Ad agencies clash on tourism video

· Dentsu Grant says video “poorly rehashed”

· JWT points to virality achieved

· SLTPB says it owns the content

By Charindra Chandrasena

Two of the biggest advertising agencies in Sri Lanka went head to head last week on the ethicality and creativity of a promotional video that was launched for the much talked about ‘So Sri Lanka’ tourism campaign.

The controversy erupted when Dentsu Grant, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest advertising agencies, suggested on its official Facebook page that the final video that was launched was a “poorly rehashed” version of the original video produced by it.

“We at Dentsu Grant were surprised to note that our original TV Commercial conceptualised, shot and produced for Sri Lanka Tourism earlier this year has now been poorly rehashed and used for the new positioning launched in London at the WTM: So Sri Lanka. Check out our original version here, part of an 8-part TVC series produced to promote the island internationally,” it said, providing links to the original videos.

The $ 2 million contract to develop a new brand identity and strategy for Sri Lanka Tourism within a period of six months was awarded to J. Walter Thompson Sri Lanka (JWT), the local office of one of the world’s oldest advertising agencies, last month.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, Dentsu Grant Executive Creative Director Russell Miranda, who created the original videos, said that the agency was unaware its content was being used by another agency for the campaign.

“We didn’t know that the new campaign was using our footage. We are not disputing the fact that the client has the rights to use it as they wish since they paid for it, but normally we would know. In this case we were not aware or informed.”

He said that standard protocol is for the client to inform the previous agency that content produced by it was being used for another purpose.

Miranda also expressed his reservations about the creativity of the final video.

“Usually in any campaign you expect to see a new creation. This is a new campaign that has the work that was done to a different brief.”

When contacted for a response, JWT Sri Lanka Chief Executive Officer Alyna Omar said that the video was produced out of stock video provided to it by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) within a matter of two weeks.

“This contemporary identity was launched at WTM on 5 November, through a brand AV that was created out of stock video footage for which The SLTPB owned rights for, that was provided to us. We had just over two weeks to create the material that was needed for WTM and the most effective way forward was to use the given stock footage.”

She added that even an official from Dentsu had applauded the tagline ‘So Sri Lanka’.

“Even Dentsu’s own Santosh Padhi who was a part of the expert panel that selected the winning idea celebrated it as a remarkably fresh and insightful solution innately suited to Sri Lanka.”

She added that the video has achieved a viral impact already.

“We are delighted that the AV itself has been shared organically several thousand times now and I am happy that most of our fans both at home and across global markets have enjoyed every aspect of the AV and judging by sentiment excited to plan their next holiday in Sri Lanka, Mission accomplished.”

SLTPB, which is at the centre of this controversy as the client, said that there was no issue as the rights to the content are owned by it.

“We own the rights and therefore we have the right to use the footage for whatever purposes we want,” SLTPB Acting MD Dushan Wickramasuriya told The Sunday Morning Business.

A fresh video to be shot
JWT Sri Lanka said that it is partnering with award winning wildlife producer, Nicola Brown, whose previous accolades include David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, to create the first-of-its-kind film shot from the viewpoint of Sri Lanka’s rich and diverse wildlife.

“This is an exciting piece of modern day storytelling that is designed to encourage travelers to choose Sri Lanka for an experience like no other, the film will showcase the country’s unique landmarks, vibrant cities and breath-taking landscapes including Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandy and Ella to name a few through the eyes of the island’s wildlife,” Omar said.

The film will be distributed across digital and owned social channels, as well as being the focus for an earned media PR campaign across key markets across Asia, The Middle East and Europe. A sneak peak of the film was released at WTM and across various social/digital platforms across the world with the full-length film being released at the start of January.
So Sri Lanka well received at WTM
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s new tourism tagline, So Sri Lanka, has been well received at the World Travel Market 2018 where it was unveiled, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Director Public Relations Dushan Wickramasuriya.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business he said that it had received an enthusiastic response.
JWT Sri Lanka Chief Executive Officer Alyna Omar also said that, contrary to popular opinion, So Sri Lanka is the right solution for Sri Lanka at this point.
“SLTPB didn’t need another passive tagline with a limited shelf life. By 2020, 50% of the World’s travel revenue will be spent by millennials – Asia enjoys the highest numbers of inbound millennials – yet Sri Lanka’s millennial interest is decreasing. Given the incredible diversity of our offering we are well placed to attract more millennials (and by this I certainly don’t mean just backpackers) – we need a powerful, globally relevant and dynamic platform upon which to build long term, sustainable engagement strategies,” she added.