Thursday, June 27, 2013


by Roger Pe

As of the latest count, the world’s population is a little over 7 billion, more than 6 billion of which are mobile phone users.

The top three users are China, India and the US. If you’re curious, the Philippines ranks number 10 (106,987,098), bigger than its human population, based on Wikipedia’s list.

Americans replace their phones every 22 months, junking some 150 million old phones in 2010 alone.

Do you ever wonder what happens to old phones when they die? In China and India, for example, people pile e-waste and burn it so they can extract gold, silver and copper threads inside, which they sell to recycling merchants.

In the Philippines, millions of old, analog phones don’t end up as toxic waste but are reborn to create a new brand of textbook to make Filipino children learn to read fast.

Credit an ad agency that collaborated with authors and publishers to refine school lessons into 160-character messages and a telecom company that programmed them into inboxes of thousands of inactive surplus sim cards.

What turned out gave them amazing results: old analog phones became a new type of e-reader and old text sim cards became a new brand of textbook called “TXTBKS”.

A simple idea that catapulted the Philippines to win its first ever Grand Prix Lion, the highest creative award in the world’s biggest and most prestigious international advertising festival, Cannes.

Business Friday interviews the ‘Chairmom’ who’s given the Philippines’ its biggest advertising award so far, Merlee Jayme, Chair and Chief Creative Officer of DM9 JaymeSyfu, now the country’s poster ad agency. She also gives us interesting snippets from her rainbow-colored career.

BF: How did you start in advertising?

MJ: I had my practicum at JWT - then in Magsaysay building along Roxas Blvd. Jun Alcantara, who was heading the internship program asked each one of us one question: “Which department do you want to join: Accounts, Creative or Media?” Clueless just like the rest, I crossed out ‘Accounts’ thinking it would entail a lot of math.

I also crossed out ‘Media’ thinking that would get me exposed to showbiz and I was just too shy for that! So I finally chose ‘Creative’. I knew it would be perfect because I draw and I write.

Here, I got to experience writing and even presenting to real clients. But only when Mr. Jayjay Calero chose my team for the best ad campaign for Kodak did it dawn on me that this was my future career.

BF: Tell us about your early days in advertising, particularly Ace-Saatchi.

MJ: The day I was interviewed to be Mario Monteagudo’s partner was my most memorable. When I got in Ace Saatchi & Saatchi’s reception area in the old Rufino building, I noticed everyone was in high spirits.

In fact, there was a celebration. Then I gathered, there were creative teams who just came back from Bangkok and brought home the grand prize from their regional competition.

Mario, my future partner, was one of them. Seeing me sitting there, they called me and gave me a copy test: Their Bangkok competition brief!

After a short interview with Cid Reyes, which was so scary, I remembered Jimmy Santiago, the ECD then, telling me that I could bring the brief home to work on it.
Then something came over me. If I wanted this so badly, I should at least try to impress them. I demanded for an empty room, a pencil and some papers. I told them I’ll work on it that same day and will present before 5pm. I got the job.

That was 1989. It was also an Advertising Congress Year. I watched my creative colleagues endlessly go up the stage. It was the most inspiring feeling. I vowed to myself to learn, to work doubly hard and to catch up with these guys.

Under Mario’s guidance and patience, I won my first gold in the following Advertising Congress for Cocobank “Origami” TVC. That was the first time I felt I was truly “Saatchified”.

BF: To whom do you attribute your success, who influenced you so much?

MJ: Malcolm Gladwell would always refer our ‘training’ for excellence to “10,000 hours”. My “10,000 hours” for copywriting came from my 3 years with Mario Monteagudo. He was equally ruthless and fair.

He continuously pushed me to write the perfect headline, body copy and punch line everyday. It was absolutely impossible to be mediocre around him.

When a line isn’t funny enough or when a story isn’t memorable enough, you’re dead. So, I would always make sure to come up with something that will blow him away. And, if he saw an idea to be a very good one, he never hesitated in giving me the credit for it.

My “10,000 hours” for art direction was with Melvin Mangada. He was probably the country’s best Art Director. He had such a sharp eye that nothing-absolutely nothing escapes it.

Headlines too big, fonts are too playful, photos need more re-touching, and layout should be simpler. He had a flair for ideas perfectly executed.

