can point you to the one and only branch of Café del Volcan, which is I think the best coffee shop in the city. I can give you the number of Strictly Cookies, the best dessert to order, or lead you to Backroom and Taste, my favorite little boutiques in the French Concession, or show you my favorite neighborhood boulangerie and local Mexican/margarita joint.

I love that we’ve seen the rise of so many of our own food and lifestyle brands in Manila. When a balikbayan or foreigner comes to visit I won’t take them to Starbucks or boast about the new H&M. I’ll point them to The Curator, Wildflour, Ritual, Bucky’s, Chez Karine.  

There’s never been a better time to go local, here and wherever we find ourselves in the world.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

jimmy's vinyl

When Jimmy Fallon invited Neil Young to promote his new album on The Tonight Show, they replicated some of the recording process that Neil used for the show. Neil used this recording phone booth that creates one copy of the performance on vinyl. One analog copy that can only be played on one kind of analog device. Classic.

In the digital age where a couple of keyboard strokes can duplicate something instantaneously, will there be a movement toward these kinds of one-copy-only exclusives?


Adam and Blake tweet furiously during The Voice Instant Save window.

Last season The Voice introduced the "Instant Save". During results episodes when the bottom three contestants are announced, Carson tells viewers that they have the last remaining minutes of the show to tweet to save their favorite artist. As long as they use the #VoiceSave hashtag with the name of their favorite contestant, their voite will be counted toward that artist.

Sidebar: The first thing I wondered when Carson first announced the Instant Save was what listening software they're using. Then I figured that they are probably working with Twitter directly to get such real-time and accurate results. Really, the window only lasts ten minutes and they announce the winner in the final seconds before the show ends. The lesson - Don't bother with a listening software for hashtag tracing and just get in bed with Twitter directly?

This makes me wonder if the economics of the show are shifting. When American Idol premiered many, many seasons ago they depended only on SMS and call-in votes, telco-driven transactions. Later on they expanded to online voting. When I started watching The Voice a few seasons I go I noticed that they include iTunes song downloads of the contestants' performances in voting counts.

Either way, what does the new Instant Save drive? Are they giving up millions in potential SMS revenue? Or are they telling us that consistent viewer engagement has a bigger value now? Something to think about.

mad life crosses my life

Mad Men hasn't always painted an accurate picture of the agency world. Of course that isn't all the show is about. But once in awhile they reference something that is poignantly true to ad life.

I've lagged in the last year and a half and am only now catching up on Seasons 6. Car brands have been a focus since the fifth season, and an industry tennet was established - that you aren't a bona fide ad shop until you have a car brand. When they launched anew in season five, Sterling Cooper Draper Price struggled to build a stable client roster. Finding a car brand seemed to be a quick strategy to establishing their foothold on Madison Avenue. They are given the opportunity to pitch for Jaguar and go to rather extreme lengths to secure the account. They end up (minor spoiler) retiring them this season and are almost immediately given the opportunity to go after a massive and truly iconic American car brand - Chevy.
In Episode 6.7 Don and his team walk through the GM offices ready to present work. In that moment Don's TV life crosses my advertising life squarely. There are heritage brands that are woven into our industry's heritage and I'm proud to have had my fingertips on one baton even just for awhile. 

(Season Seven paints a painfully brusque, goonish picture of the clients, which is I'm sure an exaggeration, but it makes for painfully good TV.)  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Get Lucky

I won something! I got word late last year that I had been nominated for Mansmith's annual Young Marketing Masters award. After a few rounds of judging I found out I had been selected as one of nine awardees. For the award ceremony, each of us were asked to prepare a thank you speech that talked also about lessons learned. Here's was mine:

The one thing I’ve learned in my career is to get lucky.
I know Han Solo said “There’s no such thing as luck.”
But we can get lucky.

Getting lucky doesn’t mean waiting around for something great to happen.
It means searching to find that one thing you love to do – or at least something you enjoy,
enough to do it for 8 hours a day, or in our case in advertising, 10-16 hours! a day, and sometimes weekends, too.
It means knocking on doors, not giving up when people say no because you have no advertising experience, and trying until someone takes you in and gives you a shot.

