A collection of ads I like and those I created as an adman. In between are some of my published articles about dreamers, achievers, those who reached for the stars, interviewed personally and through email. Hope their stories may inspire you a little.
Sparkle like a luminous star. Transform. Integrate. Throughout the interview, Nicolas Menat, CEO of Publicis One Asia, the global creative enterprise unifying all Publicis agency brands (Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and other assets) kept mentioning the last word.
Menat drummed up the point that it is through integration of resources, knowledge and talents that will drive the already dynamic ad agency network to further success. “It maybe complex but it is the recipe for winning together,” he said.
Parallel to integration, Menat stressed the importance of transformation or reinventing oneself in the light of a volatile business landscape that is experiencing dramatic changes all over the world. “It is happening within a short span of time, everyone, including organizations, must transform,” he said.
“Every business is facing integration. We need to understand the transformation that is happening around us, most especially, in our client partners in order to sharpen our business competency,” he explained.
The tall, amiable and sharp CEO of one of the world’s most awarded networks, flew into town for his regular Asia managing chores, and while in Manila, sat in the jury of 2017 Tambuli Awards.
Publicis One handles the larger bulk of Nestle business in the Philippines, long-time client Procter and Gamble, McDonald’s, Pfizer, GM, Cebu-Pacific, Metrobank and other high profile brands.
At the core of its group is Leo Burnett Manila, an ad agency that has gone a remarkable transformation, from a raw, local ad agency (Hemisphere) to a hot shop with a multinational culture to the top of the industry’s creative totem pole. Today, it is a sterling agency having won its stripes in many tough local, regional and global awards competitions.
Among them was a gold in last year’s Campaign Asia-Pacific Creative Agency of the Year Awards, a show that recognizes inspired leadership, management excellence, outstanding business performance, and overall achievement in advertising and communications industry in the region.
Burnett also won the Digital Marketer of the Year Boomerang grand plum, having swept most of the awards organized by the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) last year.
Last year, the 4As (Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of the Philippines) honored it with the Agency of the Year award, along with Best in Market Performance, Digital Excellence, Best in Creative and Effectiveness, and Best in Creative and Effectiveness (Activation category).
Responsive, Client-Solutions Centered
Menat mentioned Amazon, the most innovative company in America that was built around constant transformation and change and is going great guns because they are building, buying, and are integrating. (Amazon has built its own unique brands and has brought almost 30 companies in thirty years).
The e-commerce giant inspires Menat, because it has a solid foundation, with new technology and constantly introduces new ways of doing things. And that’s what he wants to see Publicis One doing to its clients.
“You log in, you choose, you buy, you get what you want, fast, and the next thing you see, it’s delivered to your doorsteps,” he exclaimed.
Menat talked about digital media, the most-talked about media platform today. “We are the best in this class and we would like to continue being the benchmark - to transform and ultimately help the consumers experience a better life,” he said.
What is he as a person? “I would like to be myself. I trust people. My management style is sharing governance. Let’s go and do it together and help push people to be the best that they can be,” he proudly said. “I like creating an environment where people can be their own CEOs. I don’t breathe down their necks,” he added.
As admen, Menat stressed the need to be right there when clients’ transformation happens. “We have to in order to be able to become transformers ourselves,” he said.
His thoughts on traditional media: Menat explained that television, anywhere in the world, would still be at the center of the spectrum because it is a medium where families get together and bond more intimately than other media. Newspapers, he said, should reinvent themselves. “It’s old and sometimes, filled with fake news.”
Agency Of The Future
Last year, Maurice Levy, CEO, started a very significant transformation of Publicis Groupe that included the creation of the all-new global communications enterprise, Publicis One.
The creation of Publicis One is the best testament of commitment to evolve, in order to drive profitable growth and create value for clients’ brands in the competitive business landscape today.
It is a strategic reorganization of Publicis One’s best capabilities and talents around the world into a model that allows it to be more creative and to move nimbly and efficiently.
Publicis One is a global communications enterprise that brings together Publicis Groupe’s agency capabilities and expertise under one roof, operating across Publicis Groupe’s four Solutions: Publicis Communications (Publicis Worldwide with Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and BBH), Publicis Media (Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest Spark, Blue 499), Publicis.Sapient (SapientNitro, DigitasLBi, Razorfish, Sapient Consulting) and Publicis Health (Digitas Health, Publicis LifeBrands, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness).
It has more than 8,000 employees in 55 countries, with operation spread across Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Creativity is the most important source of competitive advantage in business today. The evolvement of marketing as a result of digital media revolution and technology advancement, driving the need for a new kind of creativity that is empowered by data and enabled by digital technology.
Publicis One is proud to count some of the world’s most recognized creative, digital, technology, PR, media, research, production agencies aligned and working towards the success of its clients’ brands.
Integrator of Specialists
Publicis One is built with clients’ interest at the center. The increasing fragmentation of industry has gotten to a point when integrating marketing communications becomes too difficult and costly.
