Saturday, September 20, 2014


Books formed a huge part of Nadia Camit-Upton’s childhood. She recalls being teased as “Pong Pagong” as she always carried tons of books from her elementary school library. She was a fan of British classical literature.

At age seven, when most kids in her neighborhood played “Tumbang Preso”, she read Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy.

Her love for words prompted her to start writing at age six. She remembers being called in at the principal’s office, accused of ‘plagiarism’, but alas, the principal just couldn’t believe the vocabulary that flowed from a kid like her. The verses the principal thought she copied from “Poems of Great Britain” were actually hers.

Fast forward, she would write a book of poems titled “Fragments of the Moon”, about finding a way to cope with the loss of her father. But nowadays, who would touch a poetry book? But if you tell them that it’s on DVD or movie format, they might give it a chance. Thus, Upton’s video poetry book was born.

Her friends from the advertising industry helped her put this dream project together 10 years ago. It was released on a limited print edition, with 500 copies. Upton was fortunate to have readings from Robert Alexander (of the Bell Shakespeare Theatre of Sydney) who was thoroughly impressed and agreed to be a part of it.

“Fragments of the Moon”, the Philippines’ first ever video-poetry book was a confirmation that Upton finally made it as a writer. She couldn’t believe when she saw the book displayed on the shelves of two fine Manila bookstores (Powerbooks and A Different Bookstore). It paved the way for her to meet other video poetry enthusiasts in the Philippines and abroad. She was even invited to a poetry arts festival in Kent, England.

Upton grew up in a tiny apartment in the heart of Pasay City -- the middle child of 6 siblings. Even as a kid, she already saw things in a different light. “I told my classmates in school that we were quite well off as our house was along a private road. The truth of the matter was, it was quite narrow and can fit only two tricycles.”

Looking back now, she didn’t have a clue how all six kids were able to fit in a tiny apartment in Pasay. At that time, she felt very proud of the fact that their house had stairs and a gate. “I used to invite my friends around and give them a “tour” of our tiny house pretending it was a museum,” she narrates.

At a very young age, Upton had always a sunny disposition. “Despite the fact that my mum was called the “boiled egg chef”, I was still proud of her cooking. One time, she made me take “Bulalo” for my packed lunch in school. When I opened the container it was in, it was rock-solid with “sebo”. I thought, maybe, if I pretend that the sun was an oven, I can melt it and it would still be edible. I secretly put my lunch under the blazing heat in the playground. Unfortunately, a cat feasted on it. I was secretly pleased that it wasn’t wasted.”

As a child, Upton would spend hours and hours browsing in the children’s section of a famous chain of bookstores. “I particularly liked pop up books and was obsessed to be able to make them. I could not afford them at that time so I made my own out of rubber band and cereal boxes. I would make up stories and characters and amuse myself in my own little world. I suppose I’ve always had the knack for words and wanted to create things. Maybe I didn’t know yet but at that time, I wanted to do something creative, where my mind can just be set free.”

When her poem was first published on a national magazine, Upton was so thrilled she kept it under her bed for a month and read it again and again in disbelief. More pieces came next, more newspapers published them and she got paid for them.

She always was the editor of the school paper, and won inter-school writing competitions. As AB Communication Arts student at UST, Upton’s writing flourished even more. She pioneered a group called Labyrinth, inspired by the movie Dead Poets Society. “We would meet every Friday afternoon just to savour the verses of Keats, Byron and Tennyson.” She also tried other genres and won three major awards in USTetika, UST’s prestigious writing competition.

Her first job after college was a copywriter trainee at McCann Erickson Philippines. She thought she was incredibly lucky surrounded by talented and creative people. She then moved to DDB Philippines where she spent most of her advertising career. At Black Pencil Manila, sister company of Leo Burnett, she rose as Associate Creative Director.

“I immensely enjoyed my job in advertising. I felt like I was being paid to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. Someone even said that it’s the only job in the world where you can live like an artist and be paid like a banker. I remember the days when I used to write copy for a big telecom account. It was incredibly demanding that we actually had bunk beds in the office ready for the graveyard hours. Once you’ve clocked in the morning, you’ll never know when you are clocking out. There was a time when I wore the same shirt for three days and turned my socks inside out three times. I smelled of stale coffee and looked like a zombie,” she says.

How did she meet her British Romeo?