My “10,000 hours” for leadership was with David Droga. I’ve never met a more charismatic guy. He was the type of leader who was so humble that he wanted all his teams to shine more than himself. Of course, that was a bit impossible in his case. He taught me how to bring out the best in everyone.

BF: How do you begin doing an ad, any mental ritual?

MJ: The brief is very important. I tell my creatives this every single time. First, when a brief is very complicated - with the message buried or has so many layers, my mind literally shuts down. So, it’s only natural that I give my inputs or will even re-write it if need be. It has to inspire us creatives.

First I ask, what problem are we here to solve? Which is the best way to solve it?
What is the best way to involve consumers?

Take note “involve” and not simply reach or create awareness. With digital, ambient and events, we try to stop thinking of conventional ways to ‘involve’ the target market. Then I open a bottle of red.

BF: Who is Merlee Jayme as a private person?

MJ: I’m a mom to four girls (with ages: 21,18,12,10) they’re like my friends. Every year I bring one daughter out of the country with me to spend some “just-us” time.

I’m a wife to Timmy, an ad agency COO. Our bonding time is usually an early morning run. We’ve joined 21k runs and love running in different parts of the world. On Friday nights though, no run can stop us from having a beer or two in a cozy bar somewhere.

Lastly, I’m a pretty religious person. Deep in my heart, I truly believe that He can give your talent today and He can take it away anytime, too. So I don’t take things for granted. I thank Him greatly for every award we win and for every pitch we lose.

I also make sure I come home in time to pray with my daughters before bedtime.

BF: What is your style of management?

MJ: They call me the “Chairmom” of DM9. Honestly, because that’s how my management style is, a little bit of a disciplinarian, hands on, and very nurturing. I am also very protective. Nothing angers me more than my DM9ers being treated badly or unfairly.

I also believe in leading by example. I take accountability to heart. So I’m never afraid of getting my hands dirty. I write, I board, I brainstorm, and I attend shoots. I come in early and leave late if I have to.

But being a creative myself, I have to say I have my usual “crazy” and “just want to have fun” moments. I come up with the weirdest ideas for agency team building, wear outrageous costumes and party hard.

BF: Now that you have achieved a Cannes Grand Prix, where do you go from here?
MJ: How I wish I could ‘rest’ a bit. The Cannes Grand Prix is simply a proof that we are on the right track in helping create change for the country and the world.
So, we have to continue on. We still have a big task ahead.

BF: Is there a formula in winning Cannes?

MJ: There are tips to make sure your entry is going to be understood by different nationalities. But I don’t think there are formulas, only great ideas. Every year, Cannes surprises us.

BF: What drives you as person and as Chair of DM9?

MJ: Maybe seeing my name on the door everyday makes me feel 100% responsible for so many people and the work.

As of the latest count, DM9’s has extracted the most precious metals from some of the world’s major award shows. No other ad agency at same age has achieved in its entire 8-year history.

Campaign Brief Philippines Asia Agency of the Year
2010 Ranked no. 9 in the world, and only Asian agency making the list

HALL OF FAME , Kidkat/Creative Guild
New York Festivals Creative Achievement Award
Gabriela "Nat Geo" - Finalist, Radio


Lasik Surgery "Before & After" - First cut, Poster
Music 1 "Obit Campaign" - First cut, Poster
Gabriela Philippines "Duct Tape campaign" - First cut, Ambient


Makati Fire Station "Match" - Finalist, Outdoor
Coppertone "Kobe" - Finalist, Outdoor
Coffee Dream "Parallel Universe" - Finalist, Radio
Coppertone "Speed" - Finalist Radio

THE WORK (inbook):

ProLife Philippines "Perspectives Campaign"
Extraderm Age-Defy "Clock"
Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion "Hidden Campaign"
Gabriela Spousal Abuse "Rope Campaign"
Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion "Emerge Campaign"
Makati Fire Station "Match"

Silver, Outdoor for Mini Cooper

Gold, Media for Gabriela “Bruise”

Bronze, Outdoor Gabriela “Bruise”

Bronze, Outdoor for Pharex
Gabriela "Bury the Past" - Silver, Direct
Gabriela "Bury the Past" - Finalist, Digital
Gabriela "Manila Scandal Part 2" - Finalist, Digital

DOT & Smart Communications Domestic Tourism Campaign "Volcano" - Finalist, Outdoor
ABS-CBN Foundation Bantay Kalikasan "Mouse Deer" - Finalist, Press
ABS-CBN Foundation Bantay Kalikasan "Dugong" - Finalist, Press

