Thursday, March 29, 2007

45. Lintas Hemisphere

I was going on my fourth year as Company Media Manager. With all the systems in place the service that we were rendering to Marketing was to their expectation. We could only be that much efficient in media work. I thought of ways to maximize the use of the media money of the company. This was during the early stages of Martial Law, a time when the media industry underwent radical changes. There was a change in industry leadership as the regime favored media house run roughshod the erstwhile premiere media establishment. It took time before the new industry leader was able to establish an audience following that would equal their predecessor.

With the sudden disappearance of the programs that they loyally patronized the bulk of the audience seemed to have been a dispersed lot. The situation provided an opportunity for the smaller media houses to make a strong bid to get a share of the unsettled audience. It gave rise to independent producers and block timers. The absence of a dominant media network made for lower cost efficiency of media plans of advertisers. Instead of concentrating media buys to a few highly rated placements it was necessary to buy in several low audience programs to satisfy the reach objectives of the media campaigns thus causing excessive frequency of exposures on audiences.

With several newcomers in the media industry, most of which were not financially stable, we were able to negotiate for generous early payment discounts, in addition to the other concessions of volume buying. This compensated for the inefficiency of media usage because of the prevailing situation. Considering that media had the largest budget allocation by the brands its contribution to the company coffers was substantial. This was a windfall since it was not accounted for in our projections. We argued for having the money ploughed back to the support budget but the Commercial Director ruled that the discounts were given on the basis of a monetary function. We got thanked for it but were not allowed to use it as additional support money for the brands.
I left media work when the opportunity to be seconded to a position outside PRC came about. The secondment entailed a promotion to senior management. On the first year of my appointment I was the youngest in the roster of senior managers, a distinction I enjoyed until the year end promotions brought in someone younger. There were some who were happy for my good fortune and as always, some not.

I was given the assignment to facilitate the transfer of some Unilever brands to a newly set up affiliation of a local ad agency with Lintas (Lever International Advertising Services), an international ad agency that was owned by Unilever. This happened at the time that Unilever was rationalizing the business and were looking at divesting itself of the non-core businesses in its portfolio. What ensued was the wholesale spinning off of departments, even of entire divisions. This was even prior to the trend in the early eighties when companies went through the rigors of lean manning and other downsizing exercises. The trend was moving towards farming out of commercial and marketing service functions to third party suppliers as well as getting toll manufacturers to do production of their brands.

L to R: Ed Custodio, Gil Yuzon, Ed Roa, Tom Garcia
The Unilever concern felt that they had responsibility to ensure the well being of affected associates…bit of corporate conscience. Assistance was provided to the spun off units so that they can start on the right foot when they go it alone. My secondment to the ad agency may have been part of this assistance to Lintas. The terms of reference of the new job entailed primarily to help ensure that the affiliation venture gets off to a good start and, equally important, was that the basic advertising philosophy of the concern is impressed upon the newly affiliated agency. Unilever may not have been all that altruistic since my salary and perquisites were paid for by the ad agency. The transferring of some big budget brands to the new agency more than compensated for this. Like most major multinational consumer goods marketing companies the concern have established ways of doing things not only in marketing and advertising but also in technical and commercial operations. This ensured continuity, lessened errant adventurism that young marketing and advertising men and women are prone to. Marketing bibles, international guidelines they call them. Non-negotiable guidelines, procedures etched in stone tablets.
Joining me in the newly affiliated agency was a Brit named David Jones who came from J Walter Thompson where he was one of the creative directors servicing the Unilever account. He did not stay too long. Living a bohemian lifestyle, he couldn’t sustain the physical well-being and passionate spirit needed to be effective in his job as head creative person.
Gil Yuzon was the President of Hemisphere, the agency that Lintas affiliated with in their initial effort to establish a presence in the Philippines. He was an astute businessman who recognized the opportunity that a team-up with an international agency who had Unilever ties can bring to his fledgling agency. For starters our entry into Hemisphere brought in Lifebuoy and Ovaltine (Unilever handled marketing and distribution for Wander at that time) into their clientele. This was a substantial boost in their total billings. Prior to our entry Hemisphere’s big account was comprised of the Banco Filipino group, a big advertiser but was already moribund at that time and a smattering of a few small budget accounts.

The added billings and the association with Unilever greatly increased their stature in the advertising industry. Later on after the Lintas affiliation was discontinued Gil would seek and would be successful in forging an affiliation with Leo Burnett. Under his management the agency prospered. I remember him inviting me to join and invest on the new affiliation long after I was recalled to Unilever. I was getting bored in Unisearch and was tempted to say yes to the invitation but Rey Alejandro dissuaded me from leaving since the economy was uncertain at that time. In retrospect, Rey had good judgment.

So there I was, for two years working as vice president for Account and Media Managements. The Creative Director for the Unilever account who succeeded David Jones was Marilyn Pascual, the wife of Joe Pascual of San Miguel. Joe would become my biggest third party client in Unisearch when I came to head it. The Art Director at that time was Nards de la Cruz, an old hand in advertising and an accomplished painter. Later on we took on the services of Jimmy Bautista to be exclusive art director for the Unilever account. The other senior members of Hemisphere:Lintas who were in account management were Ed Custodio and Tom Garcia. They were not involved in the Unilever account and handled separate account groups. Media was directly under me. The Media department manager was Vic Sindingan, an old hand in media work.

Primarily my job was to see to it that the advertising direction of the international brands that were assigned to the new advertising agency do not stray from the hallowed practices and discouraged the creative people in the agency from the tendency to challenge “best practice” from the center. Without the help of the British creative director who came in with me I became directly involved with the creative aspect of the job. The creative guys never liked me for this and must have been the delight of the name-callers in the creative department.

L o R: Tom Garcia, David Jones, Gil Yuzon, Ed Roa

My second time around in advertising was not lovelier. During my younger days in advertising I was creating advertising…getting scolded and praised for it, beating deadlines, delighting clients, burning the midnight oil but all the while enjoying every minute of it. As Vice President in Lintas I metamorphosed into an old fart, a stick in the mud who imposed rules on everyone. The rewards of seniority and higher responsibility, I suppose, would always have a tradeoff. Account servicing and managing the media department was easy enough to do. Where I failed was in making the creative people work effectively because I wielded the stone tablets.

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