Upton’s love story started one fateful night when she purchased her first ever laptop computer, a second-hand Macbook. The moment she switched it on, she did not have a clue on how to use it. She went to the Techno Geek forum online and found a chat forum. Someone called “Shade2_UK” explained to her everything so patiently.

Their conversation shifted from Macs to Macbeth and she would later on found out that “Shade2_UK” was a graffiti artist named Graham Upton. They chatted non-stop for 13 hours, only stopping for tea breaks (he was British after all). “He started calling me and paying hundreds of pounds just to speak to me on my mobile for hours and hours. We then progressed to skype, and he actually expressed an interest to visit me,” Upton says.

On his first trip to the Philippines, Graham was confronted by a panel interview as soon as he stepped into her future wife’s house. “My Mum was the High Court Judge and my sister, one of the barristers,” Upton relates.

When they went to a local cemetery, Graham went on his knees and scraped some mud off her dad’s grave. He said: “There you are, Sir, nice and lovely, like your daughter.” Upton couldn’t believe her eyes seeing the handsome, dignified British man messed up his clean clothes and shoes, just to tidy up her dad’s resting place.

After that, Upton knew she found “the one”. “It really didn’t matter that he was a thousand times whiter than her. Or that he spelt color with a “u”. “I didn’t at all see a Caucasian man. I saw a man that loved me and embraced my family for who we are.”

For Upton, she has found her soul mate, a meeting of the minds. He was a graphic designer in the UK, and she was a copywriter. He appreciated poetry and practically grew up in a nation of great writers — Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, her all-time heroes. He flew to the Philippines several times, and on his fifth visit, at the departure lounge of NAIA, he asked the ultimate question. She said “yes”. That “Yes” was the reason why she moved halfway across the world, an affirmation of her desire to be happy with a man who loved her for being what she was.

Not all was rosy for the couple though. Fresh from their honeymoon and ready to start a future together, Upton’s husband was greeted by a letter from his then boss saying his design company has gone into administration and had to let him go.
“We had no choice but to face the sad news. I had to learn to practice this British mantra from day one: “Keep calm and carry on.”

The couple had to share a house with Graham’s friend. Days rolled on, and they had to survive on almost nothing. “We couldn’t even keep the heating on as it was expensive to use. It didn’t help that it was the middle of winter. It was dark and dreary and it rained almost every day. There was a time when I became really ill with a nasty cough. Graham crept in the middle of the night to unlock his friend’s cupboard and steal a bit of cough medicine for me. That was the lowest point of our lives I think,” she says.

Graham quickly signed up with a job agency the next morning. He told Upton: “I promise you, I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we always have food on the table and a roof under our head.”

Upton remembers surviving on a loaf of bread and cup of tea for weeks and weeks. Her friends in Manila’s advertising industry would e-mail her pictures of glamorous Ad Congresses, lavish parties and beach conventions and she thought: “I could be eating a sumptuous buffet right now, but instead, I’m having to do with a piece of toast.”
“I had to conceal the situation to my family and friends back home. I told them I did a lot of jogging and swimming at the local gym and find English tea really slimming,” she confides.
Upton eventually landed a job as a receptionist for a primary school in a rough area. “I’ve never seen anything like it: Children as young as six would curse their parents at the school gates. At one instance, I had to phone for an ambulance as the head teacher had a heart attack while having a screaming match with a rude student,” she continues.

She moved a call centre for a parcel company and then became a filing clerk. “All I did for eight hours was file papers for pensioners in a huge vault. I discovered the magic of audio books, and was just listening to them all day while filing. I just broke down in tears one day when I serendipitously filed a document for a retired writer one day. It was a receipt from a shop that sold antique books. It had a verse from Hamlet written on the top of its stationery. It said: “To thine own self, be true.”

Upton gave up her odd job the following day and started to do work for local charity sectors. She knew that she couldn’t forever conceal the fact that she still wanted to make use of her talent. She volunteered as a Marketing Consultant, giving advice to small charities on how to improve their advertising campaigns. This boosted her CV, and made her more familiar with the British way of work life.

After a year of training and working hard work, she landed a job at the local court, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “It still made use of my communication skills, on a legal setting. I became a Case Progression Officer for the Ministry of Justice, dealing with High Court judges, barristers, solicitors and the general public. Finally, my brain was working again!,” she says.

Graham, on the other hand, got a job as a Graphic Designer for a rich local council. After years of hard work and determination, the determined couple was able to get a mortgage and buy their first home. According to Upton, the first thing they did when they moved in was to buy a cough syrup.

