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Misimpressions

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma called it a “misimpression:” whatever he said was not a summary of his position on the ongoing problems the people have with a crowded, frequently malfunctioning MRT. That perhaps includes his position on Metro Manila’s overpopulation and the MRT, that we cannot blame that on general manager Al Vitangcol.

That said: Secretary Coloma himself has a “misimpression” of the problem.

But Coloma is right, on paper: Vitangcol can’t be blamed for the congestion in Metro Manila. However, he can be (and should be) blamed for the problems of the MRT now, precisely because he’s general manager. The minimum expectation for any general manager is for jobs to be done, and done well. The train must be clean, comfortable, safe, and punctual. The fact that the MRT fails on all four of those counts – any regular MRT commuter can attest to that – means that Vitangcol isn’t doing his job.

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The Lunch Lady of Saigon

Saigon: a tide of motorcycles, tourists, and lately, American culture. Where East met West, both in war and peace. Where Old meets New, both in love and trepidation. Where Viet Cong hats and rubber-tire sandals meet iPhones and Louis Vuitton bags. This is where a Subway sandwich shop can coexist alongside a banh mi stand, where a Heineken is held at the same regard as the 333. This is where Victor Hugo, Sun Yat Sen, and Nguyen Binh Khiem are venerated alongside Uncle Ho, Quang Duc, and Ronald McDonald.

In Ho Chi Minh’s city, the world’s sharpest contrasts mingle together. It shows in the roads, the tourist destinations, and the food.

You spend a few minutes at the improvised cinema at the Cu Chi Tunnels listening to documentary/propaganda films about “American Killer Heroes,” and come back a few hours later to the densely-populated districts of Ho Chi Minh City dotted with Burger Kings and KFCs and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens. Here’s a country that swells with pride over its sound defeat of American forces in the Vietnam War, and swells with joy over the opening of McDonald’s branches.

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And then there’s the Lunch Lady, almost always preceded by the travels of Anthony Bourdain. He spoke of it in superlatives: the broth that the gods suckled from. Whether it’s in the crowded backpacker hostels of Pham Ngu Lao or the gentrified establishments of Ngo Duc Ke, tourists speak of Saigon’s best-kept secret with a certain veneration. For Bourdain: the Ibn Battuta of our generation. And for the Lunch Lady herself, Nguyen Thi Thanh: the unassuming lady whose pots and bowls have simmered more than one blog post – likely from intrepid foreign foodies – about Southern Vietnamese beef noodles.

I’m pretty sure that for every Lunch Lady recommendation, there would be a few more that would attest to the “best pho in Vietnam” (using the word “pho” loosely). The in-flight magazine suggested Pho Thin in Hanoi. Still others have told me not to wander far from Pham Ngu Lao, if all I ever wanted were beef noodles. And pho – beef noodles – aren’t too hard to find in a city that has been sustained by it through thick and thin. But the girlfriend – the biggest Anthony Bourdain fan I know – insisted on the Lunch Lady.

So off we went, braving the tide of motorcycles and tourists and American restaurants standing side-by-side with the ubiquitous coffee kiosks, in search for the Lunch Lady.

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On That BIR Ad

Much has been said about the BIR’s half-page ads on paying taxes, mostly from doctors who see the ads as “unfair” to their profession. Lots of “two cents” shared on the matter, too.

But I’m not a doctor, a lawyer, or an online seller: I’m one of those people who do ads for a living (although I’ve never worked for the ad agency that made that BIR ad). So with all disclaimers engaged (these are my opinions, this POV does not reflect that of my employer, etc.), here’s what I think.

I think of ads as business solutions. Advertising is one of many ways to make businesses work better. Badly put, advertising helps businesses by talking to people to spread the word about the business. Whether that business is a commercial enterprise, a manufacturer, or government, it’s pretty much the same thing.

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Three Lessons I Learned From Flappy Bird

Maurice Saatchi has this to write to the employees of M&C Saatchi – and the rest of the advertising world – about what he termed “The Brutal Simplicity of Thought:”

Simplicity is more than a discipline: it is a test. It forces exactitude or it annihilates. It accelerates failure when a cause is weak, and it clarifies and strengthens a cause that is strong.

Saatchi is known in advertising circles as the brains behind some of the world’s most successful ad campaigns. Things like “Labour Isn’t Working,” “Let’s Get Behind Scotland,” and the “Face” ad for British Airways. Then again, a developer named Dong Nguyen released a game called “Flappy Bird,” and is now a cause for celebration (perhaps even revulsion) among many mobile gaming fans.

Mostly because the game is hard. Damn hard. On my best day of playing the game, I got a score of 10.

I’m not a fan of writing “marketing thought leader” -ish pieces on my blog – for one I’m not, and for two most of these Mashable-y pieces are exercises in common sense – but “Flappy Bird” got me thinking about the lessons we can learn from the game. It can lend some order and perspective (read: sanity) into a world filled with “Let’s make a mobile app,” or “mobile should be a pillar for awareness.” Because sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t; most of the time, though, some things demonstrate the things we believe in most simply by doing.

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