The Agora Awards – Philippines The Agora Awards is the beacon of Filipino marketing excellence that spotlight admirable quantities of versatility, innovativeness and ingenuity.
AGORA AWARDS HISTORY
The Philippine Marketing Association, the Agora Awards, and the Marketing Profession
PMA Awards the Agora to Game-Changing Marketers
In an ever evolving marketing landscape, it takes one-of-kind individuals to communicate a company’s products and service to new audiences with very discriminating tastes. To push the envelope even further, people who see emerging trends in advertising, analyze changing consumer behavior, and evaluate best practices, are needed to ensure marketing supremacy for any brand in an industry. It is these individuals who will take center stage during Philippine Marketing Association’s Agora Awards to be held tonight at the Grand Plaza Ballroom of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Pasay City. The Philippine STAR was present during the Pre-Awarding Dinner held last October 2 at the Boracay Ballroom of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Pasay City. It was a night of celebration, of hard work, passion, and dedication to communication excellence, spent with cocktails, chit chat, and good food. In a tête-à-tête with the winners, we asked each of them what they thought made them deserving of this year’s accolade and it means for their company.
Benchmarking, Community Collaboration
Gregory Francis Banzon, general manager for Domestic Tuna and Global Branding of Century Pacific Corporation, attributes the Agora he won for Outstanding Achievement in Marketing Management, not just to a one-off mark of excellence in marketing but to his almost 30 years of experience in the industry. “I’ve always tried to do my best to benchmark versus, not only the best in the country, but in the world, try to emulate their good qualities, and localize the concepts we need to execute excellent marketing. While we don’t always have a big budget, thinking and working smart to outwit your competitors and win consumers, being persistent, hardworking, and looking at what consumers are looking for—these things are keys to our success,” he adds. Meanwhile, Nicki Viriña, CSR coordinator for Holcim Philippines, attributes their Agora Award for Advocacy Marketing to their flagship CSR initiative, the Galing Mason Program, which has been going on since 2004. She received the award on behalf of Holcim Philippines president Eduardo Sahagun. The Galing Mason program is a capacity building, skills upgrading program for construction workers in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Philippine Constructors Association, Inc., and the Association of Construction and Informal Workers. “What makes this an achievement for us is that after 10 years, we’ve already certified more than 5,000 masons. We ventured in this endeavor with the idea that by helping people, by giving them skills, they’ll value Holcim Philippines as a company. Masonry is an industry that’s very close to our business, and by training masons, we enable them to get to know our product and use it properly, thereby increasing potential sales. Our inclusive approach in doing CSR, through our collaboration with the community and local government, has endeared us to our beneficiaries,” Viriña explains.
Passion for and Integrity of the Brand
Some winners have excelled in marketing their brands because of their personal love and passion for it, such as in the case of Aurelio German III, director for BMW Motorrad Importers East Asia and recipient of the Agora for Overseas Marketing Excellence. Before working for BMW, German already loves its cars. He knows every detail about its features and performance since he himself owns one. “Marketing is easier when you’re passionate about the product that you’re marketing. For me, it was an easy sell because a lot of people are already passionate about it and I share their passion. It’s easier to talk to people on that basis; it’s easier to engage consumers when you understand where they’re coming from, because that’s exactly where I was coming from. BMW is an emotional product and if you share that emotion, I think the marketing follows. It’s very easy to recognize when a marketer doesn’t really believe or isn’t passionate about a product,” shares German. Not all companies recognized in this year’s Agora Awards are big and established companies like Holcim Philippines, Century Tuna, and BMW. Others like GIGA Natural Products Specialist Corporation, or simply GIGA, have excelled in their respective niche market despite being a relatively new player. For company president Marcos Jose “Peping” De Villa and his wife Joy (who is also the company’s director), receiving the Agora for Entrepreneurship in Small-Scale Business gave them a lot of confidence and credibility to compete with other bigger brands in the natural health products industry. “We attribute our success to integrity, which is one of the main points of our business. What we have in our products is what it says on the label, and that gives us value among consumers and sustains our company’s growth,” de Villa muses.
Familiarity and Synergy
Though not present, Paulo Tibig, president and CEO for VCargo Worldwide was recognized for his achievements in marketing with the Agora for Entrepreneurship in Medium-Scale Business. During his company’s inception, Tibig was involved in every part of VCargo’s operation, from the processing of paper works to the actual delivery of packages and parcels. He isn’t afraid of doing the dirty jobs, knowing too well that familiarity with every aspect of the business is crucial to his company’s success today. The relationship between the company’s owners, meanwhile, is what made Primer Group of Companies excel and deserve the Agora for Entrepreneurship in Large-Scale Business, says Jimmy Thai, president and CEO. “The company was founded by five partners: Jerry Sy, Willy Sy, Thomas Lim, my brother Johnny, and I. it’s the chemistry and the harmonious relationship between us five that propelled the company to excellence and prosperity. Even after 30 years in the business, we’ve still retained that bond, that camaraderie. Even as we compete among ourselves to set the bar higher, when we work together, it’s like a barkada—it always has a fun and relaxed PMA awards the Agora to game-changing marketers environment,” shares Thai. Primer Group of Companies is the retail and distribution firm behind well-known and emerging brands of outdoor products such as The Travel Club, R.O.X., High Sierra, Jansport, and The North Face.