Publicis One breaks down the barriers for more effective integration. Concurrently, the communications needs of marketers today are increasingly moving towards specialized capabilities. Publicis One’s model is created to address these two needs to be a top integrator of best-in-class specialists.
Power Of One
Unifying the Publicis Groupe’s assets under one roof gives Publicis One operations scale, flexibility, and accessibility to a diverse set of expertise and capabilities. This is a key advantage that enables it to efficiently derive objective, effective solutions for brands, be it integrated or specialized.
“As we continue to transform our agency model around the world operating as Publicis One, it is pertinent for us to keep the spotlight firmly on creativity and more specifically, the brand of creativity we want to become as Publicis One,” Menat stressed.
Publicis One’s brands represent value for business. They work closer together and more effectively, tapping into all Publicis Groupe resources. Brands stay connected with their respective networks (be it Zenith, Leo Burnett, Starcom, Saatchi & Saatchi or Publicis) beyond Publicis One.
Publicis One represents a new way of working that is crucial to our business today and brings greater integration, optimization and value creation that will bring benefits and growth for our clients’ business and our operation.
“One leader, one P&L (Profit and Loss) will eliminate silos and make the decision-making process easier and faster thereby allowing smooth flow of resources to be directed to where they are needed most,” Menat said. About Menat
Menat started his career at Havas in 1987, after graduating from a business school in Paris, France. He then joined Leo Burnett France (today, part of the Publicis Groupe) in 1989, and had since built his career within the Publicis Groupe, spending 11 years in Paris, 2 years in Chicago, and 3 years in Frankfurt, prior to coming to Tokyo in 2005.
He worked on a broad range of international clients such as Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Diageo, L’Oréal, AXA, Sanofi, among many others.
In January 2007, Menat was appointed President, Representative Director of Beacon communications in Tokyo, a fully integrated agency with more than 300 people and with partnership between Publicis Groupe (66%) and Dentsu (34%). It has made its success, primarily by focusing effort in making global brands locally relevant and successful in Japan.
He was was appointed CEO of Publicis One in Asia (Japan, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam) in January 2016.
The 90s were the best of times for Filipinos in Jakarta. Indonesian employers kept an eye on Filipinos, those who were experts in their respective fields, as among their prized recruits.
In advertising, a number of Indonesian company owners successfully lured Pinoys and put them in stellar positions. They were called Advisors, a term loaded with three enviable Ps - power, prestige and privileges.
Professional Filipinos were generally preferred for their hardwork, competence and efficiency. Aside from their knack for communicating in English, the locals easily gravitated to them. They naturally exuded warmth, charm and blended well, culturally. They were their Malay neighbors and looked the same, as opposed to the ‘orang asing putih’.
Among the many Filipino admen transported to the world’s 4th most populous country during that time were Ronald Garcia and his wife Marivic.
Both have a solid background in advertising. By then, Ronald has built a career in Media, from being a Research Assistant in Basic-FCB to Media Director in Dentsu, Young and Rubicam-Alcantara where he met his wife who was a Senior Account Manager at the time in the same agency. Marivic was Account Director in the country’s first full-service direct marketing agency when they left for Indonesia.
In Lintas Jakarta, Indonesia’s biggest ad agency, Ronald assumed a Media Director role (for Initiave Media) and Marivic worked her way up, from being an Associate Account Director to Group Account Director position.
Trained and honed by Manila’s Madison Avenue-like world of advertising, those credentials propelled both of them to mentor their Indonesian wards for a good 4 years.
While it was a dream posting for them, the political upheaval in Jakarta was brewing and unfolding. The fall of Suharto in 1998 has caused a lot of civil disturbance prompting the couple to come back to Manila to ensure the safety of their two young children.
Back to Manila
Not expats anymore, the Garcias began a new life in Manila at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis. Ronald joined Universal McCann briefly as McCann Philippines’ first OOH (out-of-home) Media Head. Whereas, Marivic worked in Lintas Manila and then Dentsu, Young & Rubicam where she stayed for many years to be on top of its key corporate accounts.
In 2001, having seen a bright opportunity in out-of-home advertising, Ronald established Outdoor Media, a full-service out-of-home advertising services provider that provides tailor-fit solutions to clients’ key geographical priorities - nationwide.
From the attic of his home in Valle Verde, he worked day and night to deliver the rush requirements of his clients all by his lonesome self. As he gained the trust and respect of more clients, he began to get more and more projects and started adding employees.
The name was later changed to OMG Advertising when Marivic joined forces with Ronald in 2013, (only after agreeing that he would put up an office in Bonifacio Global City). It was inevitable for the two to work together, to better manage a growing number of clients.
They now have more full-time employees and a dependable group of Local Coordinators all-around the country. They have taken their team places in and out of the country to see the work that they do and compare them to that of more advanced countries, so they get better at what they do. In the process, they also get to see the world.