Get lucky –
means always reading and constantly studying,
keeping up with what’s going on in our industry that changes so fast, to develop a gut feel for what’s up next.
And coming across things like digital and riding on, thinking that might be what’s up next.  
It means being ok with experimenting and failing, even when as the digital person nobody knows where you fit in the organization and you end up with seven bosses in three years because there’s never been a Digital Account person or a Digital Planner in the agency before.

Get lucky –
means finding like-minded teammates who also really enjoy the nerdy advertising challenge of identifying marketing issues and insights,
and who will spar with you to help you find the answer to the tough brief that was due yesterday – because everything was always due yesterday!,
Finding the dream digital team who will miss meals, dates, sleep, to get our best work out the door,
who always invite you for a drink when you’re stressed out,
and who also toast with you to the things that have gone brilliantly.
It means finding amazing mentors who teach, who coach, who say no, who shout yes.

Get lucky –
means getting older and getting to become a leader and hopefully getting to pass something on to the next generation whose turn it is to have no experience yet in advertising.
It means expanding horizons to be able to find the best new challenges, and coming to grips with getting out of your comfort zone to take them on because sometimes they turn out to be across the sea.

It means staying close to the awesome parents who told you it was ok, and that you should, do what you love – I was and have been very, very lucky.

Thank you again! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

MRM has PH's top viewed locally-produced ad

YouTube Philippines released its list of top viewed ads in 2013. MRM topped the list with the highest-viewed local ad. Creative did a fantastic job on this video, which was one of Beau's last projects before we left MRM. It was produced specifically for digital, which allowed them to come up with longer material. Also on the list is our work for Alpo (#7), which El and I worked on. Good showing by Team MRM!

Top 10 most popular ads in the country:
1. Dove Real Beauty Sketches

2. Ramon Bautista vs. Parokya ni Edgar (Nescafe PH)

3. Ely Buendia, Rico Blanco, Raimund Marasigan and Barbie Almalbis collaborate (smartcorporate) 
4. Iya Shines (Pantene Philippines) 
5. Four Seasons Tang-Go with Ryzza! (Tang MNL) 
6. Ramon Bautista, SmartNet Da Moves (smartcorporate) 

7. Toffee’s Best Dog Bath Ever (Nestle Purina PH)

8. Introducing Samsung Galaxy S4 (Samsung Mobile)
9. Labels Against Women (Pantene Philippines)
10. Jessy Mendiola surprises Teng Brothers (McDonald’s PH)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Brand Philippines

When It's More Fun in the Philippines was launched I especially liked the engagement strategy that got us involved in punning up with copy. I feel like "fun" is too general a claim even for the supposed happiest people in the world, but I appreciate it now that I've seen the campaign in my work and travels abroad. It has won effectiveness awards and was certainly successful at increasing the number of visitors to the country.

It was a fantastic effort, but I’ve always had a discomfort about the campaign. I’ve been mulling this over and trying to figure out why since the it launched and now I think I know what I dislike about it. My discomfort is not about the campaign, but about the brief. It is a great tourism push, but it doesn’t address the root of what I think is a bigger issue. Getting people here is not the only job that needs to be done.

What is Brand Philippines?

It's More Fun in the Philippines is a great invitation, but we also need to define our nation's brand that sums up our best qualities and offerings. Which is where It’s More Fun… falls short. Not that it was meant for this (I think). But we should be able to formulate a proposition about who we are. And we aren't just fun. We have a caring and healing touch, brought all over the world by our overseas workers. We are fluent in the global tongue, and other countries come here to learn it. Those are unique to us. We have an insatiable appetite for art and music. We make killer roast pig. We are the most engaged social participants.

