“Love the Philippines” and the History of DOT Tourism Campaign Fiascos

From "ripped-off" taglines to accusations of stolen storyline, here's a look at some of DOT's tourism campaign fiascos over the years.

Written by Teddy Cambosa
Feature Jul 10, 2023

After more than a decade of bearing the “It’s More in the Philippines” tourism slogan, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has unveiled a new slogan–”Love the Philippines”. And yet, from all the glamor and glitter within the launch event of the new tourism slogan, the backlash was unforgiving to say the last.

It was so bad that many still resonated with the old slogan–made by the creative agency BBDO Guerrero back in 2012–and that the new one lacked character for many of the Filipinos.

So bad that DDB Philippines–the new agency of record (AOR) by DOT–was called out for using foreign stock images in their audio-visual presentation (AVR) video, resulting in their PHP50m contract with DOT being terminated.

So bad that social sentiment data showed that a large chunk of positive sentiments online were driven by high-profile personalities and influencers, specifically those who have attended the launch event.

And despite all of this, DOT’s Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco said that they will still use said slogan.

Moving from the ‘Loving the Philippines’ fiasco, DOT is no stranger to these controversies, as evident in their past tourism campaigns and slogans (yes, even “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” ain’t safe from controversy). In this article, we take a look at the various tourism campaign fiascos the DOT has been embroiled in over the years.

Pilipinas Kay Ganda

Prior to this tourism slogan, the country was using the “WOW Philippines” tagline, proposed by then Department of Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon back in 2002. In 2010, DOT, under the leadership of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, tapped Campaigns & Grey (now Grey Philippines) for the campaign Pilipinas Kay Ganda (trans. Philippines, So Beautiful).

Right off the bat, many were quick to point out the similarity of the logo to the tourism logo of Poland (Polska). In response, Campaigns & Grey blamed DOT for releasing the campaign prematurely, saying that the logo was just a test, and that no concrete campaign has been placed yet.

Comparisons of the "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" logo against the "Polska" logo by Polish Tourism Organization

“It was premature as we tried to warn them. As I told you, the campaign has not even been done yet,” Yolly Ong, the group chairperson of Campaigns & Grey told ABS-CBN back then.

Pilipinas Kay Ganda was eventually “killed” and DOT reverted to WOW Philippines for the meantime until 2012. Following public outcry, Lim vacated his position as Tourism Secretary.

It's More Fun in the Philippines

Around in 2011, DOT opened bidding for creative agencies to come up with a new tourism slogan. From the eight agencies that submitted their proposal, BBDO Guerrero won the account. It is also worth noting that the agency is the one responsible for the concept of the WOW Philippines tagline.

Then in 2012, DOT was ready to unveil its new slogan: It's More Fun in the Philippines. And despite being well-received from the public, the tagline generated a bit of a controversy.

Comparison of the two tagline (Switzerland poster courtesy of eBid)

Netizens were quick to point out the tagline is similar to the 1951 tourism slogan of Switzerland called "It's More Fun in Switzerland". In response, the late DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. (founder of boutique agency Jimenez & Partners, now Publicis JimenezBasic) fired right back at critics, saying "it's not a manufactured slogan".

Despite this initial controversy, It's More Fun in the Philippines became one of the country's longest-running tourism slogans, and was revamped in 2019. This is where the famous Harabara font came to be, inspired by hand-painted signs across the country.

Comparison of the two logo variants of the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" tourism tagline

"Sights" Tourism Ad

While technically not related to any of DOT's tourism slogans, this video advertisement proved to be one of the most controversial creative-related fiascos by DOT.

In 2019, DOT worked with McCann Worldgroup Philippines on an ad titled "Sights", which features a real-life story of a Japanese tourist named M. Uchimura as he explores various tourist spots in the country. The catch? He was blind, yet it did not stop him from appreciating the sights and smiles in the Philippines.

A mirror YouTube upload of the now-deleted "Sights" ad

Despite the heart-warming story, netizens pointed out that the storyline shares similarities with a 2014 ad by Brand South Africa. Titled "Rediscover South Africa", the ad also features a similar storyline: a blind man visits the country and enjoys its sights even with his disability. The ad was conceptualized by agency Ireland/Davenport.

A YouTube mirror for "Rediscover South Africa" ad

Following the callouts, then DOT Secretary Frederick Alegre initially defended its campaign launch, saying it was unique. However, a day later, DOT would then announce that it will cut off its ties with McCann, effectively terminating the PHP650m contract it had with the agency back then. Niña Terol, the AVP and director for corporate affairs at McCann Philippines told Adobo Magazine back then that they respect the department's wishes to terminate the contract.

While we regret the decision of the DOT to discontinue our partnership, we continue to believe that it is in the best interest of all parties to discuss a sensible resolution to this matter. Nevertheless, we respect any decision made by the DOT and, while regrettable, we thank the DOT for the opportunity to serve, and we wish them continued success in their future endeavors.

If there is one thing all of these fiascos have taught us, it's all about the phrase "don't fix what's not broken". Amidst all of these branding fiascos for the DOT, it's important to understand how a slogan's gravity can affect the country's perception overseas. It must not only resonate with us Filipinos but also foreigners who are interested in visiting the Philippines.


Teddy Cambosa

Teddy Cambosa is the current Deputy Regional Editor at marketing/advertising publication MARKETECH APAC. He also contributes to Anime Corner and VTuber NewsDrop.