Communication professionals, governments and all stakeholders in brand Nigeria have been enjoined to make conscious, deliberate and organised efforts to tell the many positive stories of the country if we truly desire to expand Nigeria’s reputation index globally.
This call was made by top advertising mogul, Lanre Adisa, CCO, Noah’s Ark Limited, in a keynote address he presented at a special industry evening parley convened by Goddy Ofose, one of Nigeria’s top brand analysts and journalists.
The event, tagged, Industry Evening With Goddie Ofose, was held last Friday, March 6, 2020 at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos.
Speaking on the theme: ‘Advertising and the Power of the Nigerian Story’, Adisa noted with great discomfiture that outsiders have been telling the Nigerian story for too long.
This, he believes, communication professionals must be at the forefront in eradicating this ugly trend.
Adisa noted; “In a brand new world where digital disruption drives every aspect of our lives, life itself becomes too mechanized and regimented without the soothing balm of storytelling, otherwise known as content.
“Everyone has a story. Everyone tells their stories. Some have made an art of it and have spawned a whole new industry teeming with influencers, content creators of all sorts and a host of hitherto unimaginable vocations.”
“Nations tell stories. Sometimes they tell it themselves through what they do or what they say about themselves. Sometimes their stories are subsumed in the stories and heroics of their people. At other times, outsiders tell their stories, cobbled together from a myriad of odds and bits done by them or their people. The latter is never desirable. In that instance, you’re not in control of the input and therefore cannot determine the output.
“In today’s world, truly powerful nations have gone beyond jostling for control in the real world to extending their frontiers in outer space and now the next battle is the dominance of cyberspace in all its entirety.”
Picking his field, advertising – an area he believes has huge mind-power with both intended and subtle messages, as an example, Adisa feels every piece must be seen as an opportunity to shape minds and make impact for a particular era.
“When the full power of advertising is unleashed, it changes the fortune of brands for good. Its power is unbelievably transformative,” he stressed.
Juxtaposing this declaration with series of evergreen commercials done for Peak Milk, MTN, Star and Airtel, that have remained remarkable till date, the Noah’s Ark boss noted; “I’ve been privileged to be part of one or two such campaigns and for this, I’m forever grateful to share in the joy of helping to move the needle for a few brands in the span of my callIn 1998, Peak milk was faced with the challenge of not just maintaining its premium positioning, but also making itself appealing and accessible to a new generation of young homemakers trying to make sense of justifying their choice of Peak over a new cheaper challenger brand that was in sachets.
“I remember Dr. Biodun Shobanjo putting together a new crack team to attend to this challenge, which eventually led to the Peak Generation to Generation campaign. The campaign was so effective and memorable it made a comeback with a remake in 2018.
To Adisa, every piece of communication arts, be it an ad, music or film project must provide a veritable platform to project Nigeria’s story and condition valuable positive projections for the country.
“Every form of content that we come across speaks to us at two levels; the level of the intended message as well as that of the unintended. Every piece of advertising done in a particular epoch mirrors that era and beams the light on the future. By this, I mean the entire industry inadvertently creates a body of work with anthropological import.
“Advertising, when done properly, comes embedded with the traits of its time. Think back to “Enjoy the brighter life with Star”. You can still remember the happy folks raising their glasses in merriment, speaking to a time when life was simple and enjoyable. Think back to “weke-weke” with Vitafoam. Think back to Obron 6. Think back to “ Black thing good o” with Guinness. Take it down the lane to the Milo clap, down to Thermocool“making things better, making better things”. Remember “who get this raincoat from Gold Circle condoms? What about Bagco Super Sack and the jolly fellows that turned a mere commodity to a super brand? And don’t forget “Tally Number” from ETB. Interestingly, the last example wasn’t just about reflecting a period in time; it also reshaped the future of banking.
“Inherent in all these examples and a whole lot more not cited, is the hidden power of advertising. Charles Saatchi was reported to have gone down to the creative department of Saatchi & Saatchi London to commend a young creative team on a brilliant campaign they had just created. In his admonition, he told them to always remember that every ad is an opportunity. And that’s the point most people in our industry tend to miss. It takes the same effort(perhaps even more sweat) to create a mediocre as it would take to create a brilliant and timeless one. The difference is in your understanding of the opportunity you have been given. It takes that understanding of the human condition and a good sense of anticipating how your audience is likely to receive the message. It is up to you to determine what you would like them to think, feel and do after receiving your message,” he submitted.
Speaking further, Adisa noted; “One common thread in all the examples I’ve cited is the need for relatable stories that connect with shared human situations. When our audience can identify with the conflicts, emotions and resolutions that make up our story, we don’t just have their attention, we also earn their love. They invite us into their world and will easily forgive us when we make mistakes as we are bound to do at some point. Any brand that can achieve this and goes further by suffusing it all with a sense of shared identity will definitely enjoy brand nirvana.