Unfortunately perception of us may not even include these positives. We have a lot of baggage. In media studies in college we were told about a thesis that studied the search engine results of the keyword “Filipino”, which at the time returned mostly results for mail order bride websites. Some people may not even know we exist. I would have thought there would be at least a baseline awareness, especially to Americans who occupied the Philippines and had bases here until the nineties, but I've met several who embarrassedly, politely ask me to remind them what place I'm talking about when I tell them where I'm from. What do they think of Manny Pacquiao and how does that cast a light on how others see our country? Or what did the recent Yolanda relief efforts tell them about who we are?

The art of persuasion

I first started thinking about this when I discovered Monocle's Soft Power Survey in 2012. It was the first time I'd heard the term "soft power", defined as "the ability of one state to change the behavior of others through the means of attraction and persuasion, rather than coercion or payment". In the article the magazine names things like pop music, film exports, cultural initiatves, local brands that have gone global, etc. as contributors to soft power. Last year the UK was at the top of the list for football leagues and Olympic hosting coverage. USA was #2 with "Call Me Maybe" cited along with the "global reach of [their] entertainment industry", sports stars and their lead in foreign aid. Sweden ranked at #5 with mentions of Ikea and Steig Larsson. South Korea went up in the rankings (#11) thanks to PSY and the rise of K-pop. Mexico was a new entrant, with renewed interest its cuisine cited.

How now? An approach

This made me think about the approach to branding and managing Brand Philippines to the international community. It sounds like a typical ad agency brief, but the end result wouldn’t be communication materials. What if we could systematically expose international audiences to the best of our culture? Here’s my idea for how this should be rolled out.

First, our Brand would need to be defined. (I won’t even begin to get into this, but if anybody influential ever reads this, FYI, I know a team of brand strategists who would be perfect for the job.) This would ensure that all initiatives add up to establishing our one brand.

Then we would create a Brand Experience Program, to be launched in each key local market. The important thing would be more about activation than just exports. I have two ideas for initial elements.

Food & Alcohol. Cuisine is a way to immediately gain appreciation for a new culture. Filipino food is gaining popularity in the States, which would be an ideal place to start. Could we do lechon cookout pop-ups? A pan de sal café? San Miguel nights? One great example:

Our greatest export, People. With all our OFWs as scattered around the globe we have ambassadors all over the world to spread our values and culture. With our domestic helpers and teachers my mom says that Filipinos are helping to raise the world’s children. Should there be a briefing to help all overseas workers understand their collective influence on how people see our people, culture and country?

Music, Comics, Fashion, Art... initiatives are endless.

Lastly Brand Managers would need to be deployed in our most important target markets. They would execute and contribute ideas about Brand Experiences, and making sure that any tourism efforts deployed are in line with the new branding. They would also be in charge of keeping tabs on how their local markets see and think of the Philippines. 

Engineering perception

We have been getting bigger representation in global media but is all this exposure adding up to positive perception about us? With increased travel routes and budget flight options more Filipinos are travelling to other countries. How do others perceive us as we head out into the world?

This approach would hopefully get foreigners aware of our country and contribute to the push to get more people to come visit. But the end result could be a more specific, positive perception of us that would get foreigners to look at us kindly and welcome us when we travel and work abroad. They might understand us better and be even quicker to help when we need global outreach. Maybe they’d even be more willing to business with us.

This becomes more and more important not just to get people to come over but as we increasingly become global citizens.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Creating a share-able space

Location: W Hotel, Bangkok

I was excited to come but there is a lot I dislike about this hotel room. The shower door doesn’t close completely (a major pet peeve). Air-conditioning can only be adjusted with a tablet app, and when you digitally adjust the temperature or fan speed it takes several minutes to sync with the actual air-conditioning unit. The same app controls all the lights in the room (except for bedside lamps and bathroom mirror). I accidentally unplugged the tablet in the middle of the night so it was dead when I woke up and I couldn’t turn the bedroom lights on until it recharged. There is a draft pointed right at the desk. Despite its loud, youthful vibe the hotel charges extra for internet access!