More on Ronald on his entrepreneurial success:
What were the challenges you faced and how did you surmount them?
Practically starting from scratch was a major challenge. Working as a one-man team at home, investing on strategic partnerships, putting up processes, checks and balances to ensure integrity of the work, and scaling up, were also tough. Increased sales also meant more cash infusion and more work, and so, I had to do a lot of balancing act.
Making hard decisions, prioritizing projects that will bring in higher margins, keeping eye on the goal and making sure every project is delivered in a timely and accurate manner, while gaining strength from the love and support of my family.
How do you make yourself different from other players in the industry?
Unlike other players in the market who come with a long list of inventories, we provide customized OOH solutions and locations that are based on the Clients' strategic and geographical priorities.
OMG’s proprietary softwares are one-of-a-kind, how do you market them and make clients aware of them?
We've recently invested on digitizing our processes and data by developing the following: Geogen, a locations-search tool that helps us identify priority locations based on total population per city/province broken down per age group and gender split, in seconds.
It can also generate a list of nearby relevant establishments that maybe points of interest in relation to the target audience.
The other software is called the AdTracker, which basically functions as on online library of all our work, searchable by brand, campaign and/or campaign period. It even has a campaign summary that contains related details, including campaign results whenever available.
In the future, it can also serve as a digital monitoring portal for paperless billing requirements. Over time, it can include competitive OOH ad campaigns, too. It can be as robust as we'd like them to be in terms of building market data.
We'd soon be giving free access to our clients meeting a minimum revenue commitment in order to make work faster, more accessible by computer or smart/android phone.
How do you keep up with new technology in the industry?
OMG Advertising recognizes that the future of media lies in the use of digital technologies to drive desired business results, and so, we invests a lot on new technologies that would help us and our clients win in the marketplace. We don't wait for new technologies to fall into our laps. We create them based on our needs.
What pieces of advice you would give to people in the industry?
Take care of your reputation. It’s the most important thing you can own. If you do good, good things come to you.
Your business philosophy is?
Take care of your people, and they will take care of the business.
If you were a piece of billboard what would you like your market to know about you?
OMG Advertising can help you win in the market place.
What is your goal in the business and how do you see OMG in the next 5 years?
Our goal is to be seen by our clients as more than just an OOH Services Provider (Supplier) but more as Business Partners. We'd like to be in the forefront of the Out-of-Home Advertising industry, helping clients win in the marketplace one community at a time.
What is your unique brand leadership and management style?
Our style is Management By Objectives. You set your own goals and your desired rewards and the kind of support needed from the company and then we agree on the parameters. In a sense, you work for the reward you want.
Memorable anecdotes you learned throughout career?
Time and again, we've proven that every problem presents an opportunity. You just need to look beyond the difficulties at hand. As they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Who is Ronald as a person, outside of the office?
Ronald is very much a family man. His life outside of work revolves around the family. He loves to travel and discover new places and documents them in photographs for posterity.
Are you looking to going regional?
If the right opportunity comes, why not?
Who influenced you much, who were your mentors?
I was influenced, to some degree, by Tony Mercado's management style. I liked that he was a progressive thinker, quite advanced for his time. I was also influenced by a former boss, Boy Pangilinan who taught me much of what I know in Media, my grandmother and the nuns in my former school who inculcated the right values in me growing up.
Social media went abuzz. Newspapers made headlines. The nation was in disbelief when the result of the 2016 Bar Exam was bared to the public on May 3, 2017.
What gives? Not one from blue chip universities made it to the Top 10 list. Law graduates from schools in the provinces lorded it over. Imperial Manila’s bubble was shattered. The ‘promdis’ got their revenge, one newspaper said. And the biggest shocker of all, a university far, far way, in a place many call a university in a forest, registered 100% passing.
The punters never placed a bet on Palawan State University. But alas, they should have known better. The province has a rich heritage of academicians, past and present.
PSU in a nutshell
The university was first known as Palawan Teacher’s College, created to train additional teachers (most available educators then came from Luzon and only a few wanted to be assigned to far away towns).
Briefly, it opened night classes using four borrowed classrooms from nearby Palawan National High School, and eventually became Palawan State College in 1984.
A school of Law was established when Dr. Teresita Salva became president in 1991, and Teodoro Peña, sponsor of transitioning the school to state college was appointed its first dean. The latter was an economist, lawyer, banker, parliamentarian, corporate director and has a Master of Laws from Yale University, an Associate in Arts and law degree, with honors, from the University of the Philippines.
Atty. Teodoro Pena
By virtue of a republic act sponsored by Congressmen Alfredo Abueg, Jr and David Ponce de Leon, the school became a university three years after.
Today, the first university in Palawan is arguably, the best in the Mimaropa region and among the top 20 in the whole country. Through the years, it has performed well in the Bar exam, thanks to its OIC President Marissa Pontillas and Assistant Dean of School of Law, Maria Gisela Josol-Trampe, herself alumna of the school.
