Mr. Lanre Adisa is the Managing Director and Chief Creative Officer of Noah’s Ark, Nigeria’s vibrant agency that recently won Epica Awards. Adisa is a quintessential Integrated Marketing Communication practitioner who has contributed enormously to the practice of advertising in Nigeria. In this interview with selected journalists including Tunji Faleye of Brand Communicator, he speaks on the nation’s economy, the Advertising industry, Epica Awards and other sundry issues. Excerpt…
Assessment of 2017 and Projection For 2018
It’s been a very tough year for the country as an economy. Technically speaking we have been told that we are out of recession, but we do know for sure that a whole lot of people are still finding it difficult to make ends meet in our economy. In the midst of all that some brands still performed while some brands have to go through difficult time especially with regards to the issue of funding (forex) and other matters.
If you are fortunate as an agency to have clients who are still in business despite the challenges of the economy you need to really be thankful. Unfortunately, there are not too many agencies that have had that kind of luck. Apart from that, clients are also looking for real value. They are looking for people who can actually make a difference in the life of their brands, and that is what we have to actually do.
Agencies have to justify why they need to be the one to be retained on that kind of business. Overall, it has been a very tough and challenging year for our industry. Thankfully, with the easing of recession since last quarter or thereabouts and the forex as well, there is a lot more optimism than before, based on that I want to believe that 2018 will be a better year than 2017 for our industry.
2018 will be a precursor to the election year and we expect that will pump some money into the economy. We also believe that the masses will have increase in disposable income that will increase their purchasing power
Merger, Partnership and Account
For me, merger is about strength. You merge in order to consolidate each other. It should not be one-sided. There must be opportunities or strength that you identify that will make the agencies agree to merge. Despite the fact that we are affiliated to Dentsu Aegis, we will not turn down business from elsewhere. The primary reason for affiliation is not to say all their businesses should come to us. I think what we probably need is for individual businesses to look inward and see how they can evolve. Our industry should be working at pace with the changes in our environment.
For instance look at the entertainment world. There was a recent PWC report on the total expected value of the entertainment and media world for the next two or three years which is quite huge. What are we doing in terms of how we expand the scope of our areas of influence to improve in the area of content development, digital and others? In the real sense of it, it’s down to individual businesses to see how they can go beyond surviving.
It is a great concern for me concerning our country because the kind of things we place premium on don’t seem to make sense. If you look at all the other economies there is a big role for how creative industry relate with people. People have interaction with communication every second of their lives, meaning that this industry also plays a big role in the lives of people.
For instance, we are all talking about Black Friday through our industry. That shows we are a very key player in the life of this economy and the people. What is obvious is that people in government don’t understand the importance of our industry. There was a time when somebody who knows nothing about the industry was chosen to be the chairman of APCON and that was not the first time that was happening.
Steps Taken By AAAN
We are not sleeping, but I know there are interests that need to sort things out for the better larger interest of the industry. It does not make sense not to have APCON chairman as much as we have a minister in that ministry. It is not the case of the industry not doing enough to call for our own interest because AAAN president sometime had an audience with the Vice President.
About Epica Awards
It’s good to talk about Epica, not necessarily talking about the agency that won it. We are talking more about how much we are performing as an industry. Our own vision from the beginning has always been that we don’t just operate in the country but we compete with the world. For you to really measure how successful you really are, you need to measure against the best of the best from around the world and that has always been our intention even when we were just a 10-man team.
We do not operate out of Nigeria we compete with the rest of the world, and I think that is the mindset that needs to permeate our industry that the world is our stake. Of course, we tell Nigerian stories and we have never shy away from subjecting what we do to the best of peer review around the world.
This year apart from winning at the Cristals in Marrakech, Morocco we entered for Lynx as well for this same Airtel campaign and we were shortlisted among the finalists for the other ad, Alex and Jones. So, we don’t shy away from that because that is the only way we can be among the best, and the beauty of that is that outside of this country people saw and reckoned with our work which is a good thing for us. That is the importance of Epica for us.
Key Element of ‘Data Is Life’
It takes two to tango. The starting point is that we have a client that is willing, that is also ambitious who gives you the sense of responsibility, and in the case of Airtel and a couple of our clients that has always being the challenge. The brief from the Airtel is that the company want to be the most loved brand and truly from last year till now the kind of works that we have been creating for Airtel have been generating positive feedback from ordinary people on the street and that is more encouraging than winning Epica Award.