Direct Single Anti-Firecracker Campaign SFX
Outdoor Campaign Dept. of Tourism Volcano
Posters Campaign Vespa Scooters New York, Paris, Manila, Bangkok
Public Service Print Campaign Save Palawan Movement Pangolin, Mousedeer, Dugong
Public Service TVC Single Campaign Against Scandal Videos Hits

Pharex "Cinema" - FINALIST, Best Design, Poster Category
Pharex "Opera" - FINALIST, Best Design, Poster Category
Pharex "Lecture" - FINALIST, Best Design, Poster Category

Philippine Star "Truth" - Best in Creative Execution, OOH, Winner

Gabriela "Hits" - Silver, Cinema, Public Service
Gabriela "Hits" - Finalist, Cinema, Diverse Insight

Gabriela "Bury the Past" - GOLD, Best Use of Social Media

Gabriela "Bury the Past" - GOLD, Public Interest Interactive
Gabriela "Bury the Past" - SILVER, Media Innovation

Agency of the Year 2012


ADFEST 2013:

Best use of social media

‘Bury the Past’ GOLD,

Event & field marketing

Best use of social media

‘Bury the Past’ Gold
Direct ambient

Best use of social media

‘Bury the Past’Gabriela Silver

Grand Prix, Cannes Lion Festivals , 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013


by Roger Pe (First of 2 parts)

What if you could use millions of old, analog phones to create a new brand of textbook?

This was the germ of an idea that catapulted the Philippines to win its first ever Cannes Grand Prix Lion in the ongoing Cannes international festival of advertising creativity.

And so, the smartest idea wins it.

To put it simply, the purest idea reminds us all once again that it can conquer the world and make the world believe.

No Hollywood special effects in the mold of “Iron Man”, no state-of-the-art equipment to create mind blowing animation, no first world technology and talents to do the trick. Just an idea so relevant it made a lot of impact.

By this time, the whole advertising world is still heady over DM9 JaymeSyfu’s conquest of Cannes Grand Prix Mobile Lion introduced last year.

For those who are used to daily fare of slick and beautifully produced ads, DM9's entry will not even impress the jaded Cannes habitué.

Why, it looks like a powerpoint market case study. But there lies the sting. Skim through the surface and beyond the ordinary is a huge idea laced with the greatest of intentions: Make many Filipino school children learn to read fast.

The natural veneer of DM9’s “TXTBKS” made it shine the brightest in a category that drew over 100 technology-driven entries from first world countries, clearly one fine example of the agency's mantra: Small but credible. And if we may add: Relevant.

Advertising global bible Ad Age describes it as: “A clever way of using old-school technology. Rather than replace old analog cellphones, the agency dreamt of a way to make them beneficial to citizens.”

How DM9 did it.

It looked no further but right into the country’s state of education, where unlike in developed countries, tablets and e-readers have become the solution to large, voluminous heavy textbooks.

“We were working on a Smart project involving children and learning. We realized one of the ideas we'd brainstormed could be used to solve a bigger problem. That idea would become “TXTBKS,” says Merlee Jayme, Chair and Chief Creative Officer of DM9 JaymeSyfu ad agency.

Jayme and her team were aware of the need: how to make technology relevant to schools and make it easily accessible.

“Mobile is where digital is headed—in fact, many would say mobile is where it's been the past few years already. And it's where the most exciting advances are being made. Naturally, perhaps some were expecting technical pyrotechnics,” Jayme says.

But you see nothing of that sort in DM9’s case however. “What we simply set out to create was a solution to a problem,” she adds.

In DM9’s study, it found out that even the cheapest tablet model is worth more than what their families make in a month. Most families own one or two old analog mobile phones, used mainly for texting.

It also noted that kids as young as seven must bring up to 22 books every day, leaving them physically exhausted and unfocused even before their first class—and in many documented cases, afflicted with scoliosis.

The solution: "Make text light and easy".

Over six months, the agency collaborated with textbook authors and publishers to refine official school texts into 160-character messages.

They were then programmed into the inboxes of thousands of inactive surplus sim cards, which were then repackaged into new Smart TXTBKS.

What turned out gave them amazing results: the oldest analog phones became a new type of e-reader and old text sim cards became a new brand of textbook.


A quarter after it was launched in partner schools that needed it most, the simple, low-tech solution made a sustainable impact.