It is but important to interview its dynamic and current Dean, Perry Pe, 2016 president of Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). A Master of Laws graduate of Columbia University in New York, Bachelor of Laws degree holder from the Ateneo de Manila University, Pe also holds a Bachelor of Arts, major in History and Political Science from the De La Salle University. He is also a Trustee of the De La Salle University in Manila and the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City. Many international legal publications, among them Legal 500, Chambers Global, Asia Legal Business, AsiaLaw, have named Pe as a leading lawyer in his field from 2003 to the present.
He also sits as Trustee of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (PEF) and the Honorary Consul General of the Kingdom of Denmark in Manila. He previously served as Chair and President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools.
Pe acted as a legal consultant to the Asian Development Bank, advising the bank and its foreign expatriates on various local regulatory matters from 1987 to1990.
Among his achievements was acting as a legal consultant to the World Bank team that drafted the policies, guidelines, rules and regulations, including the tax and tariff customs manual, and for the conversion and commercialization of the former US Naval Base in Subic Bay in 1991.
Here are Pe’s insights on provincial law schools, why he thinks it is beneficial for undergraduates and his confidence on the Filipino lawyer as far as ASEAN is concerned:
School of Law Dean Perry Pe
ROGER PE: What makes an outstanding law school?
PERRY PE: Three things: 1. You need an excellent, goal-driven and subject-focused law faculty 2. You need the school administration's support for your projects and endeavors 3. You need a strong alumni base, which will give back to their law school alma mater. From here, you can then have programs, like offering scholarships to outstanding college undergraduates who want to go to law school.
RP: There are a number of provincial law schools in the Philippines, how many are up to the standards and keep up with those in the big cities?
PP: We have a law school association composed of law deans known as the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS). I used to be its President and then later on, Chairman (from 2007 to 2012). This is our advocacy group. We try as much as possible to keep everyone abreast with the latest in law school administration trends and standards, for example, in faculty development.
We also have a Legal Education Board (LEB) that accredits law schools. Lately, our LEB has instituted nationwide law school entrance examinations, known as PhilSAT. Most law schools in the country are members of PALS. I think we have perhaps, a total of around 125 law schools all over the country, 90 of which are members of our association. From this number, around 55% are from Metro Manila, and the rest are from the provinces.
RP: What’s the average cost of studying Law in the Philippines (let’s make the Top 5 schools, as example: UP, Ateneo, San Beda, UST, USC).
PP: UP Law is a state institution and therefore, its tuition is heavily subsidized, just like my school Palawan State University Law School. Private schools like Ateneo, San Beda, UST, FEU and the new one on the block, DLSU Law, perhaps average anywhere from P60 to P90 per semester. Compared to provincial law schools, it is around P40 to P60 per semester.
RP: What do you think are the biggest and daunting challenges being faced by provincial law students today? Would they be disadvantaged if they opt to stay in provincial universities?
PP: Primarily on research, but with the advent of Internet facilities, the gap has considerably decreased. In fact, University of San Carlos Law School won the international moot court competition last year and represented our country in the prestigious Philip Jessup competition in Washington DC.
Certainly, no one will be disadvantaged if students stay put in the provinces. In fact, the cost of living will be more beneficial, plus family support can play a crucial factor in their studies.
RP: Currently, is the number of law students nationwide rising?
PP: Perhaps not in the next 4 to 5 years. The reason for this is the K to 12 Program, where there might be a dip in law school enrollment. Also, as I have mentioned, our LEB has implemented a PhilSAT law school entrance examinations this year, which could potentially affect enrollment as well.
RP: How do you help improve standards in Palawan State University?
PP: By continuing my faculty development and support programs. And by ensuring more law school scholarships, I have to recruit the best undergrads to enroll in law school and help give them the means to do it.
RP: What is annual percentage of enrolment increase of students taking up Law in PSU?
PP: Before the K to 12 and PhilSAT, I think I was doing around 8 to 10% increase yearly since the time I took over the deanship in 2003.
RP: To what do you attribute PSU’s remarkable performance in this year’s bar exam?
PP: Plain and simple, hardwork. Diligence. The candidates were very focused, and really wanted to pass the bar exams. Plus, they were looking out for each other's welfare, both in their respective studies and in their health. As a dean, I can never ask for more. They were just an amazing batch. In PSU Law, over the past years, we were already averaging anywhere from 40% to 55% bar passing. In fact, at one point, we got a 67% bar passing rate. I knew it was just a matter of time for us to get a 100% over-all passing rate. This takes into account both the first-time takers and repeaters.
RP: How did you rise to become the dean of PSU’s School of Law?
PP: This is quite interesting. In 2003, PSU School of Law was looking for a dean (his predecessor was Atty. Roy Rafols), who should be, as much as possible, from Palawan, and who has a Law Master's degree. Being a state university, PSU is headed by the Chairman of Commission On Higher Education thus, this requirement).