It is about the real people who the communication is meant for actually understanding it and feeling good about it. For me, that is meeting the objective of the brief. We have two commercials in the creative Data is Life -Lost as well as Alex and Jones.
The exciting part of the campaign for us is that we have a brief that is about turning disadvantage into advantage. Of all the telcos brands Airtel is the only one that has not launched the 4G network. All the other telcos including Ntel that came later has 4G. So, if you don’t have 4G and other do, it should be a disadvantage. That was the intention. Yes, there was 4G but people were not necessarily seeing anything different with the 4G.
We do know also that from the study that we conducted relatively speaking on an average Airtel data service is better than some of the other telcos that have 4G. For consumers it does not matter whether it is 1G, 2G, 4G or 10G, what matters is customer’s satisfaction. What led to Data is Life is the feedback from the subscribers about what data meant to them. There is also a good impact of that on business.
For instance, NCC report shows that between late last year and early this year Airtel actually added 2 million subscribers without adding 1 G to its service. Also, when data was shrinking from about 96 million to about 91million Airtel added over 800,000 new subscribers. The importance of that is that with the right story and a right message to back it up people are willing to listen.
A campaign is driven by the need for the brand in question. Technology will change, platform will change but storytelling will never change. In the case of this particular brand, it was something that was perhaps most needed to first differentiate the brand. Truth be told, two years ago or thereabouts there was little you could say about what Airtel stands for in terms of brand story, but all that changed when we started that process, and what it has done is that it has actually brought it closer to the heart of the people who are feeling a sense of ownership.
As an agency people do appreciate the originality of our work. Brands have also begun to make enquiry about our agency that was not the primary aim, the aim was to create work that will do it for the brand. The campaign is emotional and it is deliberate to create that emotional connection. That will not change; it may change from one brand to the other because what works for Airtel may not work for other brands.
Recruitment at Noah’s Ark
We look at you and see whether you are a kind of our animal. We want people who are really hungry to make a difference not people who are hungry for job. People who really want to contribute something invaluable to the body of work that we do. People, who are really competitive in a healthy way. We are not looking for stars. We don’t go into hero worshipping. We want people that are dedicated who want to work in a better environment. Of course, when your business becomes a brand name there are tendencies that you attract more people especially to add your name to their CVs. The people that we want are co-travellers in whatever things that we do.
When we set out in 2008 we said to ourselves that we would like to be a key player and to be in the league of most successful agencies out of Africa in the next five years. In three or four years when we started the business that was when we got into Archive and that was the first time any West African agency would get into the Archive.
Beyond being in the Archive we followed that up with other entries into the Archive. We got the National Diploma which I think was in 2014 or thereabouts and that was first for Nigeria. Another first for Nigeria is winning silver at the Loeries and this year we won Gold at the Cristal Award and that is first for Nigeria also. We have been winning silver and the first gold for Nigeria also came from this agency.
Of Course, I talked about Lynx earlier we were also the first to make the shortlist of Lynx. We actually wanted to win it but it was very tough. This year we won Epica for Nigeria again and we close the year with gold. There was an instance of the Cristal Award where they have a Pan African contest and they have one for the region and just last year Nigeria was taken as a region on its own. At the end of it, there was a gold from Nigeria at the Nigerian region and that was being projected as somebody won gold like pan African Gold.
The truth is that that cannot tower over even a bronze from the pan African because at Pan Africa your work is being subjected to the entire continent, that means when you win a bronze at that level it cannot be the same as winning gold from the Nigerian region. Some media organisations did that misinformation and we had to correct them. It is not because our agency is involved, we felt it was important to set thing straight.
Expectation At 2017 LAIF Awards
We have entered a couple of works and we need to leave it to the jury. Winning award is not an automatic thing. We have the instances of ads that will win an award outside Nigeria may not win in Nigeria because Juries are different. The jury may choose not to award XYZ today, but we are very optimistic. We have been consistent in terms of our wins at the LAIF Awards, but I cannot say we will win this and win that we can only hope that the jury will see sense in what we are entering.