PILI, Camarines Sur, Philippines – Veteran adman and now Department of Tourism (DoT) Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. delivered an empowering keynote address to over 2,000 delegates in this year’s 22nd Philippine Advertising Congress (AdCongress22) themed “Change the Game” at the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) here last Thursday.

“In my three months as your Tourism Secretary, I learned that it is far easier to be the one to change the way the game is played than to simply be the one who plays the current game well,” said Jimenez.

The mainstream approach to tourism places financially-challenged countries like the Philippines at a tremendous disadvantage.

Jimenez said: “Countries that have money have the resources to build infrastructure that affords tourists seamless movement from the airport to the hotel, to the tourist destination, and back. The relative affluence of these countries and societies allows them to create an image of wonder and spectacle, safety and security – something which tourists value a lot.”

Greater resources also enable competing Asian countries to invest on their key tourist arrival targets by keeping their pricing competitive.

“All these strengths will be extremely difficult for the Philippines to generate in the immediate future. Our pricing strategies are disorganized to say the least,” said Jimenez.

One of the country’s advertising pillars, Jimenez asserts that the key to successful marketing in any endeavor is distinctiveness and uniqueness. Competition may have all the money to spend on advertising above and below the line, but Jimenez said we have something even more potent. “Over 12 million Filipino workers activate the Filipino brand overseas every day of the year; 27 million Pinoys are on Facebook; and 10 million in Twitter. More than any country in Asia, the Philippines has the power of buzz – buzz creation beyond anything our competition can generate even if they tried,” he said.

While traditional tourism involves centrally-controlled and crafted marketing communications, Jimenez said that the game-changer will be “a campaign that will have a central strategy executed and propagated by millions of active and enthusiastic Filipinos who feel they have the power to persuade people to visit their country as tourists.”

He added that, “A genuine tourism campaign is a people’s campaign. People Power at EDSA was but the launch of an era that unfolds before us today – that of millions of Filipinos critically and emotionally connected to each other and the world, expressing their views, causing trends, raising funds, making a difference and doing it in great numbers. We are, therefore, natural game-changers because we cannot play the game the way the world plays it; because we are Filipinos.”

Jimenez ended his speech by congratulating the AdCongress22 organizers in the theme’s selection. “It is, more than people realize, very relevant and timely. It is a theme that commands attention because it provokes thought. By its very implication, ‘Change the Game’ places the Filipino where he is rarely at, most of the year. It places us in a competitive frame of mind,” he said.

Such was the mind-set of the delegates in the first-ever digital ad congress in the history of the Advertising Board of the Philippines (AdBoard). Joining Jimenez in the club of Filipino game-changers present in CWC Thursday were award-winning director Brillante Mendoza, furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue and the Philippine Azkals’ Aly Borromeo, Phil Younghusband and James Younghusband.

Charlene Li, co-author of the best-selling book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies,” brought the AdCongress22 delegates up to date on the latest trends in social technologies and their business applications.

AdCongress22 is organized by the AdBoard in cooperation with its media members: The United Print Media Group (UPMG), the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), the Independent Blocktimers Association (IBA), the Cinema Advertisers Association of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines (OAAP). The Philippine Daily Inquirer president and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez is overall AdCongress22 chairperson.

Published on the front page of the Manila Bulletin on November 17, 2011