Saturday, October 27, 2012


by Roger Pe

The advertising industry continues to change.

While some businesses were handed in shining silver platters before, that is wishful thinking today. You have to be invited and get accredited to get a client.

One observer says the industry is cannibalizing itself. “You’ll cringe under your seat if you find out what’s happening in the shadows,” he says. He is right, even the agency pantry girl is not clueless anymore.

“If we don’t protect the industry, no one will,” says Arnold Liong, Chairman and CEO of Draft FCB, one of the country’s stable ad agencies.

Draft FCB’s stability hinges largely because of the longevity of clients in its roster, and with Liong at the helm, you can be sure that it is going to be as solid as a rock.

Liong is one of the few remnants of ad agency protectors still actively involved in running the show even if many of his underlings have rose to become agency presidents, managing directors, shifted careers, semi-retired or thrown the towel completely.

He is still in his fighting element in the advertising ring, and to this day, hasn’t lost the punch championing equality and fair treatment of ad agencies in today’s scenario.

He’s one who’ll fight tooth-and-nail against copyright infringement, very vocal about patent bullies and is ready to deal with it to the very end.

“How I’d wish we have many Liong’s in the industry,” says a creative director whose personal and agency work have been ripped off, tweaked and used by idea vultures.

In an industry that has seen many so-called ad pitches that resulted in nothing and some unethical elements ended up mere idea fishing, Liong is heaven-sent.

“After a few weeks or months, you can be sure your ideas will reincarnate, filched and recycled by pirates,” Liong says without batting an eyelash.

Liong is wary about an industry that cannot go after idea copycats. “I’ve always told my ad agency people to protect our ideas, creativity and integrity,” he says.

“I wish we have a stronger body that’ll protect the very same industry we’ve built for many long years,“ Liong says with a firm tone.

Under international law, copyright protection is automatic. “We copyright our materials and make our stand known that we take copyright infringements seriously,” he adds.

Liong’s agency is also careful about running after new business pitches. Knowing where he’s coming from, you’ll understand. For Liong, growing the business from existing clients are sometimes much smarter to build than running after clients that have a track record of short-term relationships with agency partners.

“We don’t pitch,” Liong makes sense as he gives his advice: “You don’t decide on which agency to engage by merely looking at a pitch material. You judge an agency by the length of time it has handled a business. That’s the way to deal with it,” he points out.

There’s truth to what he is saying. Some ad agencies win accounts and lose them after a couple of years or even less. Not DraftFCB, for which Liong has managed for almost twelve years now.

The agency has a scintillating record of clients that have stuck with it for 10, 12 and over 15 years, in today’s environment where clients come and go.

What makes Liong’s DraftFCB tick? The agency has its own litmus test – The 6.5 Seconds That Matter”, a process that sticks together creativity and accountability to produce ideas that deliver a return, all within a short time frame.

“We don’t waste time but mind our business well and build clients’ business the way they envisioned it. We cement our relationships on solid grounds,” he tells Business Friday.

Those are his and his agency’s only formula, apart from believing in: “There’s strength in unity.”

Liong hates politics and believes one can tame the competition because “you stand to gain more by not isolating them,” he says.

He cites “costdiving” which undermines ad industry rates. He rues about the practice that is now prevailing and that may soon become a horrifying malaise.

“Why bring it down when you can demand? Why bring the cost so low when it will ultimately compromise standards and backfire on you?”


Not many advertising people know Draft FCB’s story dates back centuries ago. It opened as Lord & Thomas ad agency in Chicago in1873, and later became Foote, Cone, & Belding in 1942.

Just like McCannWorldwide, Draft FCB belongs to the Interpublic Group of companies, one of the largest ad agency networks in the world. In the Philippines, the agency partnered with Basic Advertising in mid-80s.

It became Draft FCB in 2006, and is also crowding the world’s big guns in Cannes, Clio, One Show, Echoes, El Ojo, Effies, and Caples.