School bags became 50% lighter, classroom attendance increased to 95% while average test performance went 90% during implementation.

Petitions and pledges from schools, families, and education sector members grew. TXTBKS literally went places, with more subjects and grade levels, rolling out across the Philippines.

Rei Inamoto, VP-chief creative officer of AKQA, an ad agency specializing in digital services and jury chair.

On Ad Age, jury members said that the simplicity of DM9’s work was what made it win. “I think it’s an unexpected Grand Prix winner. It’s not the most technically advanced entry, and in fact, it’s a little bit backward.”

Xavier Laoureux, head of the Digital Arts Network at TBWA, said what was “interesting about it - is that it’s the best way to show you can have a mobile idea without pushing the technology side of it. It was not using technology as the end.”

A total of 59 Mobile Lions were awarded, nine of them were Gold, not including the Grand Prix winner.

All nine Gold Lions were good enough to have won the Grand Prix, Mr. Inamoto said, but in the end, the balance tilted in favor of DM9’s “TXTBKS” entry because, at the end of the day, Mr. Inamoto said his suggested definition of Mobile Advertising was, “Is it portable? Is it connected? And is it pervasive?”

Agency: DM9JaymeSyfu
Chair and CCO: Merlee Jayme
ECD: Eugene Demata
ACD/Copywriter: Aste Gutierrez
ACD Digital: Buboy Paguio
AD: Buboy Rayong
Account Supervisor: Alex Syfu
Account Manager: Ina Vargas
Producer: Carlo Perlas, Tower of Doom
Editor: Melo Samson, Tower of Doom

DM9 JaymeSyfu is part of DDB Group Philippines, whose Group Chairman and CEO is Gil G. Chua. It was Campaign Asia-Pacific Agency of the Year and is named after one of the most creative agencies in the world, DDB DM9 Brazil.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


by Roger Pe

This is the 8th year that the Philippine Daily Inquirer serves as the official representative of Cannes, the world’s biggest and most prestigious advertising festival of creativity, in the Philippines.

As official representative, it drums up excitement for the global event, suggests jury members from the home country if applicable, picks the Young Lions competitors and organizes winners’ events in close coordination with the Creative Guild, the award-giving body of the Philippine 4A’s and PANA, Philippine Association of National Advertisers.

By encouraging ad agencies to test their mettle against the best in the world, the newspaper has helped the Philippines produce 1 Gold, 5 Silver, and a number of Bronze Lions in the Olympics of advertising.

The country has likewise bagged a Young Marketer Gold Lion in 2011, a Young Marketer Silver Lion and Young Creative Silver Lion in 2010. Will this be a lucky year for the Philippines? We will know after this week.

Filipinos have judged in Cannes like David Guerrero (BBDO-Guerrero), Emily Abrera (McCann), Melvin Mangada (TBWA-SMP), David Ferrer (JWT), Leigh Reyes (Lowe) and Merlee Jayme (DM9).

This year, Cannes received a total of 35,765 entries from 92 countries, an all-time high. Creatives from around the world spent about 18.5 million euros, (almost 1 billion staggering pesos) to submit their work just to win what people say “the most epic creative award in the world.”

How much does one entry cost?

A single tv commercial entry is 700 euros (about P40,000), print ad 435 euros (P25,000), radio ad 460 euros (P26,000) and the most expensive of all, the Titanium and Integrated Lion, 1,275 euros (P73,000).

If you are attending as a delegate, registration fees begin at 1,250 euros. This is exclusive of hotel, airfare and food expenses.

During the 7-day festival, delegates can view more than 34,000 pieces of advertising, attend an extensive and unique program of over 50 seminars, workshops and forums delivered by the most innovative thinkers in the global communications industry, honor the winning work at four awards ceremonies as well as network and celebrate creativity.

Inspite of many harsh criticisms and bricks thrown at its door, Cannes continues to be a magnet to anyone who has something to do with advertising.

But Ad Age columnist Jonathan Mildenhall, says it all: “To truly be the best at global marketing, you have to seek out the greatest examples from around the world.

We are as interested in learning from the best work in Korea and Chile as we are from the best work from the U.S. and the U.K. Cannes provides an unrivaled global perspective.

Cannes attracts world-leaders, tech-titans and ad gurus. Oscar-winning actors all attend Cannes, each provides inspiration and insight that serves to make us better creatives, better marketers and, in many cases, better human beings.

