Thursday, March 12, 2009





By Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 2009

As far as the eyes can see, on a fertile plateau in southern Philippines, you see nothing but rows of pineapple vegetation. Crowning each plant when you take a closer look are fruits glistening under the sun, being beautifully sculpted and ripened by nature. A few missteps down the block, you could get lost in a maze of fruit-bearing shrubs.

More than twenty years ago, a tv commercial for a multinational brand was shot in this exact location. An ad agency handpicked a crack whipper to iron out logistical nightmares and other intricate demands of the shoot. Her name: Mae Paner.

Mae Paner, who? To watchers of You Tube on the net, she is Juana Change today, offshoot of Barack Obama’s famous election battlecry, created as female personification of Juan, tongue-in-cheekly coined to advocate change in how Filipinos do things, whether culturally, religiously or by force of habit.

Except for her hefty body, she’s been sculpted by advertising and theatre worlds, transformed through the years as a staunch advocate of anything that means change in general, in the Philippines.

Juana Change plunked into Philippine alternative media last year and since then, become figuratively and literally visible.

In one satirical viral tv on You Tube, she’s a woman with two sides – a rosary-clasping government employee clandestinely accepting bribe money as a “Fixer.” She’s also in “Sta. Nina”, “Face-Off”, “Christmas Offering” and “Bayani,” taking potshots against proponents of Philippine Charter Change (“Cha-Cha”) among others. And she is set to do more of this genre in the coming months.

Asked if she is campaigning for opposition political parties and being used by them, Juana categorically says: “That’s the perception of some but really, Juana only stands for change and nothing but. She’s not for or against any political party, personality or figure.” That’s how she draws the line.

At close scrutiny, Juana Change wears a ubiquitous ‘love-for-country-heart-shaped ring’ and flaunts it wherever she goes. The girl who has started sinking into the national consciousness after You Tube made her wildly popular, now gets hundreds of hits a day and reads mails that support, encourage, even criticize her.

The former Production Manager for a couple of tv commercial production houses before rising to Assistant Director, and eventually TV Commercial Director is also a theatre and character actress, having appeared in several spots.

When people and colleagues in ad industry ask: “Is Juana Change for real?” Paner says, “there’s no turning back and she feels it in her guts. She thinks, “every one of us has something to contribute” to effect change and as far as she is concerned, it’s through her advocacies - even if it means shedding several pounds off her body weight.

While change cannot be done overnight, “there’s always a start,” says Juana. “Once that happens, things snowball and before you know it, people get use to it.” Like a fruit ripened by time and with many watchful ‘eyes’ behind her, people say it could be Juana’s crowning achievement if she can pull things off and crack the whip once more.


21st Ad Congress Update, straight from Margot B. Torres, VP for Marketing of Golden Arches (McDonald’s) and Chairperson of this year’s 21st Advertising Congress in Baguio: The Organizing Committee just had a team building workshop held at Baguio Country Club last March 13, 14 and 15. Confirmed Keynote speaker is Fernando Zobel de Ayala with noted American author and public speaker John Naisbitt and Death Cigarettes founder, Business and Brand Speaker BJ Cunningham among stellar Plenary Session speakers.

Sports enthusiasts will find Golf, Badminton, Bowling, Billiards and 5-K Fun Run added on the program, including an Amazing Race from Manila to Baguio. There will also be photography sessions and tours of Bencab Museum. For those who want to experience something different, here’s your kick: Flower Eating, Cloud Catching and Ghost Hunting – all lined for you.


Today, no one gives a hoot about a shelf of trophies made out of fake ads anymore – those bogus ads that never ran, ads that forced media to run them just to qualify, or worse, ads that clients did not approve of. Like zombies, scam ads turn unsuspecting festivals into some kind of freak shows.

It was supposed to be one of the fastest growing advertising festivals in that part of the world, with a record 2,079 entries competing last month, presented by Cannes Lions International Festival, together with regional partners Motivate Publishing and Gulf News. Until a series of scam winners were unearthed and rocked it to the very core.

After an investigation, organizers of Dubai Lynx Ad Awards, the Middle East and North African advertising Oscars, found 18 entries submitted by ad agency FP7 Doha questionable and withdrew 7 awards associated with the agency. This included the Agency of the Year Award, 1 Gold for print, 1 Gold for TV/Cinema, 3 Silver for Print, 1 Silver for Outdoor and 1 Bronze for TV. In addition, 10 shortlisted pieces in print and outdoor categories were disqualified.

UK trade website Brand Republic which flagged the earlier story quoted client Sunny Hwang, president of Samsung Electronics Levant: “At no time was Samsung Electronics aware of these ads and the company has not approved nor commissioned FP7 Doha to create an advertising for Samsung SL310W Cameras.”

The ad showing Jesus Christ taking a photo of a group of nuns has caused outrage in Lebanon and the agency forced to apologize to the Lebanese people. The work was seen as “an attack against Christian symbols” and caused considerable damage to Samsung’s image in Lebanon.

Dr. Lance de Masi, Chapter president of Dubai Advertising Festival and Lynx Awards, expressed appreciation for the organizers’ swift action saying it would have otherwise undermined the award show’s credibility.