Draft FCB New Zealand, Indonesia, Mexico, Ireland, Malaysia, Johannesburg and Kuwait have won Agency of the Year honors as listed by Advertising Age.

Draftfcb Healthcare was "Agency of the Year" by Medical Advertising News in 2006 and 2009 and by Medical Marketing & Media in 2007 and 2011.

“We had our humongous growth from 2000 to 2006 and we are excited and ready for another transition: e-commerce retail, digital publishing, and media syndication,” says Liong.

While some ad agencies pay lip service to being digital-savvy and flaunt it without walking the talk, Liong’s business acumen is showing: the last four mentioned above are fast taking in shape within the walls of DraftFCB, pushing the agency to the next level.

He is a certified tennis buff and plays so well the sport has taken him to the French, Australian and US Open tournaments as a fan of hardcore tennis. He targets Wimbledon next.

“Just like in tennis, good footwork is key to business building,” he says. “It’s a game of cash flow and staying relevant to consumers if you want to get an advantage and make budgets ploughed back to you,” he says.

Liong is not your typical laidback CEO. He is aggressive and describes himself as street-smart, even in the way he dresses up. “I don’t dress up for people, they dress up for me,” he wittingly says.

The bright boy from San Beda who took up an advertising masters degree at University of Illinois always aspired to be an advertising man.

He already had a 5-year plan when he was in high school, calling it forward planning. He took up marketing because it was the fastest way to get into advertising.

He was a media person at JWT before he cut a fruitful career as one of Ace Compton’s (predecessor of Ace-Saatchi & Saatchi) most promising account executives.

Together with the iconic Emily Abrera, head of McCann-Erickson’s creative department then, he was part of the A-Team that re-engineered the agency.

In McCann, Liong and Abrera pitched for Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder. Abrera gamely sang the lyrics of the song during the presentation, and they won back the business.

They would also win the biggest brand pitch during that time: San Migue Pale Pilsen, their victory created an industry-wide tremor pushing the agency to the top of the billing rankings.

The Liong and Abrera tandem was formidable, unsinkable to say the very least. “During the heady days of the 80s to mid 90s, McCann was the template.

Every agency wanted to be like McCann,” says an ad agency president.

Liong moved to McCann Hongkong and then as GM of Prakit FCB Bangkok for three and a half years. He then rejuvenated Video Post as the number one production house in the country when he came back to the Philippines.

He then put up Scene Stealers, a tv production house with director Raul Jorolan in mid 90s, eventually becoming president of CPHG (Commercial Production Houses Group) which saw him protecting the interest of minimum wage earners.

Moving forward at Draft FCB, FCB Digital and Weber Shandwick, the agency PR and Events arm, Liong doesn’t want to be a tycoon with zillions of money.

“I am contented with what I have. Just to be able to enjoy my lifestyle and deliver good business results are enough for me,” he says.

“Our priority at Draft FCB is to sell our client’s products and do creative work that are relevant to consumers,” he reiterates.

“We don’t reinvent the wagon that the wagon eventually don’t run,” Liong says enlighteningly. Very well said.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


by Roger Pe

More than 30 years ago, a non-government organization made an out-of-home campaign against drug addiction, showing a black-and-white photo of a cow smoking pot.

The visual idea was attention getting, the headline, matter-of-factly saying: “Grass is groovy for cows.” People still recall it.

Fast-forward to 2012. The government’s public information materials are noticeably getting better. The Department of Health’s anti-dengue awareness program is one such, outstanding.

It’s because it’s getting a huge help from an ad agency, which is not fond of doing the usual.

Inquirer Business Sunday interviews Chiqui Lara, Young & Rubicam Philippines’ tough gun and she proudly tells the story:

“We stamp our creative mantra in everything we do. When we got the brief for DOH’s anti-dengue campaign, we refused to do the predictable, otherwise we’ll be defeating our purpose” she says.

Dengue fever is fast becoming the deadliest mosquito-borne viral illness in the world and causing thousands of deaths in the Philippines every year.

