July 30, 2018


PANA: Synergy and Action

“My favorite word is synergy,” says Chito Maniago, this year’s PANA president. “It’s such a big word. It connotes activity, action, collaboration, moving forward. I think right now we can no longer work in silos. Now it’s all about hyperconnection, being able to reach out to as many allies and partners as possible, because that’s the only way to go to really remain relevant.”

Where Fernando represents the seasoned leaders of the Association, Maniago comes in as the next generation of leaders, looking at consolidating the power base while expanding and moving forward. For 2019, PANA has a five-point agenda.

Value Creation

What does being a PANA member bring to the table? Maniago wants to answer this question in his term by building a community of learners that can share and compare notes with one another. As he says, “We’d like to foster a culture of dynamism and empowerment.”

Thought Leadership

“We want to cement our reputation that we are the premier association for brand building. We want to be the voice of the industry,” Maniago declares. As the face of the industry, PANA needs to represent its members’ concerns and assert their rights. Maniago says, “We’d like to check on what are the important issues being managed or addressed and how we can best support our industry stakeholders.”

Human Capital Development and Excellence

Complementary to PANAF’s thrust on education, PANA fosters an environment of learning for its members. In addition, Maniago looks at empowering the Secretariat, saying, “My vision this year is for our secretariat members to both be generalists and specialists. I want to provide them with as much training and learning development opportunities as possible. At the end of the day, there’s respect, there’s integrity; people will look up to them as thought leaders in the industry too.”

He also wants to come up with a robust internal communication platform for all members where the Association’s imperatives are regularly shared.

Maniago also sees a need to encourage individuals to take up committee work to find leaders from among PANA’s membership. There are members who want to contribute to the industry, and they just need a proper venue to participate. This ensures a healthy pipeline of value-creators for PANA first and foremost, and ultimately, the industry as a whole.

It’s also important to listen to the wisdom of PANA’s elders and to stay relevant at the same time. Former PANA presidents comprise the Council of Elders, which Fernando brought up in her interview. It serves as a pool of experience and knowledge when it comes to best practices, historical decisions, and institutional memory. To relay this to the younger batch of practitioners and leaders, Maniago wants to find ways of how to make it relevant to them by raising the bar in terms of targeted communications.

Networking and Linkages

This is where synergy factors in where other organizations are concerned. Maniago wants to explore partnerships with various local, regional, and even global organizations to stay relevant and be at par with the best.

One way is to explore the Association’s non-profit status. “In terms of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility, we’d like to be accredited by the Philippine council for NGO Certification, the accrediting arm of corporate social responsibility arms in the country,” he explains. “For public relations, we hope to engage the Public Relations Society of the Philippines and the International Association of Business Communicators,” he adds.

Championing Responsible Brand Building

“Branding is no longer about profit alone,” says Maniago. He refers to the Three-legged Stool model of economic, social, and environmental factors. It is important to earn but at the same time serve one’s community and keep the environment healthy. Sustainability becomes the new focus over mere profit.

Today, it goes beyond token efforts. Maniago refers to the sustainability development tools from the United Nations as a guide. Companies listed with the SEC are now required to have a sustainability report.

Good governance is likewise important. Maniago acknowledges today’s highly political environment and the need to navigate it skillfully. “All these touch points are hyperconnected, and at the end of the day, you go back to your core, which is brand building,” he says.

The 2019 PANA House

In addition to the five-point agenda, there are four pillars developed in 2018 that categorize PANA’s projects and activities this year. They are communication, representation, learning, and community.


Internally, communications are intended to provide a platform for synergy through internal communication channels, beginning with PANA Edge and expanding from there. There’s also the General Monthly Meeting, where the GMM committee makes it a point to carefully curate the topics for discussion to keep the members inspired and informed. Externally, PANA communicates as a brand for partnerships and memberships, staying open to any supportive and complementary alliances.


“We’ve organized a formal committee to handle this,” Maniago says. “Whereas before we had the whole board deciding on this, now we want a champion for this. We want to strengthen this part of our brand house for industry issues and brand protection.”

He then adds, “We need to proactively identify current issues and possible new issues affecting the entire industry, so that the attack and the strategy will be more comprehensive—may proseso. For example, if we need to release position papers or engage several legislators even before say a Congress hearing is done, we want to be two steps ahead.”


Brand Academy falls under this pillar, targeting practitioners in their first one to three years. After the 2018 run, the committee discussed tightening the modules more, as some topics can be merged. As always, the program ensures that PANA has a brilliant next breed of practitioners.

PANA also offers special workshops targeting executives, like Brand Masters. “We’d like to really own this space,” says Maniago. Formatted as a masterclass, Brand Masters aims at thought leadership by inviting experts to offer their insight and guidance in brand building, like Paco Underhill’s talk in 2018, which was very well attended.

Workshops like this emphasize that brand building should be part of annual business objectives, it should be integral to any boardroom agenda. There’s collective ownership, not just the marketing team or corporate communications—brand ambassadorship is a shared function.


Lastly, community offers networking opportunities internally and externally with events like the trailblazing PANATA Awards. “We are truly excited as this gets bigger and better every year”, Maniago shares. There’s also lots of committee work that needs volunteers. This year, PANA has seven committees: membership, the GMM committee, the PANATA committee, communications and brand stewardship, Brand Academy, Brand Masters, representation, and networking and linkages. Maniago ends by declaring, “2019 is an important year of reinforcement and consolidation. PANA is a formidable group and will remain to be a strong force to be reckoned with—we will serve the industry, and ultimately, we will ensure that we will contribute to over-all economic and inclusive development of the Philippines.”