Cannes attracts the most diverse spread of creatively driven professionals in the world. Not just for today's world but for tomorrow's world.”

Cannes of a lifetime

It has been often said that an advertising professional’s career is incomplete if he or she has not experienced Cannes.

“A trip to Cannes is worth it, a learning that cannot be measured by money, an experience that can bring multiple positive things if you are mentoring new generation of talents,” says Pauline Feliciano-Warneck, a Cannes Gold Lion winning Pinay copywriter who worked with Leo Burnett-Arc Worldwide Kuala Lumpur.

“It’s benchmarking with the best in the industry and knowing what standards we should be comparing ourselves with,” says a client who is now a regular Cannes delegate.

Celebrating its 60th year this weekend with a big bang, Cannes promises to make it the biggest and most memorable. But as a hugely successful marketing success, questions still continue to pour if it has improved through the years.

Every year, Cannes tries to stay even more relevant, undergoing creative botox to make it even more desirable.

Over the last five years, organizers have introduced new categories and made the rules even tougher for serial scammers, recurring issues that have tainted its image over and over again.

It has introduced Creative-Effectiveness, Integrated, Branded Content and Entertainment, and this year, the Innovation Lions, designed to reward technologies and new platforms, apps, tools, mobile programs, hardware, products, and radical software, which allow brands and creatives to communicate with their customers in a new way.

Inspite of the global economic crisis and controversies that momentarily dimmed its luster in 2008 and 2009, Cannes still allures and continues to be attractive, enticing the big guns in advertising and marketing people worldwide.

First Filipino Cannes Gold Lion

In 2008, JWT Manila’s “Traffic Therapy,” produced for client Lotus Spa, claimed the Philippines first Cannes Gold Lion. The ad that was destined to make history was “Kidlat” Ad of the Year the previous year. It also brought home a gold from Cannes of Asia, AsiaAdFest in 2008.

BBDO Guerrero won a Silver Lion in 2005 for “Bunso” (Consuelo Foundation). The largely Ditsi Carolino documentary ad, stark and dramatic in black and white, created so much impact it paved the way for the creation of a law separating adolescent offenders from adult prison.

Ace Saatchi & Saatchi won an Outdoor Silver Lion in 2010 for North Face’ “Nature Products,” using sticks, leaves and rocks to imprint branding awareness.

DDB DM9 also won an Outdoor Silver Lion for Mini Cooper “Rollercoaster” and last year, BBDO Guerrero|Proximity Philippines also won a Silver Lion in Direct category, while its “Bottle Light” campaign for Pepsi won a Bronze in Promo and Media categories.

TBWA-Santiago, Mangada and Puno won an Outdoor Silver Lion in 2011 for Boysen’s “Creatures”, a sequel to the “Flowers” campaign released a year earlier by the agency which won 3 Cannes Bronze Lions.

The campaign has garnered a metal haul of 17 golds, 28 silvers and seven bronzes from various local and international awards shows like the Araw, Kidlat, Spikes Asia, New York Festivals and One Show.

Back in 2010, BBDO won a Bronze Lion for FedEx “Mud” while JWT Manila captured two Radio Bronze Lions for Kythe Foundation.

Older than Clio

Inspired by the International Film Festival, which had been staged in Cannes since the late 1940s, a group of advertising professionals felt that ad makers from around the world should receive similar recognition.

The first Festival took place in Venice in September 1954, five years ahead of Clio, with 187 film entries from 14 countries competing.

The Lion of Piazza San Marcos in Venice was the inspiration for the Lion trophy. The second Festival was held in Monte Carlo and then in Cannes in 1956. After that, the Festival took place alternately between Venice and Cannes.

The game changers

As Cannes Lions celebrates the very best in creative communications from around the world, it is set to launch “The Game Changers”, an exhibition and accompanying book that extol six decades of campaigns that have changed the landscape of the advertising industry forever.

From Volkswagen’s ‘Think Small’ to the Nike Fuelband via Levi’s ‘Launderette’, it looks at the ‘firsts’ from the creative companies that have been transforming brands for 60 years.

The book, Game Changers: The Evolution of Advertising, published by Taschen for Cannes Lions and edited by Peter Russell and Senta Slingerland, features more than 150 of the most outstanding campaigns produced since the 1950s, and discusses the context in which they were launched.