Thursday, July 26, 2012


by Roger Pe

Is it a case of companies, or in advertising parlance, clients getting smarter or is it a long overdue overhaul of how the advertising arena works?

Whatever the reasons are, over the past few years, major ad agencies that have been in existence for decades have been closing shops.

The reasons are a combination of corrupt practices of some people in the industry, economic numbers that do not merit large sums placed in advertising and the changing technological landscape.

Advertising is usually the first to go during bad times as marketers press the panic buttons, cut budgets or do the worst, stop advertising.

Remember 1997 and the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008? The last one triggered a widespread tsunami-like disaster, sinking some of the world’s most seemingly invincible economies.

Millions of people around the world depend on advertising and its immediate affiliate industries: print and broadcast media, publishing, printing, film, out-of-home advertising suppliers, print and production houses among others. Imagine the catastrophic repercussions.

More than three years have passed since the world’s worst economic tragedy fell. Is there an end in sight?

Apparently, the global recession is bidding its time. In fact, it has already obliterated the advertising landscape.


JWT Chicago was the largest office in the network’s global agency network, boasting with over 800 employees and had well over $100 million in billings.

The office was the primary agency for Kraft, Nabisco, Philadelphia and other brands, and also was one of Miller Beer’s busiest agencies.

After 118 years of existence, it closed down in 2009. Today, it's a 50-person, four-client operation functioning in New York that's gambling on the Illinois Lottery business for survival.

The other three remaining accounts of the agency are Kimberly-Clark's feminine-care, Nestle ice cream, a small HSBC digital assignment and a tourism business.

Just last month, Campaign Palace, an Australian agency, renowned for award-winning ads, closed its doors after 40 years. The shop was a training ground for some of Australia's most renowned advertising talents.

Over four decades, the agency that flourished in the backstreets of Melbourne created ads that were consistently voted as the best by its peers.

The agency where everyone in the Australian ad industry wanted to work also spawned a number of successful new agencies run by former staff: Whybin TBWA, BMF and M&C Saatchi.

Following its sale to George Patterson Y&R and a string of account losses, the agency finally closed its doors this year, with its remaining clients absorbed by other WPP-owned agencies.


Exactly a year ago this month, AB Comm, which used to hold office in one of Makati’s posh buildings, shut its operation after 17 years.

In a statement, founding president Tom Banguis said the “financial returns and professional satisfaction from running it have diminished.”

Prior to its closure, AB Comm had a staff of 20 reaching to a maximum of 60 during its heyday.

Previous to AB Comm’s exit, some ad agencies did massive retrenchment and ‘creative’ measures to stay afloat.

Four to seven local and multinational ad agencies moved out of their chic Ayala-Paseo-Legaspi Village addresses to tighten their belts and neutralize ad budget woes.

A couple of years back, an agency gave the pink slips to several key people sending shock waves to the industry used to enjoy huge production budgets for tv commercials.

Another ad agency, often the subject of coffee shop buzz, had deep management, and media payment issues.

Creative Response, Dentsu Indio (after 16 years) and MAD (acronym of its owners Maranan, Aquino, Abunda, Del Carmen) have joined the list of those who have stopped or will stop operating.

Hard hit agencies, either merged, downsized or scaled down their manpower to avert heavy overhead and operational costs.

What ails the ad industry? The shutdown and ongoing troubles of some local ad agencies raise questions about their survival just as what is happening, not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also on the global scale.

“We are partly to be blamed,” one retired head of an ad agency said. “Some ad agencies had it coming,” says.

“We had a management with outrageously big salaries, perks and representational allowances, producers padding cost estimates in-cahoots with insiders and shady people on the payroll of some production houses,” he says.

“We were not competitively creative, we were being ran by AEs,” he continues.

The proliferation of in-house creative departments by some businesses, media networks competing directly with creative ad agencies and freelancers selling their work at rock-bottom fees are also hastening the demise of legit ad agencies.

With the pie growing smaller and smaller every year, it is common for a new business pitch to have more than 5 ad agencies scrambling and bidding to win the account.

What’s more, the worst scenario is about to unfold or already beginning to cast its frightening shadow.

Some clients are now opening up their businesses to independent agencies on a per project basis and thinking of doing away with long-term contracts.

With a free-for-all and unwieldy set-up, unscrupulous marketers can also do damage: pitch their business then steal ‘losing’ bidder’s ideas behind their backs.


What should advertising agencies do to be competitive? As technology gives people more viable options and created a “consumer democracy,” everybody now has more choices.

In Ad Age, an article said: “traditional marketing is not dying, it is dead.”

“In this changing times, ad agencies must give value to marketers other than the usual. If they want to survive, old-style, one-size-fits-all mass marketing and advertising can't do this anymore,” said a top Filipino marketing director formerly based in the greater China market.