Upton gave birth after five years of living in the UK – from a pregnancy classified as high risk. Her baby Sophia, now two years old, has grown to be a pretty little girl, a beautiful mix of Filipino and British lineage. Some people say she looks like Miss World, Filipina Megan Young.

Upton is currently in the process of putting together an online support group for Filipino mums living abroad who suffer from post-natal depression. She wants to tell them that they are not alone. “I have recently started writing a book based on my experience on this. The book would have chapters introducing my “virtual babysitters”.

Things she loves about Filipinos abroad?

“It never ceases to amaze my husband every time I can tell whether someone is a Filipino or not. I tell him: maybe it’s that wacky glint in their eyes and that aura of friendliness that makes them unique. Filipinos in the UK have always been regarded as hardworking. They are in hospitals everywhere—as doctors, nurses and midwives. I can’t help but feel proud every time I am admitted to the hospital and see Pinoy nurses who are highly respected by their colleagues.”

Philippine things she misses in the UK:

“I miss the sun in the Philippines. Anyone who lives in the UK will tell you that. I found it funny before that my husband had to say, “It’s a beautiful and sunny day a thousand times when he visited Manila.” Now I know why. The sun makes a rare appearance in this part of the world. I guess that is the reason why most Europeans suffer from depression. Imagine dealing with grey clouds, rainy weather, freezing temperatures for nine months in a year. That in itself can just make you cry.”
For anyone who’s attempting to migrate to Britain, Upton says: “Be prepared to bring a sturdy umbrella, boots and raincoat as they will be your permanent outfit. Get ready to remind yourself to put “u” in colour, “s’ in organization, and “y” in tyres. Remember, it’s “lift” and not “elevator” and it’s a motorway, not a highway.

Is life easier out there? Upton says it depends how one makes it. She has faith in the Filipino - because he is resilient, resourceful, very much talented and hardworking. He can shine no matter where he is. “If he keeps that Macbeth thought close to his heart: “To thine own self be true”, he’ll definitely shine,” she concludes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


by Roger Pe

The clock is ticking away. You need to finish a presentation deadline. Suddenly, your stomach is grumbling.

When this happens, what do you do? Crawl in a huge mall, fall in line in long queues, wait till it’s almost one o’ clock to be served at your favorite resto?
Everyday, we see millions of people in the same scenario: People who work in the city, whose daily grind are frenetic; employees whose schedules are too tight to squeeze in a hurried lunch out of the office; dads and moms whose quality time with their families are getting fewer and fewer.
The same happens with people who work during ungodly hours, people who do not own their time anymore even when they sign out at the bundy clock. Or shop, for instance, when they need to.
Fret not. All over the world, the number of shoppers shying away from big, dizzying supermarkets is increasing. More so if they are jampacked with people and you have to endure long lines and elbow yourself in.

Thank God for a new industry that is providing online shopping and food delivery for busybodies.
In Europe, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, among others, are already offering web groceries and are benefiting from the rise of online shoppers. Industry observers say that the figure is expected to rise by around 30 per cent year after year.

The shift in shopping habits and lifestyle, according to a recent study, will almost double over the next five years to £18.6billion. The figures come from the Institute for Grocery Distribution (IGD), whose chief executive, Joanne Denney-Finch, said: “The "hot three" areas of online, convenience and food discounters are the ones to watch.”

In the Philippines, foodpanda, the most successful online platform worldwide for food delivery is providing a risk-free solution to help food brands benefit from higher revenues and better customer retention. It recently tied up with the country’s number one roasted chicken brand – Chooks-To-Go.
foodpanda, the fastest growing online food-ordering platform in the world is presently targeting 3.3 billion people in 40+ countries assuring around 20% incremental revenues for partner brands via its online website,, or through its mobile app in the easiest and most convenient way.

The online delivery and revenue-generating system is backed up by Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based team responsible for the hugely successful online shopping channels: Zalora and Lazada.
Noting that more and more Filipinos are spending less time cooking, foodpanda offers a delicious solution, at the same time maximizing brand rejuvenation for marketers.

It is also brought by the fact that the Philippines is the fastest growing smartphone market in Southeast Asia. Filipinos spend an average of 171 minutes per day on their smartphones, a 30% penetration rate. Almost 30 million Filipinos are also Facebook users, the highest percentage reach in the world.

foodpanda is No. 1 on Google search, with 1,039,000 likes on FB, offering discounts, affiliates and vouchers, priority listing on homepage, resto blogger events, TV and radio appearances, targeted events and festivals and food magazine articles.