Inspite of the global economic downturn, the country is enjoying an unprecedented tourism boom. Flights to Palawan alone, during the Holy Week break were fully booked with three major airlines PAL, Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific, including two others - Seair and Asian Spirit enjoying brisk sales. Boracay and Cebu as usual were favorite destinations with the Bicol region, especially Camarines Sur, competing for a huge chunk of the tourism pie. Be your own Conde Nast. There’s so much more to enjoy in the Philippines than going abroad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009



By Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 2009

Every time it goes out of the country to compete in advertising festivals, Malaysia always shouts this line as a battlecry - “Malaysia, Boleh!” (Malaysia Can!).

In Cannes of Asia last week, Malaysia showed indeed it can and towered like its world tallest twin towers Petronas. It won two Best of the Best awards and three previously dominating countries - Thailand, Singapore and Japan acknowledged its stature as the new creative hub of Asia. The rest just simply gave it a thundering ovation.

The imposing win by Malaysian agencies in Asia Pacific Advertising Festival held in Pattaya, Thailand from March 19 to 21, proved that its 2005 overall triumph in the same prestigious festival was no fluke.

Saatchi & Saatchi KL won 2 Golds including a bounty of 7 Silver and 2 Bronze Lotus trophies. McCann won 1 Gold, Lowe bagged 1 Silver Lotus and 2 Bronze trophies, Leo Burnett and Naga DDB each won a Silver Lotus.

BBDO/Proximity was king of all, bringing two Grand Prix Lotus trophies (Poster and Design) aside from harvesting 2 Gold and 1 Bronze Lotus trophies.

The Philippines won two Silver Lotus awards (TBWA-SMP for Recycle Design and BBDO for Krispy Kreme Outdoor) and a Bronze (Lowe for Viva Video City).

The Film Grand Prix went to ADK Tokyo for a tv spot called “LaLa Girls”, a comics magazine campaign. Agency Network of the Year went to JWT, Leo Burnett Melbourne won Radio Grand Prix, Dentsu Razorfish Advertising Tokyo brought home the Innova Lotus Grand Prix, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne captured the Direct Agency of the Year and another Dentsu agency won Interactive Agency of the Year.

Phenomena was Production House of the Year and China Environment Protection Foundation was Advertiser of the Year,

Malaysia’s romp began even prior to the announcement of 2009 winners. “Tan Hong Ming”, a Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur tv commercial and Adfest winner last year was recognized as the World Best Film by Gunn Report. Presented by Donald Gunn himself, author of the world’s official award list, the show also honored the most awarded agencies in the region for the year preceding.

An unpretentious but piercing tv ad created by Leo Burnett KL for Petronas (Malaysia’s national oil company) to commemorate Malaysia’s Independence Day celebration in 2007, “Tan Hong Ming” swept every single major award on the planet – D&AD, Cannes, Clio, One Show, Asia Adfest, and Spikes, thus claiming Asia’s most awarded tv commercial in modern history.

If you don’t scratch the surface, “Tan Hong Ming” is a tv ad you would dismiss as crude, unappealing and ordinary. It is a powerful tale of love in its purest form regardless of color set in multi-cultural Malaysia.

The story begins with an unseen interviewer talking to Tan Hong Ming, a reed thin Chinese grade school tyke with bigger than usual bunny rabbit-like front-teeth - gaps in-between and all.

Hong Ming is asked if he has a girlfriend and what would he wish to tell her if he has. He answers in the affirmative, charmingly describes her and wants a romantic dinner date soon but he doesn’t want everyone to know because he thinks the world will laugh at him.

The girl walks in and is asked the same question. When the girl mentions his name as her boy friend, Hong Ming blushes and becomes deliriously speechles. He pulls the girl by the hand and walks away. Fade to black and these words appear on screen: “Children are color blind. Shouldn’t we keep it that way?”

“Tan Hong Ming” punctuates Malaysia’s reputation as Asia’s most consistent country in creativity. Used to import Filipino talents way back, Malaysia is now showing the way. When the Philippines won a gold in Adfest for Lotus Spa radio campaign, Malaysia even went further - it grabbed the Radio Grand Prix for a well-known big advertiser – Colgate.

Some say, the Philippines has written and produced more charming tv commercials than “Tan Hong Ming” in the past. It has captured three Adfest Gold Lotus trophies so far (McDonald’s “Lolo” tvc by Leo Burnett, WWF “Trees” and Lotus Spa, both by JWT Manila). Quite noticeably, the march is sporadic and far between.

Original writers and art directors abound in the Philippines. Technology and equipment are trickling in. It has what it takes and there’s no reason why the third largest English-speaking country in the world can’t make it. If Malaysia can, the Philippine can also say “Boleh!”


Dampened by the slowing economy, Adfest, which has overtaken “The Spikes” in importance dropped by 35% in entries this year. Delegate attendance also plummeted by a jaw-dropping 55%. Host country Thailand submitted the highest number of entries with 565, Japan came in next with 529, Singapore with 353 and India with 287.