“In a society where the appreciation of art cannot be said to be mainstream, the easiest vehicle for art and entertainment is advertising. In most climes, advertising, through its use of national monuments and other paraphernalia of culture overtime helps to paint a particular image of that country to its people and the world at large. It’s amazing how we easily resort to using the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower in ads created for other people outside of their countries of origin, while we struggle to find the right monuments to represent our country. I recall that in the early 90’s we created an ad for an American airline selling its direct flight from Lagos to New York. In looking for images with pictorial similitude, we ended up with an image of the Statue of Liberty and an illustration of the Eyo masquerade holding up its Opanbata staff to mimic the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
“Our nation may have a problem agreeing on the best way to represent itself, but we as an industry have a lot to do to sell Nigerian imagery and monuments for them to attain iconic status. As beautiful as JP Clark’s Ibadan poem is, I do not know if it has evoked any action from the people of Ibadan to make it their own and part of their legacy in the modern age. Think about it, the American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, came from a poem by a lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key. The same country refers to itself as the land of the free, home of the brave. Here in Africa, the South African national anthem started its life as the anthem of the ANC. That nation brands itself as the Rainbow Nation. I’m not too sure if Ghanaians will argue about the part of their country where the kente fabric came from before accepting it as a national treasure. Go to the East and the North, you find people celebrating weddings with the Aso-Oke caps and headgear. Yet no one dares project it as a national treasure.”
“This is where those of us in the creative business come in. Be it in our films, our music, in our ads or any form of artistic expression, it behooves us to be deliberate in projecting our identity through stories and scenarios that are relatable and uplifting. One of the things that excite me today is the current evolution of Nollywood from quantity to quality. From script to screen, the stories are getting better and the production values are far better than where we used to be. Together with some of the emerging literary writers, sportsmen and entertainers, they are the ones projecting the Nigerian story to the outside world.
“While one can see a new zest for storytelling in advertising, the truth is we need more of this for it to have impact and birth what we can truly call Nigerian advertising the same way the world celebrates Brazilian, Indian, Australian or even Thai advertising. This will only come from a body of work that reflects the spirit of the Nigerian. The spirit of grace under pressure. The optimism that lets you achieve in the face of odds. In my opinion, we are just scratching the surface. There is a need for us to challenge ourselves more. We need to dig deeper into our world and express ourselves in a way that will earn the attention and respect of the wider world.”
In his conclusion, Adisa said; “The Nigerian story is vibrant and uncommon. Nigerians can’t have enough of it. The world needs to hear it. No one can tell it better than us. So we need to shun all the excuses.
“Make it as beautiful as it can be for the brands in our care. For Nigeria and all it stands for. The time to do that is now. The power is in our hands.”
Earlier in his welcome address, Goddy Ofose, the convener of the event, which he announced would be an annual one thanked all industry players that responded to the special invitation and all who helped to ensure that the event was a success.
Ofose explained that the event was designed to bring together industry leaders that he has interacted with over the years in the quest to rev up conversations that will move the Nigerian Marketing and Communications industry forward.
He also expressed great confidence that the keynote speaker, panelists and all other stakeholders present would explore the overriding engagement benefits derivable in deepening the Nigerian social-cultural content in our Advertising and other works of Communication arts.
Members of the panel that included top industry players like Dr. Felix King Eiremiokhae, Martin Mabutho, Jaiye Israel Opayemi, Mrs. Bunmi Oke, Moji Saka, and Odion Aleobua among others took quality time to discuss the day’s paper.
Mr. Lekan Lawal served as the moderator for this segment.
In his comment, while delivering a goodwill message, Gboyega Akosile, Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State governor said, ” Programmes like this will inspire increased awareness on ways advertising and marketing can stir up businesses to grow the value of Brand Nigeria; the states and city destinations as well as deepen the relevance of marketing communications in the country”.
In the second segment of the night’s event which was a special awards programme, three industry giants in Nigeria’s marketing communications industry were specially recognised for their evergreen outstanding achievements in the last decade.
The three industry achievers who were personally present to pick the awards are Udeme Ufot, CEO/GMD SO&U, former APCON chair, Lolu Akinwunmi, GMD, Prima Garner, former APCON Chairman, and Nn’Emeka Maduegbuna, CEO, C and F, and foremost PR practitioner.
During their citations, it was revealed that the pedigrees of Udeme, Lolu, and Maduegbuna in the Advertising and PR industry respectively stood them out as unique achievers eminently qualified in receiving this special recognition.
Apart from the three-lifetime awards, 16 other awards for other achievers in the industry were also given out.
The Marketing Practitioner of the year- FMCG 2019 went to Segun Ogunleye of Seven-up Bottling Company while Emeka Oparah of Airtel Nigeria PLC won the Communications Practitioner of the Decade award for Telcos.
Communications Practitioner of the year 2019- Financial Sector went to Bola Attah Of Uba Plc while Marketing Practitioner of the year 2019 for the same Sector went to Folake Ani-Mumuney of First Bank.
Bolaji Abimbola of Integrated Indigo was PR Practitioner of the year 2019, while the Advertising Practitioner of the year 2019 award was given to Steve Babaeko of X3M Ideas.
The Marketing Practitioner of the year 2019 for Multinational Brands went to Martin Mabutho of Multichoice Nigeria while the Experiential Marketer of the Decade was picked by Dr. Felix King Eiremiokhae.
Media Practitioner of the Decade went to Tolu Ogunkoya, while the Most Innovative Experiential/Event Practitioner 2019 award was won by Dare Art Alade of LiveSpot360.
Ikem Okuhu was declared the Most Innovative Brand Journalist 2019, while the IMC Agency of the Year- 2019 was Noah’s Ark Communication.
In his vote of thanks, Daniel Obi, Media Editor, BusinessDay Newspaper and member of The Awards Committee thanked everyone present and promised an elevated version of the event in 2021.