With proven track record in meeting ambitious targets, foodpanda’s brand partners have become market leaders in most of the markets it is present: 25,000 restaurants, working with many global and local brands such as Chilis, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, Tony Roma’s, Carl’s Jr., Dominos Pizza, Subway, Pizza Papa Jones, etc.

On the other hand, Chooks-To-Go is an innovation leader, an early adapter to maintain its position to create new customers, better customers, stronger brand, faster growth and deeper market penetration.

Though relatively new in the market, Chooks-to-Go has already attracted millions of followers and the Pinoy consumers have given it enthusiastic response. Its popularity has made it market leader in its category with the number of its stores all over the Philippines keeps growing every year. To date, it has close to 1,000 stores, spread all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, offering two flavors, Sweet Roast and Pepper Roast. Sales growth has been phenomenal, making it the dominant brand in its category.

Amazing as far as its growth is concerned, Chooks-To-Go became a certified SuperBrand last year, strengthening its market maturity as an innovator. A brand becomes a SuperBrand when it passes stringent standards set by SuperBrands, an independent global arbiter on branding that pays homage to world's leading brands as selected by experts and consumers. Brands that are rated highly by its council and consumers are eligible for inclusion. Industry experts and practitioners select the top brands based on the following criteria: Market dominance, longevity, goodwill, customer loyalty and market acceptability. Chooks-To-Go hurdled all these with flying colors.

As one of the country’s newest SuperBrands, it joins the list of many trusted brands in the Philippines. Worth mentioning too, in this year’s annual Outstanding Professional Awards, its President and General Manager Ronald MascariƱas, was also chosen one of the awardees by Superbrands for his contribution to the Philippine poultry industry. Being named a SuperBrand for marketing excellence, Chooks’ latest achievement is a follow-up from its unbeatable performance in 2009, being chosen as Asia’s Best in Asia’s Livestock Industry Awards.

Asked on how he sees Chooks-To-Go five years from now, MascariƱas says: “Chooks-To-Go will be a global brand. Starting this year, we will be across the region, the Middle East and West Africa. To date, we are the only company in the industry investing heavily in digital marketing and our brands are the “most liked” in the fresh and roasted chicken business.”

Like millions of Chooks-To-Go lovers all over the Philippines, there’s another reason to like it. It is the only partner of foodpanda that does not have a minimum order requirement. You only pay P30.00 delivery charge. So don’t be left behind, just go to and experience the delicious convenience of online food ordering.

Monday, September 1, 2014


By Roger Pe
Published in Rappler
August 31, 2014

To be able to ride on the crest of digital revolution, traditional ad agencies have added digital as one of their services to clients. A number bought into existing digital agencies. A few added a room next door to be called ‘digital experts’.

But some of them have fallen short, paying only lip service to the digital dynamics.

It is common knowledge that some subcontract work to digital agencies that have sprung a couple of years back. Not born like a digital native, growth has been hampered for lack of real digital sense.

But things are looking brighter as forward-looking agencies are integrating digital into their network and professionalizing the media channel of the century.

Why the race for digital? According to Ad Age, “People are moving money out of print, leaving some on television and putting it on digital." The writing on the wall is clear. The message is chilling. Enough to send shivers to those who still think that traditional media still rules.

The continuing boom of digital media is being felt locally and much more globally. National TV advertising in the U.S. for example, as reported also by Ad Age is now smaller than digital media advertising largely due to the World Cup and political advertising. This will reach dramatic proportions when the next Olympics opens.

In the Philippines, Ogilvy Neo Digital has laid the groundwork as early as five years ago and is making its presence felt, filling the gap where existing local digital agencies are meeting challenges.

“We exist to build the business, focusing on performance media. We find customers and convert them so that brands can actually interact with them,” says Chris Actis, Ogilvy Neo Digital Regional Managing Director for Asia Pacific.

Actis was in Manila recently to make OND in synch with its global operation. The network prides itself in providing clients valuable media insights, efficient buying, responsive creative and complex analytics delivered within aggressive time frames.

All over the world, Ogilvy Neo Digital has built a performance-driven model that thrives on discipline specialization within an integrated agency framework. It offers best in class media solutions that compete on quality with any digital specialist agency. In the Philippines, the agency is built in-house.

