HOLDING a secure position in a multi- national advertising giant, Cecile Gabutina-Velez is proud to be a Thomasian, which she says helped her achieve much in a field reputedly dominated by Ateneo, De La Salle, and UP alumni.

An AB Communication Arts major, Gabutina-Velez said she once planned to take up advertising. But she found no full course on advertising offered in the University, and settled for Communication Arts instead. “Communication Arts fit my goal to learn something about advertising,” she said. Back then, UST was known to be one of the best advertising schools in the country.

In her college days, Gabutina-Velez had the chance to work for the then Ace Compton (now Ace Saatchi and Saatchi) and the Philippine Advertising Company, which then handled the San Miguel Beer account.

After graduating in 1984, she immediately worked for Asia-West Advertising, where she worked on a Makati City account and learned much about government information drives. After Asia-West, she was employed by J. Walter Thompson, and a couple of years later, by McCann Erickson, where she is currently the vice president for client service and business development. Her duties involve interacting with clients, helping them form business strategies to maximize communication channels.

Gabutina-Velez was also managing director of McCann Erickson Vietnam.

“The Vietnam posting was an experience I will never forget as it exposed me not only to a different culture but also to a different way of ‘going-to-market’,” she said.

She stayed in Vietnam for four and a half years, and did a combination of general, client, and agency product management for the company.

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Vietnam, experienced rapid economic growth in the 90s. But its advertising industry was still an infant, and it was up to Gabutina-Velez and her team to innovate and open Vietnam to fresh and unorthodox ideas. This meant that they had to combine above-the-line and below-the-line means (advertising jargon for traditional and non-traditional methods) to produce neutral media solutions and consumer-oriented demand channels. This means that they came up with strategies especially designed to respond to the needs of the consumer market.

In Vietnam, the line between the two methods are now blurred. “The lines are no longer lines but a seamless integration of networks of consumer reach and messages,” Gabutina-Velez said.

Looking back, she thinks that her being a UST alumna helped her get the job. “Using my professors back then as my only credentials, being a mere fresh graduate, opened doors for me,” she said. The training from reputable advertising practitioners such as Nanette Diyco, Joe Miranda, Bong Osorio, Joe Marabut, and the late Noel Anam, she says, was an essential factor of her industry know-how.

In the 80s, most of the top-level executives in most advertising companies were from UST, most of them Communication Arts majors. “Being a Thomasian is definitely an edge,” Gabutina-Velez beamed. Florian C. Garcia

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