PANA Foundation: Wisdom and Values

Blen Fernando definitely had other plans for 2019, and then she was called upon to become PANA Foundation chairperson one more time, and she says all this with a laugh.

As far as reluctant leaders go, Fernando has stepped up to the plate whenever she took on leadership roles at PANA and PANAF. “When I became [PANA] president, it was a very critical time,” she recalls. “It was the year GMA7 left the KBP, KBP left the Ad Board, in 2005. It was critical because people said that if we handled it wrong, it was goodbye to industry unity.”

It was also during this term that the association did the two-year long landmark Clutter Study, which revealed that brand recall in the Philippines gradually declines instead of a sharp drop in that last study. A follow-up research is needed after more than a decade and it may show a different result with the growth of digital and social media. Perhaps viewers today can take only so much of TV commercials. Fernando explains, “Interestingly, Filipinos appear to look at advertising—TV, print, radio, digital ads—as part of entertainment.”

This insight highlighted PANA’s self-appointed mandate: truth in advertising then, championing responsible brand building now. It goes back to the responsibilities advertisers have to the general public, their consumers, and to each other. PANA Foundation’s programs for 2019 underscore this accountability of being the “heart” of the advertisers association.

This year’s program goes back to the familiar PANA Foundation House framework. There’s the banner of providing leadership, guidance, and support in effective research, development, and improvement of marketing communications and its related fields in the service of responsible brand building. Under this are three pillars: education, technology, and values formation.

Education: Going where Guidance Is Needed

The PANAnaw Students Competition initially challenged college students with case studies to market an imaginary brand. However, PANAF realized that it was as important to do something more socially relevant, which opened doors to several possibilities.

The IMC campaign entries over the past years promoted themes such as responsible tourism, health and wellness, national  disaster management, and traffic management. The winning school entries were presented to relevant government offices, like the Traffic Management Bureau and the Metro Manila Development Authority—the Shake Drills and survival kits of today resulted from this contest.

This year, Fernando takes this a step further. “This time, maybe we should relaunch PANAF by looking beyond the private schools and college students. In the planning session, we identified the things that would help the long-term development of the country.”

The Asian Development Bank’s annual reports identified key elements for development, which PANAF then clustered those relevant to the foundation into the three pillars of education, technology, and values formation.

What’s more, PANAF returned to addressing a need from the provinces with The Roadshow for IMC for PANA (TRIP). First executed in 2008, PANAF vounteer—trustees and guest speakers went to the provinces and brought workshops and talks to them. They visited Baguio, Laoag, Naga, Bacolod, and Pampanga, among others. “We are in our best elements when we go out of town,” Fernando observes.

“We want to strengthen TRIP this year. Kids outside Metro Manila are so hungry for knowledge.” It’s not just the students, too; there are teachers as well as the small and medium entrepreneurs who need guidance for brand building. Thus the content for this year’s TRIP deals with the basics of marketing and responsible brand building—valuable knowledge where it’s needed the most.

TRIP brings brand builders out of town to the grassroots and offers the students, teachers, and local business owners the concept of responsible advertising, and with it, more options for doing business, pursuing careers, and even teaching.

Fernando also wants to introduce a senior high school track for PANAnaw, challenging high school seniors, for example, into making documentaries on socially relevant issues, like HIV awareness.

Technology: Virtual Presences and Partnerships

For this pillar, PANAF explores the potentials of the digital sphere for its advocacy. The industry has shifted technologies, further expanding the marketing and advertising sectors. Internally, many communications take place online, with publications like PANA Edge covering association events and by maintaining an active digital PR presence on social media.

The Foundation also looks at exploring opportunities with relevant organizations like Google Philippines. Such partnerships will hopefully use digital technology to augment the Foundation’s programs and reach out to digital natives , especially those outside Metro Manila, who need guidance in the branding field.

Values Formation: Cornerstones

The Araw Values Awards comes back in 2019, once more calling on advertisers for materials on the seven cornerstone values of the Philippines: love of God and respect for all religious beliefs; commitment to truth, honesty, and justice; love of country and respect for national customs and traditions; reverence for the family unit, marriage, or responsible parenthood; respect and care for human life and dignity and the rights of all; respect for law and authority and the promotion of self-discipline; and concern for and preservation of the environment. The contest opens in July of each year and finishes in November, and the event is telecast by January of the following year by media partner-ABS-CBN. It probably is the only competition in the world that honors advertising materials purely on societal values. For the second straight time, PANAF’s Blen Fernando will chair the 11th season of the Araw Awards, thus further solidifying the partnership of the Advertisers with the Advertising Foundation of the Philippines, owners of the Araw Values Awards.

There’s also the PANAF Youth Congress, where each year has a different theme on values formation: responsible tourism (2018), world-class Filipinos (2017), and redefining success (2016), for example. Last year’s congress discussed considering long-term benefits over short-term profits, tourism with a conscience, and traveler-led tourism.

“Last year’s brand-building was for the biggest brand we have—the Philippines. We’ll always go back to responsible brand building—aligning with the original mission of PANA.” Fernando concludes.

Individual Volunteers

PANAF also needs more volunteers. “We realized that PANAF can invite individuals who are passionate in contributing their time, talent and energy to the foundation without having to bring in their entire company,” Fernando explains. This opens opportunities for individual practitioners in associated fields for giving back to society.

By Paul Catiang  



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