Supposedly, during that year, I was the last one from Palawan with a LLM degree, who has not served the PSU community. I said yes, with the condition that I serve it from Manila because I work and based in Manila. My other condition was that I will only serve for one term of 3 years but this did not happen. I am now on my 14th year. I hope they already replace me.
RP: What do you want to see happen to PSU’s School of Law in the next 5 years?
PP: I want PSU Law to maintain its high bar passing rate. 100% of course is always the goal, but I will be happy with 80% to 90% general passing. This is foremost for me. Another is to make PSU Law a research institution with concentration on environmental and mining laws, but I need major funding for this.
RP: Can a Philippine law graduate practice law in the US and other first world countries?
PP: Of course. We already have a lot of Philippine law school graduates who are working with several major white-shoe international law firms. Our law graduates are no longer parochial. In fact in ASEAN, our graduates can easily dominate legal practice, especially in the fields of international law, commercial law and arbitration. However, we have to open up our legal profession. I see this opening up in the next 5 years.
RP: What made you choose Law as your course early on in college?
PP: It's the nobility of the profession.
RP: Tell us where you were born, raised and spent your childhood, tell us about your family, your growing up years.
PP: I was born in Pasay City, and spent my childhood summer years in Puerto Princesa City, Cuyo and Roxas. I started schooling in Holy Trinity College in Puerto Princesa but transferred to Manila after 3 years. My family is from Cuyo, Palawan and I am a member of the Lim clan (of the RBL Fishing) from Cuyo.
RP: How was it like studying Law in Ateneo, what kind of a student were you?
PP: Tough but I really loved it. I like to believe that I am a diligent student. I finished my law in Ateneo in 1985, studying the 1973 constitution. The following year, 1986, there was the EDSA revolution, and in one sweep, the things I learned got diminished. Hahaha! Good thing I passed the bar exams.
RP: Your favorite subjects, specialization until you became a full-pledged lawyer?
PP: My favorite subjects in law school were Constitutional law and the commercial laws (Corporate and Mercantile). Now I am a corporate lawyer.
RP: Please share us your experiences, anecdotes, hardships when you were preparing for the Bar exam.
PP: Just don't lose focus. Concentrate on the basic elements of a particular legal issue or topic or of a particular legal theory. Apply first what is the general rule before you take on the exception. The reverse will be a disaster.
RP: Describe the feeling when you passed the Bar exam?
PP: I will not trade it for anything else.
RP: Outside of PSU, what makes you busy?
PP: I have my practice in Manila. I am a partner in Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles.
RP: What makes a good or bad lawyer?
PP: In handling a case, there is no such thing as handling a big case or a small case, there is only a small-time lawyer. You have to treat all cases with the same passion, diligence and dedication, as if your client will go to jail if you fail. This is true, be it for litigation work or corporate work.
RP: Do you have regrets in taking up Law?
PP: None at all.
RP: What characteristics should a student have for to become a successful practicing lawyer? Does a strong personality contribute?
PP: You must have the right attitude for it. You can never go wrong in being humble in the things you do. If you can settle, by all means settle. A bad settlement is always better than a good case.
RP: Do Bar topnotchers automatically get a job and become successful?
PP: No. I will rather have an average bar passer with the right attitude than a bar topnotcher with an air of arrogance or superiority complex.
RP: What are the challenges many lawyers face today?
PP: To be ethical.
RP: Would you recommend Law as a course to high school graduates? What are the most important advice would you give?
PP: Yes, I would. For high school graduates, please spend your time and energy in things that can help your family and your community.
Can you tell a story in 30 or 45 seconds? What about in lesser time, 15 seconds, for example? In advertising world, a 60-seconder is already an extended version and it is different from a documentary or audio-video presentation.
Television ads have become an art form, showing the latest technology, special effects and using many different kinds of emotions - all in a matter of seconds, to connect to the consumer target.
The driver behind the steering wheel during the production stage of the approved concept is the director. He is responsible for bringing the creative team's vision to life, in close partnership with the advertiser and advertising agency.
They usually start young or evolve from their advertising profession (creative director, art director or producer). Some begin apprenticing as production assistants or at the bottom of the food chain - utilitymen or assistant to the assistant of the cameraman.
Some have burnt the midnight candle inside studios where they literally would not see the light of day, doing editing jobs, MTVs or inexpensive videos. Some were just driven to make it. Others had innate talent and just naturally gravitated to it until Lady Luck smiled at them and they hit big time.
Behind the cutthroat competition is a common denominator: they are all storytellers, men or women who were not considered stars (movie stars were “stars”), but shadows operating in the background, doing what big brands hired them to deliver an assignment on a prescribed timetable.
A little backgrounder
During the 70s, Young and Rubicam and Doyle Dane and Bernbach, two of many hyper-active ad agencies on New York’s Madison Avenue, were known as training grounds for directing and had a number of art directors and producers who eventually became famous. Among them were Bob Giraldi, Stan Dragoti, Bert Steinhauser, Sid Myers and Dick Lowe.