Lara and her team could’ve taken the path to least resistance but no, they faced a tougher challenge: how to make an ordinary poster extraordinary.

At the end of the day, the team leapt many steps farther from what other agencies have reached before.

“We printed each copy with citronella, a substance that repels dengue-causing mosquitoes. So when people brought them home, they kept their families safe from mosquitoes,” she exclaims.

Brilliant idea. But how was the poster without citronella?

The piece was nothing but engaging. Though text-heavy, it was beautifully produced and art directed, something you’d read as it was appealing as it was charming in Filipino language.

The images of mosquitoes used as design elements by the agency drew people’s curiosity. It was not the usual sloppy fare people saw everyday.

“Young & Rubicam Manila created the world’s first poster that drives away dengue-causing mosquitoes,” Lara punctuates. Naturally, it didn’t escape Spikes Asia judges’ attention, and, bang, it was honored with a gong last September.

Lara credits her creative team under the Executive Creative Director Badong Abesamis, an award-winning guy himself way back from his McCann, Leo Burnett and TBWA-SMP days.

Y&R is the same agency network, which for the last 55 years has been doing Colgate advertising worldwide.

The agency network is one of the world’s top 10 biggest with headquarters in New York under the WPP (Wire and Plastic Products) holdings company to which JWT and Ogilvy also belong. It still operates in the original building where John Orr Young and Raymond Rubicam founded it in 1923.

While some people may find Y&R’s bread-and-butter advertising for Colgate too hardsell and mere adaptations of global campaigns, it has come up with its own locally, countless times similarly adapted by other Asian countries.

The agency is fast creating a formidable creative reputation, like its sister agencies in Asia-Pacific (notably Australia and resurgent Indonesia, two of Y&R’s winningest countries over the last two years).

“Y&R Philippines is pushing towards the creative epicenter, says Lara. “We are showing more of our creative teeth and we would like to win more awards for our clients,” she says.

The agency was a finalist in One Show’s Interactive Awards this year - for the app it created and developed internally for Nokia – another breakthrough idea that will be rousingly welcomed by Filipino taxi-riding public.

The app allows mobile users to double-check the fare displayed on the meter and works in real time. “It ensures passengers that the fare is accurate and they can report unscrupulous taxi drivers and operators to the authorities,” Lara says.

Lara is proud of the fact that in May, the agency had significant triumphs in “Kidlat Awards”, the Oscars of Creative Guild of the Philippines held in Boracay annually.

The agency won 1 Gold, 1 Silver and 4 Bronze awards, a remarkable return considering that even the best Philippine ad agencies can come home all-tanned but award empty.

This year, Y&R was named one of the Philippines’ top 5 creative agencies in the usually crowded Philippine 4A’s “Agency of the Year” Awards competition.

To figure in the Magic 5, each agency’s body of work is tightly scrutinized by the industry’s top ECDs and CCOs. It also was a finalist in the Best in Market Performance category.

Across all other brands that the agency handles, Lara’s agency emerges within the lead pack, perhaps due to the fact that it refuses to do the usual boring stuff.

Maynilad for instance won 2 prestigious awards of excellence at the 10th Philippine Quill Awards last year. The feat: Setting a Guinness World Record (mounting the largest pipe drum ensemble at the SMX Convention Center using water pipes to play a rhythm in unison). The same event that Y&R conceptualized and executed won at The 47th Anvil Awards.

Getting to know one of the country’s most successful CEOs is a revelation. The Ateneo de Manila and New York University alumna is a great fan of design with a philanthtropic heart.

Along with friends, she’s put up the “Silya” Project of Gawad Kalinga’s GKnomics to unleash the potential of less fortunate design students to help them carry their own artistic pursuits.

Lara’s management style? “I like to teach, not theories, but real life market experiences,” she says.

“She is people-focused and sincerely passionate about helping underlings develop a bright career in advertising management,” confides a successful account director who has worked under her for many years.

Lara started out at Unisearch, Unilever’s research arm for a year then joined JWT University (the industry’s first advertising school) afterwhich she was taken in as account executive.