Bed and service have been excellent so far but generally, this hotel is too over-the-top and there are lot of things that turn me off of the room. But despite my negative reaction (that I haven’t had about any of the other three hotels I’ve stayed at this year), I’ve posted several photos about the W. Shortcomings aside, this room was made to be shared.

On the bed are a pair of ginormous gold-sequined muay thai gloves that read “lights” and “out”. The minibar holds a tray of childhood favorite candy, instead of the usual overpriced peanuts and chips. The alcohol tray comes with martini glasses and a shaker in case you want to mix your own cocktails. Cute signs are all over the room. Water bottles are captioned with a “Drink Up” sign. The extra toilet paper roll is encased in a bag labelled “Backup Plan”. The directory and room service menu is entitled “Everything You Want To Know.” Breakfast was served on a bright purple tray. You control the room with an app!

The taste level in this room can only be described as questionable (diamond sculptures and etchings on the wall?) and there are many UX limitations, but this W room is chockfull of iconic elements.

This should be a consideration in any space, product design and activation. What are people going to capture and share? What will be the subject of Instagrams and tweets? If I were a restauranteur I’d design table lighting to ensure that food will look delectable online, no matter how good/bad it actually tastes. I’d like to call these, at least for now…

Monday, November 11, 2013

Haiyan & Yolanda

This time news broke several days before the typhoon hit. This should have given us time to evacuate and minimize casualties. But as reports and Facebook posts came in about the super storm making its way to the Philippines I had the sinking feeling that the early warning wouldn't make a difference.

This is the photograph that really got me. I didn't doubt that each one of these guys would row, swim, save unconditionally. When push comes to shove that's who the Filipino is - self set aside, unconditional love for the random guy in the water. I don't doubt that for a second. But intent and effort aside, I couldn't be sure of their ability to systematically be effective. Who trained these guys? What process are they going to follow? I remember stories about how, in rescue missions during Hurricane Katrina, officers who had never even met before could work together as a team because they had received the same training. I am pretty sure that our guys, despite the same dedication and probably even more intense selfelessness, have never received any such training.

This is why, even if we've gotten hit by more than fifteen storms this year, as it happens every year, all hell breaks loose when disaster strikes. Despite the fact that typhoons are a yearly, monthly occurrence, there is no routine to aid, let alone prevent. Equally disturbing are the photographs of people trying to fortify their homes or secure property. This is all they can do - nobody has given them better alternatives. This time the warning came early. But an amber alert wouldn't be of much use in the Philippines. Nobody knows what to do.

Some people say that most cities were able to take precautonary measures. But what I'm talking about is a studied, researched, proven method to minimize damage. Tokyo, one of the most earthquake-prone cities, has engineered all of its buildings to be able to withstand most minor quakes. I don't know when we will ever have such a systematic response.

The images and footage of the 'apocalyptic" aftermath are devastating and heartbreaking. We can't prevent natural disasters and it is inevitable that there will be catastrophes so terrible that even a first-world country wouldn't be able to side step it. But I dream that one day we can put processes and measures in place to systematically mitigate and minimize disaster. I don't quite know what the individual response is to get there. But this should be something we can work through together.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

new scenery

There's no way I could have predicted what was going to happen this year, the end of an era. When I look back the good times stand out, but there were things I needed to move on from and grow out of. After a few years discontent had started to seep into the everyday. There were always great challenges, inspiring mentors, awesome teammates. There was also more corporate haberdashery than I would like to have witnessed, the general advertising burnout, and the wear and tear that comes with building something new. The good times stand out the most.

It all came to a head this year, finally time for a break. On my last day I wanted to post as that I had ended my longest relationship - 6.5 years with M.E.

Who would have guessed that I would be re-adopted, this time by the mother ship. They took me to Singapore, Indonesia and Tokyo, but where I ended up was here in Shanghai.

From team lead to solo flight, from one market to fifteen, from internals to conference calls. From creatives just desks away to creatives miles and plane rides away. From my all-Pinoy AEs to the United Colors of Benetton account team. From beverages to cars, from the D to the R. From comfort zone to the great unknown.

Ni hao.