Joe Sedelmaier, a former art director for Y&R Chicago, revolutionized the use of comedy in tv ads, as shown in his memorable "Fast Talker" series for FedEx. He was also among the first directors to cast real people instead of actors.
Then European ad agencies invaded the U.S. and British adman Ridley Scott, created Chanel's "Share the Fantasy" campaign for DDB and eventually directed one of the most talked about commercials of all time, Apple's "1984" (No. 12 on Advertising Age's top 100 ad campaigns of the 20th century). “It epitomized the British look, with his highly stylized images,” according to Advertising Age.
In the 80s, big-name movie directors realized that making commercials was not only lucrative but also allowed them to hone their craft by telling a story in 30 seconds.
Feature-film directors such as Penny Marshall, Robert Altman, John Schlesinger, John Frankenheimer, Spike Lee, Tony Bill, John Badham, Martin Scorsese and David Lynch began making themselves available for commercials.
A number of successful British commercial directors then turned to making feature films. Adrian Lyne directed "Flashdance" (1983) and "Fatal Attraction" (1987). Ridley Scott’s movies included "Blade Runner" (1982), "Thelma & Louise" (1991) and "Gladiator" (2000).
Tony Scott made "Top Gun" (1986) and "Crimson Tide” (1995) among others. Hugh Hudson directed "Chariots of Fire" in 1981. All of them crossed over between films and commercials, contributing to the development of a new breed: the Crossover director.
Film production in the Philippines
Even before the war, the country’s filmmaking industry was considered one of the most prolific and vibrant in Asia and the country had many talented directors. Today, the number keeps rising and new generation of megmen, better trained and studied abroad, contribute to the growth of the industry. Some of them, too, have brought honors to the country and continue to blaze new trails.
National Artists Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, apart from their landmark films that lovers of great Filipino films know, also crossed over, making tv commercials for McCann-Erickson Philippines. Under his wing, Brocka trained a few Filipino talents, among them Jeric Soriano, son of the late matinee idol Nestor de Villa.
Soriano was part of Brocka’s behind-the-scene team in making “Angela Markado”, “Kapit sa Patalim”, “Bayan Ko” and “PX”, all internationally acclaimed films (the last two were shown in Cannes and Manila International Film festivals, respectively).
Soriano would also shine on his own, directing memorable tv commercials. Some of them were for Palmolive (“I Can Feel It” with Alice Dixson, Sarsi (“Angat Sa Iba”), Magnolia Cheezee (“Umi-Spread Ang Sarap”) and did around 490 more, a conservative estimate over a 25-year career.
Past forward, his son Paul would also venture into filmmaking and tv commercial directing. To date, the younger Soriano has done almost 60 tv commercials, even surpassing what his Dad had accomplished by winning Best Director and Best Screenplay awards in the Film Academy Awards of the Philippines (FAP) in 2012.
During a one-on-one interview, Soriano emphasized his mantra in doing a material. “The story has to be told well, because, for me, the story is king and has to be executed correctly.”
Soriano is a stickler for discipline, a great communicator with a creative mindset for a good script and dramatic images. “I marry a narrative with a visual style that evokes drama. I want people to be affected and watch what I create.”
“A great movie for me is when it moves and challenges me, even my opinion,” Soriano said. “A great film is something you’d want to watch over and over again. It has great writing, appropriate editing, and created by the director from a different perspective. A great tv ad for me is when it resonates with me, drives me to crave for it, allowing me to make a purchase,” he said. Lino Brocka inspired Soriano for his focus on delivering a movie with great storytelling. He respects Lav Diaz, director of 2016 Venice Film Festival Best Picture, “Ang Babaing “Humayo” among new generation of Filipino filmmakers.
Having been his mentor, he is immensely grateful for the maverick director whom he also calls a ‘brother’. Diaz’ “don’t-take-life-seriously” philosophy in life, has also made an impact on Soriano. He is someone who is like a kid on the set but man enough to deliver the goods.
At the FAP, Soriano won a Best Screenplay award for “Thelma” and made the win more emphatic by bagging the most coveted – the Best Director prize for the same film. “It is my dream to be a director and winning would inspire me more in my craft,” he said on accepting his trophy.
The best is yet to come for the Philippine cinema, Soriano said. He romanticizes watching a great film, whether local or foreign made, in a theatre. “There’s nothing quite like the experience, with you eating popcorn, together with the rest of 400 people or so watching. Cinema is the king of projection. I don’t want theatre to die,” he said.
On the creative process, Soriano wishes for more professional people on the set. “Art is defining a culture and art is still discipline. I bring that to my shoot. People should respect the creation of the film and not underestimate pre-production preparation. It is a disservice to the art if you are not committed to it,” he said. His parting words for new directors: “Know the language of the film”.