She handled Hotel Intercontinental Hotel, Richardson-Vicks (before it was bought by P&G) Olay among others and was mentored by some of the best people in advertising.

When Ninoy Aquino was shot and the country’s economy turn from bad to worse, Lara went back to advertising from New York. At SSCB Lintas (predecessor of Lowe Worldwide), she handled the entire SM account when clients then didn’t have multiple ad agencies. Her career eventually bloomed becoming a Management Supervisor.

She spent eight and half beautiful years at the then Basic FCB when the agency was at its heyday. Lara handled Colgate-Palmolive Philippines and was responsible for Lea Salonga’s Palmolive Soap and Shampoo’s “Hiyang” and Alice Dixson’s “I Can Feel It” campaigns.

Soon enough, she was the woman of the hour and became head of a large business unit.

In 1995, she became Jimenez DMB&B (D’Arcy, Masius, Benton and Bowles) GM for five years. She returned to Basic Advertising, as Vice Chairman in 2000.

When Young & Rubicam reorganized and acquired most of Colgate-Palmolive’s business from Basic FCB, Lara was installed and mandated by the region as President and CEO of Y&R Philippines for her sterling record.

She is proud that the agency pioneered in digital activation with call-centers located right inside the agency, connecting with dealers directly to manage Ford, Mazda, Century Tuna and Filinvest customers.

More than 30 years of gungho leadership, Lara is still the same. She finds hanging out with creative people irresistible and continuously builds a strong bond with them.

“I love to share meals, hang out, make bread together, chat, wine and R with them,” she says smilingly. That perhaps explains her staying power and eternal youthfulness.

Friday, October 12, 2012


by Roger Pe

He loves to bring out the best in people.

He believes one can pick up something from everyone because everyone has an opinion.

He doesn’t like layers, his doors are always open, and most of all, he’s very collaborative.

What drives this unassuming man who always gives his 100% and wants to be the best that he can be?

In everything that he does, Miguel C. Ramos gives it his best shot, whether making a business pitch or simply trying to learn surfing with his kids during weekends.

From selling gasoline to being an accidental adman, Ramos, is reaping his rewards and is now in a bigger universe, not only as chairman of a creative ad agency but on top of a bigger realm of communications business. He, too, is chair of Aegis Media Group Philippines.

Formally launched to the industry last September 28, 2012, Aegis is a world leading media and digital communications group composed of five specialist global brands – Carat, iProspect, Isobar, Posterscope and Vizeum.

“We’ve integrated our key strengths. We are all one. Our consolidation will drive us to better returns because we don’t compete with each other unlike most media groups around,” he says.

Aegis came about when he and Lito ‘Boy’ Pangilinan, former Managing Director of MediaCom Philippines and General Manager of Campaigns & Grey, sat down for coffee one afternoon, a year ago to discuss possibilities.

“When I first heard the name Aegis, something totally different came to my mind. For those who are young (or mature enough) to remember, the name Aegis was first attributed to a pinoy rock band that started out as AGSoundtrippers.

They made waves in the late 90’s with some memorable hits like “Luha”, “Halik” and my personal favorite “Basang Basa Sa Ulan”, very descriptive song titles. I am sure many people in the industry will all agree,“ he reminisces.

Ramos’ Aegis was the result of his unrelenting search for excellence, looking for partners with the same commonality: intense desire to make their businesses grow.

With the changing advertising landscape, Ramos is never undaunted but describes it even as “never been this dynamic.”