Continuing Education, Establishing Connections
Education also plays a crucial role in marketing, and it is excellence in this field that garnered Dr. Maria Victoria Rosas, president-elect of the Philippine Council of Deans and Educators in Business and registrar of the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, this year’s Agora for Marketing Education. “As an advocate of marketing education, basically, our students will benefit because of the additional knowledge that I can share with them. For our organization, the Philippine Council of Deans and Educators in Business, this award from the Philippine Marketing Association is really a big honor as we are now moving to another level of recognition. This is another milestone for us, being able to work with the PMA to further develop marketing education and help our students apply what they have learned in the real world,” says Rosas. But for Donald Patrick Lim, chief digital officer for ABS-CBN Corporation and winner of the Agora for Marketing Communication, one of the keys to his success is to establish and maintain connections in the industry early on. “PMA for me is a very prestigious organization; if you want to have a good career in marketing, you have to join PMA. At that time, I want to have connections, engage in networking, and I achieved that by being an active member of PMA. Eventually, I came to ABS – CBN and became a president. All of that, I didn’t know at that time, but it was really training me to become a better marketing professional,” explains Lim, who at 22 years old, joined the Philippine Marketing Association, knowing well that it will help him become a trailblazer in the industry. “Personally, I was able to speak in front of people. It was a really good training ground for me and so the PMA is close to my heart because of that,” Lim says, adding that by joining ABSCBN, he became more aware of the world, came to recognize digital as media, and recognized the world where it’s going to, enabling him to adopt to situations and jobs. Indeed, this year’s Agora Award recipients are a manifestation of how marketing in the Philippines is continuously evolving to achieve viability and maintain relevancy, by creating new platforms and content for a new wave of audience. As the Philippine Marketing Association enters its 35th year milestone, it remains relentless in its pursuit of marketing excellence in the country by recognizing game-changing Filipino marketers.
The PMA and the Birth of Professional Marketing in the Philippines
The years before the inception of the Philippine Marketing Association (PMA) might well be referred to as the “dark ages” of marketing as a profession in this country. When people thought of marketing, they thought of selling or distribution products. Perhaps they conjured up images of fast-talking salesmen making misleading sales pitches for poor quality products. Marketing practitioners were not able to step forward and proudly present themselves as professionals in a field serving the Filipino people. But that all changed in 1954 when 15 brave pioneers pooled their efforts and private funds to create the PMA. The new non-stock, non-profit organization had as its explicit long-term goal to promote marketing as a noble profession and to provide high-level guidance to the government for issues related to marketing.
From the beginning, the PMA was committed to the belief that economic and social progress is intricately linked to the free enterprise system. These beliefs are embodied in the PMA credo: “our country’s economic progress can be best achieved in a climate of free enterprise” and “business and industry can be best contribute to economic progress” an social well-being through enlightened self-interest. The PMA represented something totally new in the country: an organization firmly grounded in integrity and honesty and committed to marketing as a professional enterprise. The PMA also believed that marketing should be recognized and appreciated as both an art and science and that it was in truth a profession in the finest sense of the word. Members were expected to contribute to the profession and to their communities, and to show consumers that they were not motivated solely by the profit motive. The Association has always strive to do all that it can to improve the quality of life for the Filipino people.
The Agora Award: The Genesis
During the late 1970’s, as it approached its Silver Anniversary, the PMA began searching for a flagship project, something that would differentiate the Association, honor outstanding marketing practitioners, and further professionalize the field of marketing. During the fateful year of 1977, three key members of the Long-Range Planning Committee began to meet regularly to brainstorm and evaluate alternatives: the Ernesto G. Roceles (1976-1977 PMA President) Renato S. Esguerra (1974 PMA President), and Guillermo T. Garcia (1974 EVP). Their usual venue for informal dinners and open discussions was the old Jade Vine Restaurant on United Nations Avenue. One evening, Garcia proposed the idea of creating an award that would transform the image of the profession. All three men immediately understood that the concept, which would eventually evolve into what we now know as the Agora Awards, was a good one. They endorsed it enthusiastically.
However, the gestation period was prolonged and it was a couple more years before the project finally came to fruition under the leadership of 1979 PMA President Agustin Bengzon. The term “Agora” was eventually selected to describe the new awards. And what an apt metaphor! The Agora, located near the Acropolis in ancient Athens, was the site of buying and selling in the community and an important precursor of the free enterprise system. Ernie Roceles’ publication of Agora: The Philippine Journal of Marketing turned out to be catalyst, and it was during Association’s Silver Anniversary year that the first Agora Awards were held. The 1979 awards committee, co-chaired by Willie Garcia and Clarita Ordoñez, settled on the three key categories of Marketing Management, Marketing Education and Entrepreneurship and developed the procedural framework that has stood as the model ever since.
The Traditional and Future Promise
Since 1979, the Agora Awards were conferred to distinguished individuals and companies who made significant contributions to the marketing profession and whose products and services have improved the Filipino’s way of life. Later, the categories of Export Marketing (1986) and Marketing Company of the Year were added. In 1989, the Entrepreneurship category was segmented into Large-Scale, Medium Scale and Small Scale. More recently (1997), the Asia Pacific Agora Awards for Marketing Excellence have given the Awards an international dimension. In 2003, the Advocacy Marketing category was added. The latter development was a logical outgrowth of PMA becoming a founding member of the Asia Pacific Marketing Federation in 1992, along with 12 National Marketing Associations from the region. Significantly, it was during the Centennial Celebration of the Philippine nation that the PMA “exported” the Agora Awards to members of the Asia Pacific Marketing Federation, who have enthusiastically adopted this Filipino originated award of marketing excellence. PMA proudly welcomes this year’s Agora Awardees into the illustrious company of previous winners, representing a “Who’s Who” of the Marketing profession in this country. Each year, the torched is passed, the flames of excellence showing the way, always highlighting and rewarding Filipino ingenuity and innovation in the field of marketing. The PMA, now in its 49th year, looks forward to continuing to use the Agora Awards as a platform for serving the marketing profession and the Filipino people.