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Ditching Celebs and Celebrating Local Talent Helped a New Telco Brand Break Through

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Philippines telecoms upstart DITO wanted to break the stranglehold on the category, so they created a branded entertainment campaign with local musicians that turned into a smash hit, as TBWA\SMP Philippines’ Oliver Loyola tells LBB’s Laura Swinton

Ditching Celebs and Celebrating Local Talent Helped a New Telco Brand Break Through
When you’re an ambitious upstart taking on giants with equally giant budgets, you have to out-think the competition. In the Philippines, newcomer telecoms company DITO needed to take on the international behemoths that dominated the market. These big names tend to splash the cash to recruit major Hollywood and K-pop stars to front their campaigns - and so DITO and its agency, TBWA\SMP Philippines, decided to run in the opposite direction.

Inspired by an insight that people are increasingly turning to their roots as a response to globalisation, DITO and TBWA decided to elevate unknown local musicians from underrepresented parts of the country. The result was a campaign that reflected the diversity of the Philippines and brought local sounds to an appreciative audience. The tentpole of the campaign, a music video,  garnered over 24 million views - and TikTok activity went viral. As a result the brand saw an explosive growth in awareness and millions of new subscribers in just three months.

Digging a little deeper into the campaign, Oliver Loyola, strategist at TBWA\SMP Philippines, reveals the insight, creativity and diversity that turned the campaign into a chart-topping smash hit.



LBB> Can you tell us about the telco market in the Philippines? What was DITO up against? 

Oliver> The Philippine telco category has been dominated by a duopoly since the ‘90s. All attempts to break the duopoly in the past have been thwarted - small brands trying to break into the industry were eventually bought by either company. 

The two established and dominant telco players also have enormous marketing budgets; they invest in large below-the-line activities across the Philippine archipelago; continuously locking in large, expensive billboards across all major cities, not to mention investing heavily in traditional media, and digital. The size of their budgets also enables them to acquire international - Hollywood and K-pop - celebrities to headline campaigns, even bringing them to the Philippines for fan meets.

Being the new telco on the block, DITO is a long way behind the duopoly when comparing marketing budget and market share.

LBB> What was the specific brief that DITO came to you with? 

Oliver> DITO’s ambition was to build a brand platform which focused on the Filipino youth’s love of music, dance and community, and leverage this passion to bring everyone together. 

This disruptively digital campaign elevated DITO’s brand power amid the telco landscape that was still largely a duopoly.

LBB> How did you identify the opportunity to undercut the big companies’ reliance on international celebrities by supporting local musicians? 

Oliver> To help us simplify the complexity of our world, we referred to TBWA’s EDGES Report*, a report researched and released annually by our intelligence unit Backslash, who identified ‘Root Revival’ a movement to explore one’s origin, culture, and identity as a response to globalisation. 

(*An EDGE is a meaningful cultural shift that has scale and longevity to propel a brand towards a greater share of the future.)

‘Roots Revival’ was especially true in the Philippines, where lots of small artists and talent across the country were striving to fight global homogenisation by bringing their uniquely FIlipino sound into Pop Music. 

This is a predominant sentiment among Filipino gen zs who, like most gen zs around the globe, have a very strong affinity toward being soldiers of social good. They are evolving what it means to be proudly FIlipino - more than just looking for the vaguest Filipino connection with international celebrities, they are now reviving the aspects of Filipino culture that are unique.

With the telco giants acting as proponents of global pop culture in the Philippines, they add to the creation of a ‘mainstream bubble’ – which is amplified via the social media algorithms, feeding the majority of the population the same global pop culture content preventing the discovery of small local talents
We wanted to help burst the bubble by championing local talents disrupting the category convention, and engage with younger telco subscribers.

LBB> The platform’s name, ‘Galing DITO’ is, I think, quite interesting - can you explain to our readers what it means, how it plays with the brand name, and why it works so well? 

Oliver> The brand name, DITO, literally means ‘here’, and that gave us a lot to play with creatively.

The Filipino language is interesting, in that some words may be spelled the same, but when we change the syllable where we put the stress or glottal stop, the word then has a different meaning. The word ‘Galing’ can be said in two ways: ‘Gaah-ling’ (pronounced with a longer first vowel and no glottal stop), which pertains to ones’ provenance or where one came from, or; ‘Galíng’ (pronounced fast with a stress on the last syllable) which means exceptional talent. This varying pronunciation can be heard in the ‘Galing DITO’ anthem.

Combining this with the brand name gave us two different meanings: ‘gaah-ling dito’ means ‘from here’, and ‘galíng dito’ means ‘exceptional talent here’. Together, this creates a great counter-culture slogan that resonates with Filipino gen zs: ‘Great talent comes from here’.


LBB> How did you go about unearthing the local musicians? And what was your criteria? 

Oliver> Most brands would probably go the route of tapping the biggest Filipino talent to go against big international stars, which would have been the less risky and easiest route. But, our ambition was to celebrate truly local talent, to fully encapsulate the true and modern Filipino sound. 

