DOT exec quits over ‘Pilipinas Kay Ganda’ flop

Softlinked from the Manila Boy blog of Spanky Hizon Enriquez

In what could be an unusual move by a government executive in the Philippines, Tourism Undersecretary Vicente Romano III resigned Tuesday after his bid to rebrand the country for tourists set off a firestorm of criticism over a plagiarized logo, bland slogan and close link to a porn site.

Romano said the public’s dislike for “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” was not a mere rejection of the brand, but of the “person behind” the efforts to revamp the country’s sagging image abroad.

“I take full responsibility for the branding controversy, and for this reason I am tendering my irrevocable resignation effective immediately,” he said in a press statement.

“I take the rejection of the brand by the people as a vote of ‘no confidence’ not just for the brand, but also for the person behind it,” said Romano, even as he maintained there was nothing wrong with the tagline and that plagiarism is “part of the creative process.”

The new branding, replacing the “Wow Philippines” catchphrase, was unveiled in a lavish ceremony by the Department of Tourism last week before members of the tourism industry.

But soon after its launch, “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” triggered an internet uproar for being “mediocre.”  Its website,, was later taken down after net citizens pointed out a similarity to a porn site,

The campaign hit yet another snag when it turned out the DOT design was an imitation of Poland’s tourism logo.

Romano said he instructed Campaigns & Grey, the advertising agency commissioned for the campaign, “to take inspiration from the European logos—particularly that of Polska, Espana, Portugal, Italia, and Maldives in order to project a visual impact of fun and natural beauty.”

“The final design had similarities with the Polska logo, but the design elements and the visual presentation are distinctive enough to be clearly differentiated,” he said.

For him, there was nothing “immoral, much less illegal” about the Polska-inspired Philippine tourism logo.

“Getting inspiration from existing designs is not an uncommon practice. In fact, in one of the definitions of plagiarism, it is stated that, ‘While plagiarism is condemned in academia and journalism, in the arts it is often a major part of the creative process’,” he said.

“I did not consider it plagiarism then. I’m sorry others don’t feel the same way,” Romano said. “At worst, it might have offended the sensitivities of a people who take pride in its creative spirit. For that I’m truly sorry.”

On criticism about using a Filipino slogan to woo foreign tourists, he said, “I am still convinced it is a matter of execution.”

“I honesty think a Manny Pacquiao saying ‘Pilipinas Kay Ganda’ will make a world curious and try to find out what it means,” Romano said.

Vicente Romano III takes his oath of office before President Aquino. Photo softlinked from the Facebook account of ex-DOT Undersecretary Romano

At the same time, he admitted taking shortcuts “because I’m in a hurry.”

Campaigns & Grey managing director Boboy Consunji said last week the DOT had been repeatedly reminded not to take shortcuts and that a market research was a requisite before the new brand could be made public.

Romano said he had wanted the campaign rolled out by the first quarter of 2011.

“Because I am fully convinced that every day we do not run a campaign is a lost opportunity to boost our tourism arrivals. It is a lost opportunity to generate jobs and alleviate poverty,” he said.

“I now realize that an idea as big as a new country brand needs time to germinate and blossom. There are no shortcuts.”

Romano said even President Benigno Aquino was uneasy with the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” brand.

“When I presented the brand to the President, he had his own misgivings about the brand and specifically instructed me to do a comprehensive market research before launching it. I assured him it was just a preview event and that we will do research after.

“Secretary (Alberto) Lim also asked me to postpone the event given the President’s concern, but I persisted,” he said.

Romano, a former member of the civil society group Black & White Movement, said he hopes his resignation would put closure on the issue.

“I now appeal to the industry stakeholders, to media, and to the general public to put this behind us and rally behind Secretary Lim, whose only fault in this whole controversy is in trusting me completely.”

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