The former 4A’s president who was very active in many industry-building efforts for many years also randomly tells Business Friday in an interview:

“Awards are still relevant as they are concrete measures of our effectivity.” He believes in relationship business, nurturing the partnership because at the end of the day, you get a better deal.
Getting to know Ramos’ newest baby is getting to know what makes Philippine media even more exciting, like the 5 global brands under its umbrella:
Carat is Aegis’ flagship and the world’s largest independent media communications company. It is present in 82 countries and employing 4,700 people.
Carat is redefining the media agency, not just offering media savings but delivering greater business value. Among its clients globally are General Motors Co, Diageo and Disney.
iProspect is a leading, global digital performance agency, focused on delivering digital performance on a global scale.
It helps many of the world's most successful brands maximize their online marketing ROI through paid search, social media strategy, search engine optimization, display media, conversion optimization, mobile marketing and other related services.
It has offices in 35 countries and employs 1,200 people, with major global clients, such as Procter & Gamble, HSBC and Sony.
Isobar is the world’s first global digital network and one of the largest. Its core competence is to connect brands by creating irresistible ideas that combine creative, planning, technology and data.
It was established in 2003 and has offices in 32 countries, with a staff of 2,400 people worldwide. Kellogg’s, Adidas and Nokia are some of its major clients.
Posterscope is the world’s leading Out-of-Home communications agency. Want to know how consumers behave when they are out-of-home? Talk to Posterscope and understand the connection between out-of-home, mobile and digital technologies.
Vizeum was created for the new era of media. It does not start with an ad, nor start with media. It starts from a different touch point – the way people make decisions about brands today.
It is present in 37 countries and employs 1,100 people worldwide with Coca-Cola, Panasonic and Total among its major clients.

At the launching of Aegis, Ramos said: “traditional approaches are now obsolete and one hundred years of marketing ideas are gone.”

He said the old ways and tools don’t work as well as they used to now. He asked people to observe the following:

A 5-year old viewing a shampoo commercial of one of the largest and most sophisticated marketers in the world, a 4-year old niece navigating an Ipad intuitively and with greater skills than her 40-year old uncle.

A teenager connected simultaneously to three screens, TV, iPhone, Laptop on YM, while doing her homework”, and “a grandmother connecting to friends and relatives all over the world, creating and sharing content with ease.

“Observe all these, and you’ll know the world has changed,” he says.


Ramos’ Aegis puts media demographics and aperture expertly under the microscope. Aware that “brands and mass audiences now stand on equal footing,” marketers should rethink the way they should talk to consumers, he says.

He notes that crowd-power, the largest companies, even governments now know what’s happening to new media.

He cites being exposed 24/7 to multi-channels and conversations that spread at lightning speed, for example. “Marketers should all the more rethink the way they should talk to their targets,” he reiterates.


Ramos stresses the need for marketers to expand from traditional media.

“Where advertising is now a small part of a much wider and wilder media ecosystem, where the 30-second TV commercial may not always be the silver bullet as it has always been in the past, Aegis, he says, creates tremendous opportunities to engage and converse with audiences.”


To connect and engage the consumers unceasingly, Ramos offers the Aegis Solution. He recommends the following:

1. Start with zero based planning principles with no defined media executions to start from.

2. Develop creative ideas that seamlessly flow through varied media channels online and offline.

3. Leverage the strategic tools and consumer insights on hand that are most apt for multiple brands and audiences.

4. Provide accountability for marketing investments and the results delivered by these resources.

“More than ever before, clients now want more accountability. The more we are accountable, the more we become better,” Ramos says.

Media used to be just numbers but Ramos says: “Media is now about putting creativity is many consumer touch points.”

He says Aegis Media was built for this perfect storm of globalization, convergence and digitization of the country’s online and offline lives.

Ramos says the agency is fully armed, having put in place the best possible tools for strategic media planning, buying and mounted what is currently the Philippines’ most comprehensive consumer insight research study and planning tool, CSS (Consumer Connection System).

The other key members of the Aegis Media Philippines team:

Carat Philippines – Mr. Boy Pangilinan CEO and Ms. Gladys Basinillo General Manager/COO

Mediaforce Vizeum – Mr. Tom Banguis Jr. – Chairman/CEO and Ms. Tonton Santiago - General Manager

iProspect – Ms. Shayne Garcia - Business Director

Isobar – Mr. Benson Lim - Digital Manager

Posterscope – Mr. Bing Kimpo - Business Director