This ambition created an enormous opportunity to champion diversity by acknowledging Filipino culture, which is incredibly diverse. There are 7,641 islands which make up this archipelago, and each region or province has its own language, heritage, and culture that is unique to its people. So, we wanted to gather as many talents as we could find that would be representative of these different cultures.

Another thing that people need to understand about the Philippines’ music scene is that it is very Manila-centric - meaning most of the artists that make it in the industry usually either SING Tagalog or English only. They also have a similar sound in terms of music style, because the industry gatekeepers fear investing in music from the provinces for fear of smaller markets and language barriers. 

We set out to challenge and break this industry convention. That is why we recruited artists who are still emerging and are relatively unknown - from under-represented parts/cultures of the country.

At TBWA\SMP we have our own influencer agency called Madhouse. Madhouse helped us comb through thousands of micro content creators. We were looking for very specific things: 
They must be undiscovered. 
They must come from underrepresented areas in the country. 
They should be able to sing/perform in their local language.
Their art needs to capture the unique culture of their province… 
And of course, they must display exemplary talent. 

LBB> How did you turn this into a movement? 

Oliver> This came with a good understanding of a platform. While it is not groundbreaking for brands to employ their campaigns in TikTok, what we found lacking is HOW our competitors have been using the platform.

Our big competitors have a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to their campaigns. Since they have an enormous amount of media money, they produce celebrity-heavy materials and cascade it across all platforms.

However, we understand that for a platform like TikTok, a one-way brand heavy communication does not always work. Our gen z audience responds to interaction. Filipinos especially have a natural propensity to share their talents which, when amplified with TikTok’s strong content creator culture and injected into a local cause that they believe in, led us to a winning formula.

With a catchy anthem and viral dance steps, Filipino gen zs on TikTok naturally joined in the bandwagon. Eventually, people started using the same music to represent the regions/provinces - creating their own dance steps versions of the songs in their own languages. The ‘Galing DITO Challenge’ became the stage for talented Filipinos to showcase themselves and their provenance online. 


LBB> The launch video and song are a key part of the roll out - what were you trying to capture with the video? 

Oliver> The video perfectly captures the diversity of the Philippines in multiple ways. The first: in the young talents found across the country as they represent their individual cultures and dialects. Second: in the beautiful locations all over the country, making the video almost look like a tourism video. On top of all the powerful visuals, the lyrics encourage and empower Filipinos to show their ‘galing’ through an anthem that is not only catchy, but makes them proud to be Filipino.

LBB> And aside from the main video and song, how else did you help platform the musicians? 

Oliver> After the launch of the main music video, we created individual video content for each of the talents that we partnered with. Featuring them in our social media channels allowed us to give them the spotlight they deserve - the exact opposite of the usual way brands go about talents, where they maximise the musicians’ reach/clout. The brand used its platforms to create a bigger stage for these artists, which included its ‘DITO Live’ sessions on social media, performances at DITO events, appearances in DITO Experience stores, and so much more.

LBB> When did Galing Dito launch, and how did you roll it out? 

Oliver> We launched ‘Galing DITO’ on the 124th Philippine Independence Day. As an occasion that only Filipinos really know about - but do not actively celebrate - we took the opportunity to make a statement on the otherwise quiet occasion and roll out the music video through an own-the-day media approach.

LBB> Talk us through the reach and impact of ‘Galing Dito’ - the main music video has had over 24 million views, and I believe it had a big impact on the business’s bottom line? 

Oliver> The main goal of the brand was to drive awareness and brand affinity – and I’m very pleased to share that through the campaign, DITO improved total brand awareness by 38% and spontaneous awareness by 73%. Brand desire growth was at 75.8% - the highest growth in the category during that year.

‘Galing DITO’ also exceeded key media KPIs. It also successfully took over the platform that dictates popular culture, TikTok, bumping up DITO to the second spot in just three months. It was so successful that competitors immediately launched campaigns to counter the success of Galing DITO’. 

The campaign also helped grow DITO’s subscriber base from 9 million to 12 million, achieving its target three months ahead of its deadline. The brand posted a 33% growth in just three months, which is the fastest growth globally for greenfield telcos. Its market share also doubled during this period, and with the awareness and engagement generated by the movement, its sales campaigns also became successful.

LBB> What are your plans for building on the success of ‘Galing Dito’? 

Oliver> We’re incredibly proud of the impact we’ve had, the talent we’ve helped feature in their first music video, and sustained that momentum we’ve achieved by engaging users in fun online challenges. Our ambition is to continue this momentum as we look to work with partners who can bring the platform to greater heights. We’re also considering taking a more on-the-ground approach, so that altogether, we can discover even more ‘Galing DITO’ talents. 
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Categories: Utilities, Mobile Network

TBWA Worldwide, Thu, 04 May 2023 13:00:00 GMT