In a world that relies profoundly on fast and efficient transmission of information, the need to put brands’ commercial messages on air through a secure, cost-efficient and reliable process becomes more critical. Sadly, the communication technology and transmission infrastructure in the Philippines has not kept pace with the frenetic progress of communication and information exchange. As a case in point, we can look at the multi-billion peso Philippine advertising industry, where brands still dub digitally produced TV commercials into analog Betacam tapes and send these via messengers to TV stations for broadcast. This is obviously an archaic process that compromises the brand’s commercial message, is inefficient and not cost-effective.
Enter TVCXpress® Manila—a technology-enabled video content transmission solution that improves the quality of brands’ TV commercials and generates cost savings through a fully digital and work-efficient transmission process. The man behind bringing this progressive technology to the Philippines is no stranger to shaking up the status quo: J. Alfonso A. de Dios.
The China Conundrum
His easygoing demeanor conceals the complex vision that this is man has set to accomplish. De Dios is determined to demonstrate that the Filipino manager and entrepreneur can indeed be world-class. He hopes that the legacy he built in Procter & Gamble China and the wealth of experience and achievements from working as a marketing and media management professional for more than 20 years can be a testament to this vision.
He cut his teeth in the industry as a Media Group Head at J. Walter Thompson Advertising in Manila from 1989 to 1995. In this capacity, he managed various clients’ media planning and buying responsibilities for a diverse mix of brands. During his years with the agency, he brought solution-based thinking and a strong sense of entrepreneurial innovation to a traditionally perceived “clerical” and low-value role.
In 1995, he joined P&G (Procter & Gamble) Philippines as its media and communications manager overseeing media planning and buying for the Philippines as well as Vietnam. In 2001, Alfonso was assigned to take over a highly challenging overseas post that would test his capabilities, gumption and moral compass. He was sent to P&G’s Greater China headquarters in Guangzhou to manage the company’s media operations for Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“Complexity and scale were the general challenges one faced in building and selling brands in China. Coming froma country of 90 million people and less than 10 TV stationsin a free media environment, I found myself thrust into a landscape of1.3 billion people from 56 ethnic groups, spread across 34 provinces with 3,000 TV channels operating within a very nascent and highly regulated advertising and media environment. It was a seismic adjustment for me.” de Dios describes.
When he came to China in 2001, says de Dios, P&G was still behaving much like your typical multinational company in a developing country, seemingly oblivious to its many cultural and social nuances.Many in the company were also set in their ways, hesitant to challenge the status quo and change behaviors. As a result, the company was not growing as much as it could. “I observed that the biggest issues within the company were the 3C’s of consistency, complacency and conceit. So basically, my role was not only confined to being an expatriate manager, but that of becoming a change catalyst as well,” says Mr. de Dios. One other major issue Mr. de Dios had to manage was the widespread and large-scale corruption that plagued the China marketing and media environment and that was prevalent within the P&G media organization he inherited. “The corruption issues within the company were systemic, epic in scale and could have severely impacted P&G’s stock price had it been made public at that time,” adds Mr. de Dios.Corruption became the fourth “C” issue that Mr. de Dios had to address.
The interventions de Dios implemented were sweeping, systemic and ultimately delivered breakthrough results. “The changes I put in place were meant to be long-term business and organizational solutions to systemic breakdowns in behavior and risk controls management,” says Mr. de Dios. By enhancing relationships with media, and deploying an efficient work process that leveraged his agencies (de Dios only had 2 assistants under him), he was able to reduce P&G’s TV media costs by 60%, generate cost savings in the hundreds of millions and significantly improve media values that helped build the company’s brands.
Once the fundamentals were fixed, he then focused on introducing media innovation that could create consumer affinity and competitive advantage for P&G’s brands. As an example, Mr. de Dios first introduced the concept of Branded Entertainment to the monolithic, centrally state-run China Central TV (CCTV) in 2002, at a time when this practice was unheard of. “We changed how brands got involved in TV content production, which was an extremely new currency for the Communist Party.”
For de Dios, however, it was an exercise in delivering on the trust and confidence that he was given and to demonstrate that it is difficult to defeat the Filipino spirit as long as it fights the good fight. “I had to work with my company’s best interests in mind and to do the right thing. That inspired me to take on the challenge and brave the daunting obstacles. It mattered, of course, that I was passionate about my job. I just love the work I do,” he exclaims.
“The desire to conquer crises and challenges essentially drove me to excel. The bigger the stage, the more driven I became to demonstrate that we Filipinos can make a meaningful difference in international communities. ” In 2009, he left P&G and set up Telos Media Works, Ltd in Beijing, a marketing communications consultancy and learning lab for brands, media organizations and agencies that are in China.
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