New generation of Filipino filmmakers
We also interviewed new generation of Filipino tv commercial directors to give you valuable insights and learning experience from Jessel Monteverde (“Shake, Rattle and Roll” and award-winning Indie films), Nick Santiago (former copywriter and studied at State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick), Yeyey Yatco (multi-awarded and former multinational ad agency Art Director) and Torts Villacorta (graduate of communication arts with strong emphasis on film, technical expertise on food cinematography and mastery of the narrative). Here are their thoughts:
What is a good tv commercial to you?
Jessel Monteverde: A good TV commercial provides a clear message for the promotion of product/service/brand. It reaches the maximum number of a specific target audience and rises above the clutter of ads. A great TV commercial offers the viewer some other value over and above just the promotion of the product/service/brand.
Nick Santiago: Before, a good TVC was one that people remember and talk about. Now it has to be one people can share.
Yeyey Yatco: Aside from having excellent and well-planned production values, a good TV Commercial is one that touches its target market one way or another. It should be able to elicit some kind of connection that would prompt the viewer and say, “ako yun ah!” With this, the product the ad is selling would create a strong bond with its consumer.
Torts Villacorta: A good commercial should communicate well with its intended audience and sell a product.
What is your creative philosophy when making an ad?
Monteverde: Art and commerce must coexist. We are not strictly creating works of art here. The TV ad has a very specific purpose and one must be mindful of that purpose.
Santiago: My personal creative philosophy in making an ad is to make it not seem like an ad.
Yatco: To be able to clearly send the ad’s message across. A director should be able to do this with the smallest or biggest of budgets.
How do you keep yourself updated with global trends in filmmaking?
Monteverde: I keep an eye out on movies, videos, and technology online.
Santiago: I keep myself updated by constantly watching, reading, and listening to content. Creativity is derived from a new combination of past experiences.
Yatco: Right now, being connected makes it easy to research and see what is new and trending in terms of filmmaking. Subscribing to industry publications on-line or print is a big help also.
I also watch a lot of films, TV shows and even other TVC’s to keep me updated. Another important aspect of my being updated is reaching out to different kinds of people—students of various levels, workers, executives, etc. This just gives me different perspectives on how these types of people view different things.
Villacorta: Aside from the usual online search engines and online video repositories, I try to watch as many film director interviews, new behind-the-scene documentaries, and production technology advancements as I can.
Describe yourself when making a production. Who are you on the set?
Monteverde: I am the captain of the ship. If I take too long in the bathroom, the ship won’t move. I am a collaborator. I take input from all sides. One person can’t possibly have all the best ideas.
Santiago: On the set, I try to be an inspirational leader. I try to get everyone to perform to the best of their ability so we can have the best output.
Yatco: I try to be everybody’s friend on the set. I like my set to be as light as possible. I am everybody’s friend but that doesn’t mean that anybody can fool around. If you are on my set, I expect you to do your job efficiently. As much as possible, all concerns have been addressed during the pre-production stage of the project at hand.
Villacorta: I consider myself a Perfectionist. I’m extremely obsessive during the shoot, which I think is an actual understatement. You can ask my team. They know me best. Everything should run as smooth as possible but without being inflexible. It’s collaboration, after all.
Would you accept a project that would compromise your image/status or you’d take it as a challenge?
Monteverde: No. Reputation, once tarnished is a very difficult thing to restore.
Santiago: Of course I would take it and try to make it the best it could possibly be.
Yatco: I take all projects as a challenge. There is no small project. To me all projects should be treated with utmost respect, which means 100% attention from the staff and me.
Villacorta: I consider each project as a challenge.
Advertisers or ad agencies at some point would clash because of creative interpretation or ego. What do you do to avoid conflicts and maintain good relations with them?
Monteverde: I try to think of solutions that maintain creativity while at the same time meeting the advertising objectives.
Santiago: By remembering that in the end, it’s just an ad. No one is going to die over it. You win some, you lose some.
Yatco: My thinking is that once a project is handed to a director, client and agency should have agreed on every point of the storyboard/TV commercial. But, yes, this doesn’t always happen. When it doesn’t, the director should be able to point out where the conflict arises and try to show and explain to both client and agency how the concerns could be addressed.
It is also important to know when a director should come in. The director should be able to discern if the concern is strategic or creative in nature. It is also important to know the proper channels or protocols on how to discuss concerns.
Oh, and this should be discussed, as much as possible, during the feasibility and pre-production meetings. That is why I believe that the Pre-Production Agreement Document is my friend. Everybody can just refer to it during the principal photography.
How did you get into the field of production?
Monteverde: After deciding not to go to medical school, I spent a summer watching Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Kevin Smith films. I then realized that there is a career in directing.
Santiago: I entered production after first starting out in advertising as a creative and realizing that TV commercials were my favorite part of my job.
Yatco: I was an art director with McCann Ericson under the Coke Group. We were involved in a lot of TV productions and I was fortunate to have worked with different directors. The production process fascinated me. I was awed with how everything comes together.
