Could you give an overview of the advertising landscape in Nigeria, with respect to its prospects and challenges?
We cannot look at the advertising industry landscape in Nigeria in isolation without looking at the prevailing socio-economic environment as well. As a nation we are going through a very challenging time as a result of the issues with the revenue generation and all that have been badly hit by the oil industry. But, be that as it may, it doesn’t mean that our nation lacks the capacity to bounce back and find alternatives to move forward. Whichever way, as an industry, we will take part of the fall out of that; a couple of our clients here and there will have to find way of readjusting to the reality. However, Nigeria still remains a very vibrant place to operate. If you are in Africa or you plan to play in Africa, Nigeria still remains a place you must consider. That is the reality. So, it is still a promising and dynamic place to operate and do business. We will face some challenges, no doubt about it, but it is about how you apply yourself as an entity, be it as an advertising agency or the clients in this case as well. The clients are there to do business to make money. Often time you will see scenario where clients will cut advertising budgets. Yes, these things do happen. perhaps the smarter way out is to say let us reorder our priorities; where should our money going, it is not that I will be going to cut my money but where should this money go and how much should I place. What it means also is that for us as an industry, and because it is a very challenging time the client will be looking for who can deliver. So, the onus is us as an industry and as an agency to ask yourself: am I deliveringy? Am I adding value in the real sense of it? For some, it will be very challenging in terms of attracting, retaining and maintain businesses. For some others, it may also be a good time for them to be able to tap into new opportunities.
Your agency has been described as small but mighty, what do you think you are doing that has helped in creating a large agency profile for your company?
With all sense of humility, I hear people say small and all that, but it is not about the size. We started as a small agency, but we have evolved now, so, we are not a small agency in that sense as the Nigerian people will want to perceive us as ‘small’. But we maintain a small agency mentality because there is virtue in being small, nimble and delivering. We have evolved. We are talking about a team of about 60 or more people working in the agency, and an evolving group as well. We have ventured into public relations, experiential, marketing and have our own media agency as we speak. It has just been launched this year. We are also into content creation and production. So, we are not that small looking at the people we compete with. But there is no prize to be gained in either being small or big but what matter the most is the size of your ideas. That is what we have always done from the beginning and we will continue to do that. We have invested so much to make sure that the idea are bigger than expected and can deliver something big for our clients.
What then are you doing differently within a space of eight yearsthat makes this difference?
I think what is different for us is to ensure that we do not take our eyes off the ball. The agency exist for just one thing- to be able to ensure that we create an environment where our teams can give our client an fair advantage over competitors. Apart from the facts that we work on the brief for months we also watch out for things our clients briefed us. So, we do a lot of that in terms of proactive work. We see the brand as ours. Our mission statement says we see ourselves as the client’s extension of their marketing department. It is just that we are here and they are there. But we work in tandem to ensure that the brand has an advantage over competitors. What that means is that, in that extended marketing department, what we bring to work is the magic that we can create. The logic will come from them and we bring in the magic and we ensure that we put them in a competitive position?
How would you describe the nation’s creative industry generally today? Are we where we are supposed to be?
If you go to New York, London or to any other western country, you will hear people say we are not this and we are not that.That is, if you follow some of the veteran who say oh, this, oh, that. But we must be clear that what they have been able to achieve in the past is the minimum standard which will still appear good and okay. However, I will say that we are making progress as an industry, but the progress is slow. There is a strong yearning on the part of the young talents we have around today that things can be better. There is now a consciousness of doing creative work that can be respected, that can cross borders, but there is not enough in term of investment in grooming that potential. This is a big problem in our industry.There is a lot of awareness in the industry on the need to enhance creative as can be seen in the number of Nigerian advertising people that go Cannes Lions Festival every year now. It was not like that before. Cannes Liones was not even in the radar as far back as 1999 or 2000.
Could you expatiate on Nigeria’s participation in Cannes Lions and creativity?
Yes, I am just going to talk about that. When I look around these days, I see a couple of young people doing one or two things here and there that is taking them to places. Some go to Miami Ad School, many others are concerned about featuring in the Lurzer’s Archive now, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Noahs Ark. We were not even featured in the last Archive that came out but there is a Nigerian agency that was featured.That is gratifying for me, for the facts that it is becoming an aspiration and that is a good trend to look out for.So, I will say from that point of view that yes, we are making progress in terms of creativity, but this progress can be faster, going forward us as an industry.
You talked about investment and enabling environment, what kind of investment are you talking about?
Well, the investment works at different level. For us as an agency, for instance, within the little that we have, we make it a duty to give to our guys. First, we create the environment for them to be at their best within the agency.We also let them know that the horizon should not be limited by where they are. They actually see themselves as competing with the entire world. Then of cause, we avail ourselves the opportunity of training in institutions like the Maimi Ad School. Every year we make sure that we enrol at least four of our staff there via online training. We also send people out to where we have the opportunity to learn one or two things. That is at the level of the agency, but when I talk about the macro level, as an industry, and I can site example such as in South Africa, for instance. The Association of Advertising Agencies, AAA, school in South Africa is one of the best advertising schools around, and was started by the industry. Apart from the facts that there are other individuals who started their own schools, such as The Vergas School and The Redand Yellow School among others, AAA started ad school in the industry.Honestly, this business is about talent, so we should be able to attract young talents. Therefore, for a young country like Nigeria, the raw material to keep that going is all around but creating the infrastructure to attract and to expose talents should be a priority and a duty we owe ourselves in term of investment in the industry apart from what individual agencies do for their people.
Looking at advertising as a business, you earlier said the industry was in turbulence as a result of the economic downturn, what should agencies do to survive in this trying times?
Yes, as I said earlier, agency should be able to justify every spent; they must be able to reassure that they are with the right partner; and this is the time that calls for true partnership. It is only agency that can show and mean that they can deliver that will retain the client trust. Clients will be more demanding, no doubt about that. You will have instances of clients cutting down on fees, and we have seen that happen. Most clients are not committing to anything anymoreat the moment. It is no fault of theirs because the economy is very challenging. To remain that agency that will be of value to them, we need to do three times what we have been doing for them before otherwise you are not guaranteed breakfast or launch.
Culled from National Mirror Newspaper