With the rapid changes that are happening in advertising, how are local ad agencies adapting to the rapidly changing business environment?

Questions like, how good or bad are agencies today now that the landscape has changed?

“We tailor-fit solutions to a particularly brand. We are not a redundant, cut-and-paste brand solution ad agency,” says a multinational client services director of a multinational ad agency.

Noy de Liacco, former Corporate Communications Director of Nestle Philippines, says a good ad agency must be “a true partner interested in the client’s business, curious about its consumers and looking for answers how it can grow the business together.”

A bad agency is peopled with “sycophants, order-takers, second-guessers, lacks initiatives and does not really care about the client’s business,” he said.

PANA (Philippine Association of National Advertisers) president Margot Torres, a driving force in the marketing and advertising industries says an ideal agency is a brand steward and a business partner.

“The agency should be responsive to the needs of its client and changing consumer needs,” she said.

“Ad agencies must be committed to excellence in its craft and to the growth of its people and that partnership. Choosing an agency is based on the people behind it (particularly the local agency for a multinational network) since they are the team who will work with you,” she stressed.

VP and Head of McDonald’s Marketing, Torres places high value on the agency partner with disciplined processes, invests in strategic insights as well as adapts to the changing digital landscape. UP Mass Communications Professor Eleanor Agulto, former ECD of Bates-Alcatara and now with Catalytx says, “a good agency is a true partner of its clients, giving them sound strategies, great creatives and cost-efficient production and media plans.”

“It must be a well-managed business, keeping a healthy bottomline, a good corporate citizen, espousing truth and values in advertising even as it sells brands. It is bad if it doesn’t treat or pay its people right,” she says.

For marketing guru Willy Arcilla, a bad agency only sells ads.

“A good agency does not sell its ads, but sells its client's product or service. As David Ogilvy famously said, "If it doesn't sell, it's not creative." Or as Leo Burnett also said, "We want consumers to say: “that's a hell of a product' instead of, “That's a hell of an ad."

To be competitive these days, the best agency is one that can “develop campaigns that transcend boundaries in a global market, endure the vicissitudes of time and the vagaries of competition,” Arcilla said.

Good ad agencies know how to get the most “bang” for their clients’ buck, no matter how big or small. A bad agency don’t do enough research on the front end and little post-campaign measurement on the back end,” said Joel Villaflor, a Fil-Am creative director and entrepreneur.

PR person Bing Kimpo says, a good agency does not act as if it has a monopoly of good ideas and shut others out. To survive, ad agencies must encourage and embrace ideas that come even from the outside world: partners and suppliers, a bad one lives under a rock of self-absorption shooing away suggestions “not invented here.”

For Globe Corporate Brand Management Head Cris Lacuna, the ingredients to become a successful agency is do quick turnaround time, have 24/7 availability, understand clients’ needs, aside from making negotiations easy and clear.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


by Roger Pe

Over the last three years, Ace Saatchi and Saatchi has gifted the Philippines with Silver and Bronze Clios, a One Show Pencil, Cannes Silver and Bronze Lions, a number of Asia Adfest Lotus Gold and Silver awards and Campaign Brief Asia’s prestigious Agency of the Year title.

Can’t get enough? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But as far as Andrew Petch, Executive Creative Director of the agency is concerned, these glowing trove of awards pale in comparison to its latest achievement.

Last June, the hot shop for world-changing ideas became the first Filipino ad agency to become finalist in Cannes’ toughest category: the Titanium Lion for integrated campaigns.


What titanium is all about.

Titanium is a shiny, white metallic element found in rocks and soil. Lightweight, strong, and highly resistant to corrosion, it is used as parts for aircraft, ships, watches, and among other things, for its durability.

Campaigns that fly or sail into the toughest winds of marketing environment are usually integrated and resistant to communication corrosion, thus, the category Titanium.

Cannes Titanium Lion is testament to the authenticity of a campaign, true-blue advertising created with a through-the-line master plan and a 360-degree vision for the brand.

The world's ultimate accolade in advertising, Titanium is the only category that judges work on the criteria of: “Does it pioneer brand communications for the future?” rather than just “Is it the best work of the past 12 months?”

“We don’t do one-off ads, we do integrated solutions for clients regardless of how small or big their brands are,” says Petch who admittedly, is a big fan of Filipino creative talents.

The agency’s “Tiger Energy Playground” was singled out in Cannes for stretching the campaign beyond the common idea of the word “energy.”

“We want to make people know that Tiger is not just an energy-giving snack biscuit but giving out energy in the real sense of the word,” Petch said.

The “Tiger Energy Playground” campaign is an inspiring example of innovation that uses technology to engage people emotionally in a way traditional advertising can never achieve.

