Udeme Ufot is the Group Managing Director of SO&U, one of Nigeria’s leading advertising agencies. He is also a past president of both the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and the Lagos Business School (LBS) Alumni Association as well as a board member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). Ufot was on the jury for the 2017 African Cristal Awards which held in Marrakesh, Morocco recently. In this interview with The Brand Communicator team, he shares his experience and lessons from the jury assignment. Excerpt:
Performance Of Nigerian Agencies At 2017 Cristal Awards
I must say that the performance was fair. I have come to realise that winning awards is an act. The privilege of sitting on the jury opened my eyes to quite a few things. However, some Nigerian agencies that have shown some consistency in winning awards over the years put in little or no entries at this year’s Cristal Awards. Those agencies, I must say, have actually come to understand what it takes to win awards. It takes between 10 and 20 entries to win international awards. My take from the way the works were appraised is that besides creativity, the ideas behind the entries are also important. Nigerian agencies create lots of smart thinking ads but where we seem to come short is in the area of ideas. Most of the works that won were works that were thoroughly integrated. So you also find out that the Nigerian entries that were successful were also entries that went in on multiple platforms.
Response Of Nigerian Agencies To The Entries
I think it is twofold. There is the economic factor and there is the common sense factor. It is not cheap to submit entries for international awards. I think it costs about 200 euros to put in an entry for the Cristal Awards. And you know that this period is a tough one for the industry. The clients are not as active as they used to be. The budgets have been cut down. There is not much happening in the industry and little or no compelling work to boast of. So, I want to believe that some of the agencies have looked at their portfolio and decided to lay low. You don’t just enter award ceremonies for the sake of entering, you enter to win.
Quality Of Works Submitted By Nigerian Agencies
Generally speaking, the quality of works of Nigerian agencies has risen to a very commendable level, especially on the African landscape. Sitting on the Cristal Awards jury, there was never a time I felt embarrassed by entries from Nigeria. The quality of our craft was fair enough for both print and television. None of our works was classified as below standard unlike some entries from other countries.
Quality Of The Jury And The Judging Process
I feel very privileged to be on that jury. I learnt a lot. It was my first jury work in an award ceremony and I enjoyed being led by Jon Williams, Chief Creative Officer of Grey EMEA. Jon brought his experience and expertise to bear in leading and guiding the jury. His maturity and flexibility also came into play. Jon started his career as an art director in traditional media before going into the digital where he spent 10 years. So, he was qualified to preside over the jury. Looking beyond Jon, the composition of the jury was also very strong. The jury comprised Reda Lahmouid, Creative Director, Group Saga Communication, Morocco; Marc Taback, CEO, Initiative Media, South Africa and others, including me. It was a well-structured jury comprising agency people, research, advertisers and then CEOs of advertising agencies.
Also, the level of rapport among the members was good. I have heard of juries were members almost fought but ours was so organised. In fact, it was even at the awards that I knew that S O & U got a Cristal because when it was time to discuss any entry that my agency submitted, I had to leave the room and so did the rest of us. And we didn’t come back to ask about the jury’s decision on our entries. It shows maturity and responsibility.
Nigerian Agencies In Subsequent Awards
Our agencies would do better if they could learn the lessons behind winning. My only concern is that there were certain things I learnt sitting on the jury that anyone who just attended the awards may never learn. All he or she is getting from the ceremony are the presentations, speeches at the conferences, and then on the final day, sitting in a room over dinner to hear and see the winners. As short as the timing, you don’t get to the details.
It is one thing to put in the egg which is the big idea but what is the story surrounding the big idea? What the other agencies in South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and Egypt have mastered is the art of writing case studies.
In fact, at a point, Jon laughed and said people need to understand that winning awards is an art and the highest level of that art is the ability to write case studies for their campaigns. Nigerian agencies must begin to create processes with the end in mind.
What exactly do you want advertising to deliver? When people see the campaign, how do you want them to feel? That will definitely come from working with a bigger idea. One thing that was common among the winning entries was the strong ideas executed across multiple platforms.
And then a good case study that actually explains what the problem was, how the agency approached it, how it was executed and the results. Now, I don’t know if I will be saying something is wrong here for the organisers but it’s the truth, while it was supposed to be a creative awards ceremony, a lot of the judging was swayed by effectiveness.
Professionalism In LAIF Award
It starts with the quality of the jury such as people with experience but who are still on the job or people who have track records and whose judgement would be respected. There has to be a good mix in terms of gender, sectoral players, creative people, the advertisers, research, CEOs and so on. The jury is key. People will ask who the chairman of the jury is. Is he someone that is respected and has a good track record?
Significance Of Winning The Cristal Award
Winning an award on the international level is an endorsement. It shows that your standard transcends your local environment and that you are not playing lip service to being world class but that you are actually playing a world class game.
Nigerian Agencies At Cannes
Cannes is a more elevated platform – well elevated. And one of the things that I saw at Marrakesh was the challenge of the jury understanding the Nigerian creativity more so when we are not so strong at writing case studies. Many of the Nigerian agencies also do not understand what it takes to support their entries. In a memo that I shared with some of my staff here when I returned, I stated that an entry should never be sent especially into a global competition without a strong case study to back it up. It is the case study that explains the concept, why and how it was written in the manner it was written and the results that were delivered.
What I felt so uncomfortable about some Nigerian entries at the Cristal awards was something I found very alien to our approach in the advertising awards. And it is what we call scam ads or creating a work for a particular purpose. Quite a number of the Nigerian entries were obviously created for the award ceremony. Quite a number of the Nigerian entries were disqualified on that ground. I give you an example of the scam ads. We had cases of some agencies that came aboard with well written and fantastic case studies for their campaign while forgetting to put the name of the sponsor! People sit down to create works just for the purpose of entering for an award ceremony. And because the rule says that the campaign must be exposed, they go to one local area to expose it. Well, in the case of the African award, they couldn’t make it out. The jury was very observant. Jon said that they equally do that abroad. So it is not peculiar to us.
Coming back to the question of if we really see an end in sight in terms of Nigerian agencies not having any form of showing at Cannes? Obviously, for Nigerian agencies, there are very strong contenders at Cannes. So, if we go head on without learning all we should, we might wound ourselves. But I think we are going to see more Nigerian agencies entering for regional competitions, where they will have stronger chances of winning. After winning at those regional awards, they can then become bolder and move on to Cannes. You really cannot begin to do well without first understanding what it takes to be there.