From aggressive direct marketers to the largest global brands, the agency provides customized performance marketing solutions with measurable results.

Rappler interviews Actis to give marketers and readers knowledge on OND’s capabilities as a topnotch digital media agency:

How different is Neo Ogilvy Digital from other media agencies?

CA: Ogilvy is one of the only full-service advertising agencies that has an in-house digital media agency. Neo’s focus is on integrating with Ogilvy to provide real time insights that inform strategy and creative, data driven customer centric media that drives business performance, optimization and insights which in turn, garner high return on investment for marketers.

With the explosion of digital technology, what makes Neo Ogilvy distinct and why would a business engage with it?

CA: Neo@Ogilvy has proprietary tools (such as our consumer intent modeling product) and aligns with the best in-class tech and media partners whom we feel are most appropriate for meeting our clients’ business goals. Our singular focus on driving our client’s business through performance media ensures that we are partner-agnostic, flexible in whom we work with, and transparent on cost/benefits to clients.

How advanced are your digital tools and technology compared to your competitor next door?

CA: Our consumer intent modeling tool is unique and proprietary. Nobody else possesses or offers such a bespoke solution.

How can Neo Ogilvy interact with consumers in a more intimate way?

CA: Because we focus on search and behaviorally-based and data informed media, instead of just impressions, Neo feels like we are closest to consumer intent and understand behavioral that has moved from the analog world to the digital and mobile world.

Neo uses search data to inform strategy, creative, digital journey planning, and media activation. All of that is focused on and based on our closeness and intimacy with consumers through media data.

How can Neo Ogilvy build a client’s business coming from an analog environment?

CA: Offline and online communications should be increasingly aligned. Paid search is as much a branding channel as it is a direct response vehicle and Neo’s in-house presence in the world class advertising global network of Ogilvy enables us to seamlessly align around consumer engagement online and offline.

Neo Ogilvy loves to flag the phrase “Performance services and marketing”, please explain this in layman’s terms.

CA: Performance marketing is media that produces outcomes. Those outcomes are conversions, sales, customer acquisitions, database building, and purchase intent. Our focus is on using media to actually accrue revenue for our clients. There is no waste. Impressions aren’t the KPI, but business metrics are what matters.

How do you plan to revolutionize digital media in the Philippines?

CA: By combining the energetic and creative spirit of marketers and Ogilvy with media that can inform communications and drive results for our clients. Most other agencies just focus on media. Neo@Ogilvy focuses on customers and creative apart from using digital media to create results.

Compared to the whole Asean digital world, where is the Philippines now and how big is the market potential?

CA: The Philippines is one of the youngest and most digitally enabled markets in the region. Consumer receptivity to brand messages ranks highly as does Internet penetration and usage of social media. Because of this connectivity, marketers have a great opportunity to engage with consumers via digital media in relevant and impactful ways.

How do you train Filipino digital people, how wired are they compared to other digital experts from around the world?

Our team in the Philippines is exceptionally knowledgeable about global trends in digital media. Search, performance social media, and programmatic buying are all topics that the teams are aware of and utilizing in client engagements. This is because Filipino youths, who make up a majority of our team, are very digitally connected and are themselves engaging in advanced digital environments.

Because Neo@Ogilvy is a global network, we are able to bring best practices and mature market case studies into Philippines and have our teams adapt quickly to the changed marketplace.

Our training programs are very specific around services and solutions that have changed the digital media landscape. We will frequently include clients in workshops covering topics such as paid social media, real time bidding, organic search optimization, and consumer insights.

The workshops help our client partners evolve quickly to the changing consumer media landscape.

Your personal assessment of Filipino digital talents

CA: Young, creative, and innovatively focused, Filipino digital media talent is eager to implement globally standardized as well as emerging media channels.

How do you see Neo Ogilvy 5 years from now in the Philippines?

CA: Neo@Ogilvy in Philippines will be on the front lines of how data, content, and media enhance the lives of consumers and drive marketer’s business. Underlying this evolution will be the creative spirit of the Filipino people and the desire to progress and lead in ASEAN.

Do you think media agencies will return to their mother agency network soon like you are in-house in Ogilvy?

CA: Increasingly clients are looking for seamless and integrated services that holistically address consumer behavior in the digitally focused world. Advertising agencies that have digital communications and media capability will have an advantage in their ability to offer end to end solutions and streamlined points of contact that are client and customer focused as opposed to discipline and niche configured.