In October last year, Saatchi & Saatchi Manila launched the power of the “Energy-giving biscuit” idea, literally providing electricity to Hospicio de San Jose, a Manila orphanage housing more than 300 children.

Tiger electricity and batteries ran the orphanage’s playground, providing energy to equipment, appliances, computers, toys and lighting bulbs.

“Seeing children having moments of joy and benefitting from Tiger Energy Playground Program is unexplainable,” said Petch who said that the Kraft project is now permanent for the orphanage.

Petch considers the Cannes Titanium achievement a landmark saying the country can lead the world in advertising, not just keeping abreast with what everybody is doing.

The creative maverick that kept stressing the phrase “engaging the consumers” has, without a doubt, officially turned around the agency from the doldrums.

Two years ago, Petch singlehandedly towed Ace Saatchi & Saatchi Manila to the zenith of Campaign Brief Asia’s ranking as Philippines’ Agency of the Year from virtually nowhere.

Today, he is as relentless as ever making the agency the most consistent award-winner among the Top 3 agencies over a three-year period.

While other agencies go on a rollercoaster ride from fame to oblivion and one-off wins, Saatchi’s star remains as iridescent largely to Petch’s driving philosophy.

Petch always instills in everyone the Saatchi mantra: “One Team, One Dream.”
“When you’re in Saatchi, you must continuously be passionate to do great work,” he says with a piercing tone.

On motivating people, Petch flatly declares: “Creativity is the best weapon to build the company’s business and one’s career.”

He believes nothing is impossible, the same belief that he took by heart when he assumed the Ace Saatchi creative lead role three years ago.

"And that's been the guiding focus here at our place, in the world-class team we have created and the integrated process in which we work. We're an “ideas company” not an “ad agency”, he said.

The gungho belief has definitely given Ace Saatchi’s clients an unfair advantage over their competitors. It is now a towering agency in terms of building business and winning awards.


In Cannes this year, Saatchi entered two integrated campaigns: “Anna Banana” for PLDT myDSL and “Tiger Energy Playground” for Kraft, BBDO-Guerrero submitted 2: “It’s More Fun in the Philippines for DOT and “Bottle Lights” for Pepsi, and TBWA-SMP fielded a campaign for Boysen.

For Petch, there is something special about doing integrated campaigns.

A fully integrated campaign approach to marketing briefs can bring exceptional results and can actually save money he said.

With the continuing changes that are happening in the way marketers advertise to consumers, “Brands have to engage their consumers rather than just advertise to them,” Petch said.

“Brands must focus on many different streams of media for their campaigns – traditional, online, social, even experiential. The multiple touch-points (above the line, below the line, across the line, any which way around the line) will get them results,” he emphasized.

“Tiger Energy Playground” also made it to Cannes Direct, Outdoor, and Media shortlists.


Ace Saatchi and Saatchi’s “Anna Banana” campaign was a groundbreaking idea from the agency and a business success for its client PLDT MyDSL.

Prior to the campaign, awareness for PLDT myDSL had declined in the past 2 years since they stopped advertising in two of the country’s leading television networks.

The agency needed to tell the gatekeepers at home that PLDT myDSL’s strong Internet connections can lead to strong emotional moments yet still appear cool to their teenage kids.

The agency created a fictitious character, an ultra-supportive mother and a YouTube video featuring a son only a mother could love.

The results were phenomenal. The campaign resulted in almost 2 million combined views on You Tube.

It became the Top 2 most watched videos in the country on its first week. It trended on Twitter for two weeks, and with 667,990 eyeballs for user and celebrity tweets, it registered a 200% increase in applications for the brand.

On top of that, there was 30% increase in visits to its website, same increase in revenue and almost P2.1 million in earned media on above the line channels alone, including an estimated P10 million in free coverage online.

Last April, Ace Saatchi dominated the 2012 Creative Guild (the Philippine 4A’s award-giving body) “Kidlat” Awards with a whopping haul of 27 medals, the most by any ad agency, relegating BBDO-Guerrero to second place, an incredible ascension.

“With a world class team of people, original media ideas executed brilliantly for our biggest clients, we showed why Ace Saatchi & Saatchi is the Number 1 creative agency in the Philippines, and on our way to being the top in Asia-Pacific,” Petch said.

Ace Saatchi also won the Philippines’ only One Show award last March, a bronze Pencil.

Proud of the relationship P&G and Ace Saatchi & Saatchi have built in the country, Petch said: “To win for our Fashion Laundry campaign for Ariel Washing Powder at the 2012 One Show Awards in New York, is great recognition for the agency and the talent of every one in our team that made it happen.”

Integrated campaign, integrated success. Indeed.