“Tuloy ang Buhay!”

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on February 8, 2009

My title can be considered a heartfelt greeting or an ominous warning. It’s also the second half of a road safety campaign, “Ligtas na Paglalakbay, Tuloy ang Buhay,” soon to be launched by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC). Road safety campaigns come and go, and I’m not sure anyone knows if they have any measurable or significant impact on road safety. But the “Ligtas na Paglalakbay, Tuloy ang Buhay” campaign is unique among road safety campaigns in a number of ways.

First, its creators are not agency professionals – at least not yet – and are not marketing managers with the DOTC or highly paid consultants. Rather, they are advertising and marketing management students at De La Salle University-Manila. Second, the campaign wasn’t commissioned, and there were no agency pitches for the account. The campaign was developed as part of an annual inter-university competition.

For the ninth time, the Philippine Association of National Advertisers, known as PANA, conducted its PANA Foundation IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) Students’ Competition over several months last year. In all, 17 schools participated in the grueling contest that involved holding late-night strategy and work meetings, producing broadcast and print marketing communications materials, and planning and executing a virtual “pitch” before a panel composed of top executives and government officers.

Five schools, including De La Salle, made the finals. The other schools were Asia Pacific College, Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University, and University of the Philippines-Diliman. The structure of the competition required the participating school teams to: 1) identify the primary target market; 2) develop and execute a creative and strategic communications message; and, 3) explore the most effective and efficient contact points or modes of communication over a five-month period.

The marketing faculty from each of the schools, as I understand it, selected top students to participate in the competition, and assigned specific responsibilities. Faculty advisers supervised their work, but the students themselves were responsible for developing the various aspects of the campaigns – message, visuals, strategy, and managing a P30,000,000.00 budget – and presenting and “selling” their recommendations.

De La Salle’s “Ligtas na Paglalakbay, Tuloy ang Buhay,” focused on some of the negative consequences that can result from neglecting road safety: death or death of a loved one, loss of the family’s breadwinner, expensive hospital bills, and injury or death to other drivers, companions, and pedestrians. The campaign the students designed targets three markets: drivers of private cars, jeepneys, and motorcycles.

“Ligtas na Paglalakbay, Tuloy ang Buhay” communicates this message through television commercials, radio jingles, print advertisements and below-the-line initiatives (such as wheel covers, water bottles, t-shirts, license covers, etc.) “meant to convince drivers themselves to get involved in campaigning for a safer road environment,” according to Beatriz Lim, one of the De La Salle students on the team, and one of the five presenters in the final competition. (Disclosure: Bea is my stepdaughter.)

All of the finalists made impressive presentations, and they were evaluated on strategy (30%), IMC application and integration (25%), creativity (15%) marketing metrics (15%), and documentation, content, and presentation (15%). It was notable that Asia Pacific College, a relatively new school, made it to the finals, demonstrating its founders’ commitment to providing a top education.

Because the winning De La Salle campaign was both professionally executed and compelling, DOTC decided to adopt the road safety awareness campaign nationwide, and expand it to other transportation modes, including aviation, maritime and railways. This means that the De La Salle team has more than an impressive win to list on their resumes. Their first campaign will run before they ever actually get hired and work professionally.

The PANA contest is important on a number of levels. While PANA is a self-regulatory body for the industry meant to promote truth in advertising, contests like the IMC demonstrate another role: Meaningful involvement in the development of advertising professionals who will one day be sitting on a panel of judges as industry experts themselves.

IMC also demonstrates the relevance of PANA’s primary mission. By providing the means to design and pitch a potentially real-life campaign, students had the privilege of seeing and living firsthand the careers they have chosen for themselves. While the PANA contest isn’t an apprenticeship, clerking assignment, and residency program, it is a useful and practical dose of reality. And this latest contest also demonstrated purpose: “Ligtas na Paglalakbay, Tuloy ang Buhay!”

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