During my stint as an art director, I got close with Matthew Rosen, a British Director based here in Manila under Unitel Productions. He saw my interest in filmmaking and he offered me a job as his assistant/apprentice. I accepted it and, eventually, got to work with the different directors of Unitel at that time like Jun Reyes, Dindo Angeles, Sockie Fernandez and, of course, Matthew Rosen.
Villacorta: I think my turning point was when Mon & Abby of JimenezBasic encouraged me to make the jump from Producing to Directing. Henry Frejas was also instrumental in that decision.
Who influenced you much and gave you a break in directing?
Monteverde: My influences come from many famous filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Wong Kar Wai, etc. My big breaks into a directing career came from my cousin Dondon Monteverde, Ross Misa, and Mari Buencamino.
Santiago: I was influenced by my older brother, Luigi, himself a director. AF Benaza gave me my break by taking a chance on a know-it-all kid.
Yatco: Tony Gloria, who gave me a chance to be able to work with the best directors up close and personal. Luigi Tabuena, who kept on insisting that I try out directing when I was still with McCann. He eventually hired me to join the director pool of Production Village. Ross Misa and Mari Buencamino, who from the start, were always behind me in my career as a director.
What is your dream project?
Monteverde: Anything that I personally would like to watch and would be entertaining to others.
Santiago: My dream project is an adidas commercial starring Daft Punk and Girls Generation.
Yatco: In terms of film making in general? I’d love to do a prequel, remake or sequel to the Mike de Leon Classic, Batch 81.
Villacorta: A narrative, that’s purely storytelling.
Does one limit his creativity because of budget?
Monteverde: Yes. Budget allows you to broaden the scope of creativity. However, this doesn’t mean that a low-budget project can’t be creative.
Santiago: Lack of budget makes on become more creative.
Yatco: During Just Add Water’s talk in Abracadabra, Jem Lim made us realize this –– In terms of a production, she looks at three things and makes client and agency this reality: Great. Fast. Cheap. You can’t have all three in one project. You can only have two.
My take is that one should realize or know how much his budget is and work from there. A classic example is a Vulcaseal commercial shot in the 80’s. It was just a shot of dripping water to a pail inside a house while it was raining hard outside. The dripping stops and tag line comes in, “Tapal Vulcaseal!” One set up and one shot was all it took. This ad brought home lots of awards.
What is your favorite Filipino or foreign tv commercial that you wish you did.
Monteverde: Too many to list, mostly foreign commercials.
Santiago: Adidas’ “Hello Tomorrow” by Spike Jonze.
Yatco: I am a romantic at heart. Locally, I would have wanted to do any of the recent digital ads of Jollibee. I wish to be able to do something like that. There was a student spec ad for Johnnie Walker that came out a few years ago. I would also love do something like this. Even Filipinize it!
If you have a power to change something in the way we do things what would they be?
Monteverde: We need to figure out this paradigm shift from TV to online advertising. Somehow because of the low cost of online advertising, it has been equated with lower cost-to-produce materials. This needs to be seriously discussed because people are dying from being overworked trying to fit projects into small budgets.
Santiago: I would make sure that others would think of other’s first before they acted.
Yatco: That is for everyone to be paid fairly and on time. We are directors and we have the privilege of being paid well and on time. My heart bleeds for the staff and crew who have to wait to be paid for a long time.
Things you want to see happening in the Filipino production industry today.
Monteverde: We need more formal education in filmmaking. We don’t have dedicated degrees in directing, producing, screenwriting, etc. Many learn in a trial-by-fire manner. Many rise through internships and OTJ training. Those are fine but would be even better if supported by formal education.
Santiago: I would like to see projects take more risks, rather than walk the beaten, proven path. I want the Philippines to do creative that’s not just fresh for this country, but fresh to the world.
Yatco: Professionalize everything. It would help a lot if production houses can educate the staff and crew with the basics of production. This way everyone would feel dignified and respected with his/her job.
Brag a little, things you have done in the last three years, that you are most proud of, school or career specialization you attended, etc.
Monteverde: I have discovered the power of networking. You can be the greatest filmmaker in the world, but if no one knows who you are, you won’t get much work. I learned of this power after being invited as a speaker for a couple of forums on filmmaking. I met like-minded individuals who are open to mutualistic relationships and career building.
Santiago: I had my first son.
Yatco: I am proud to say that I can give back already. I do this by giving talks on film making to high school and college students. Ateneo de Manila University, my alma mater, for Senior HS students as a career talk and the College of Communications and CoSA as a career path. University of the Philippines, my other alma mater, wherein I have given talks and have held workshops on film making in the College of Mass Communications and the College of Business Administration. Miriam College, where I have given similar talks and workshops mentioned above during their MassCom week for several years already. I, also, have done two short films for a foundation that advocates reading. I am always here ready to help.