The World: Insider's view - The Philippines

Manila is fast turning into the outsourcing capital of the world. Could advertising be the next industry in its sights, David Guerrero asks.

Happy hour starts around 8am in some parts of Manila, and finishes at 12pm. Clubs are packed until 10am, with masses of places to eat at 4am. And while half of us are trying to wake up with a cappuccino, the other half are knocking themselves out with large quantities of beer.

The number of call centres in Manila has doubled in the past year, with labour costs at one-fifth of rates in the US. There is no shortage of people willing to work in a state of permanent jet lag, using their local version of American accents.

Unexpectedly, being a US colony from the 1890s to 1946 left a West coast twang in people's speech, basketball as a national sport (despite an average height of 5ft 4in) and the country among the world's top ten consumers of cola.

Manila's call centres have also spawned other business models. Your phone call to the bank is answered by someone in Manila; your taxes are added up by someone in Manila; your daily newspaper has a back office in Manila; and your kids watch cartoons made in Manila.

Some cities in the US are getting their entire Yellow Pages display ads done in Manila. See a pattern? As The Economist pointed out last week, far from having anything to fear from the developing world, the developed world, in fact, stands to make more money out of it. But in terms of ads, does the Far East pose a threat?

The salary differentials in the ad industry are probably even greater than in others. A junior writer here earns about the same as someone in London would have in, say, 1972. Of course, some might argue the ads look like they were done then as well. But they'd be wrong - 1986 if you're picky. However, a clutch of Lions, Clios and One Show Pencils have made it back here in the past couple of years. And Asia as a whole just had one of its best showings at D&AD. So it's not impossible.

The overall labour pool is 29 million and it's growing by 325,000 a year. The only drawback is that people no longer speak English as well as they used to. And fewer than one in five of the teachers can pass basic proficiency tests.

Still, with the ever-increasing prevalence of the big visual/logo bottom right-hand-corner ad - or rather "proster"- this shouldn't be much of a drawback. And as is often noted, no-one reads copy anyway. So who would notice if big chunks of it were in Tagalog?

That minor niggle aside, we can at least be happy we're not "geographically challenged" any more. The notion that the quality of an idea is linked to how close the person who thinks of it is to Manhattan or London's W1 is looking a bit dated. It can be as bad or good as it likes regardless of where you had it. But it might take a while for people to start believing it.

- David Guerrero is the chairman and chief creative officer of Guerrero Ortega BBDO, Manila.

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