The 24/7 Brand Interactive Agency: How 7even Interactive Is Breaking The Norm In The Creative Industry

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By Jeremiah Agada

Introduction

Interaction since time immemorial has always remained an integral part of human existence. The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics and genocide. Those collisions created reverberations that is yet to die down after many centuries.

Today, the same thing obtains in the dynamic business world that is becoming increasingly more digitally convoluted. Marketing to the consumer has become very essential as his expectations are higher than ever. His demands have been increasing with the rapid outset of technological innovation. He has already had great customer experiences with market leaders, and has seen first-hand what great interaction looks like. One thing he knows for certain – a company that makes him feel special is the one he should be investing his hard-earned money in. And, the best way to gain a loyal customer like him is by having 24/7 customer interactions with him to build a long-lasting relationship.

This kind of interaction so much fascinates Jeffrey Preston Bezos or Jeff Bezos that he simply learnt the art and science of it and infused it in running Amazon.com. Jeff who is today an epitome of success, asides been a technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, understands that successful marketing to the consumer entails 24/7 interactions and anticipating their needs even before they voice it. That is why he can boast: “Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples. You get to know this by interacting with them 24/7.”

Enter 7even Interactive

Understanding the place of interaction of that consistency between business and their clients, a young disruptive Nigerian creative powerhouse commenced operations in 2015 to help in effectively facilitating this. Aptly name 7even Interactive-after its mission statement, the agency has lived up to its name and lived up to billing as the go-to shop for facilitating effective interactions.

The young agency prides itself as a specialist in developing localized communications and designs that connect brands and consumers. It has carved for itself a reputation for building consumer-centric campaigns that resonate consumers and helps them experience the brand.

 Though its core competence is in this area, it is also strong on digital marketing. The agency deploys disruptive campaigns using digitally-driven approach to shaping modern brands. It does this by equipping brands with the positioning tools and strategies they need to navigate the online behaviour.

 Beyond that, its competence extends to media buying beyond just execution but also as it applies to how brands connect to their consumers. It uses data to identify the most consumed media platforms in targeting it communications to reach the required audience.

The agency runs with the vision to be the best local agency providing global solution, driven by innovative marketing ideas and strategy that supports the business of our clients. To achieve this, it challenges itself to take on big challenges and see them through. It also aims to do this through its passion of innovation and technology.

Taiwo Agboola has been marshalling the activities of the young agency since inception as its Chief Operating Officer, COO. He has worked in some of the most reputable, challenging and dynamic advertising shops in the land. He started out in the media at Brands & Products and swiftly left to join Insight communications. He was seconded to FKG2 and thereafter moved to ZK working on Airtel and other business as a client service person. He later joined 141 and after a couple of years pitched his tent with X3M Ideas. He left the agency as Brand Director to become Chief Operating Officer of 7even Interactive.

In a chat with Brand Communicator team, he talks about what drives the agency: “Our purpose-driven vision is our compass. It defines our reason for being. It aligns us to why we do exist, and what we want to be when we grow. We aim for the stars. At 7even Interactive, we’re committed to our clients, we have passion for innovation and technology. We take on big challenges and pride ourselves on seeing them through. We’re a mix of experience, youth and ingenuity that approach every brief with intellectual rigour and a cocktail of surprising lateral minds.”

Taiwo Agboola, COO, 7even Interactive

Outstanding Works In Recent Times (Echefula)

The audacity to do new things, to sail uncharted courses and to dare that which should never be dared best describes the kind of works that have come out from the stables of 7even Interactive in recent times. This is not surprising as a lot of the campaigns executed by the young agency in recent years has positioned it as a specialist in developing localized communications and designs that connect brands and consumers. It has carved for itself a reputation for building consumer-centric campaigns that resonate consumers and helps them experience the brand.

This audacity and the ability to create localized communications that connect brands to consumers by the agency can be gleamed from the ‘Echefula’ campaign it executed for AbInBev’s Hero brand, this year. The insight for this campaign perhaps comes from the warnings of a popular proverb that says that a river that forgets its source will soon dry up. It was born out of the need to remind consumers that no matter where they find themselves, they should not forget their heritage. Echefula readily brings to mind the fact that life is a constant adventure that can lead to a number of magnificent places. However, it reminds us that no matter the path we chose to take on our journey, one thing many people lose sight of our heritage.

Since the ingenious campaign began, more and more people are seeing the need to ‘never forget’ as they have begun making conscious efforts towards getting back to the roots. Sylvester Ugwuanyi, a businessman in the heart of Nnewi in a chat said that he actually felt shame that a beer brand that should take him away from his culture is actually reminding him to go back to it. “Because I wanted my children to be more educated than I am, I banned Igbo language from being spoken at home. I have lifted the ban though because my favourite beer tells me I cannot afford to forget my roots.”

The campaign also found resonance with the local and global creative community as the TV commercial as well as the Outdoor ad of the campaign made it to the ‘Ads of the World’. Ads of the World is an advertising archive that features creative advertising campaigns from all over the world especially those found to be outstanding and excellent in their execution. As seen on the Ads of the World, campaign is borne from the insight that young Nigerians have begun to forget their cultural identities in favour of Western ideals. The campaign is a call for everyone to never forget their indigenous roots.

The multifaceted campaign is interestingly in the sense that it is also trying to bring back the Nsibidi writing system, a system of writing indigenous to the Eastern part of Nigeria that comprises pictograms, logograms and syllabograms. Scholars believe that Nsibidi predates most of the state system Known to man since antiquity. Overtime, this has been forgotten. The agency used this as a base, an umbilical cord between the people and their root. This campaign is resonating with people on different levels while the brand is enjoying the attendant goodwill as the brand championing the need to never forget one’s identity.

The TVC which evokes a nostalgic desire for home began with an introduction to what Nsibidi is as well as a few symbols in the ancient writing and their meaning. This is followed by a young modern man preparing to go home. He is dressed in what can be described as a mixture of local and foreign clothing. Thereafter, landmarks in the east like the Onitsha Bridge and prominent statues announce his arrival. ‘Splendoric’ display of rich cultural heritage through dances, masquerade performances, dressing, music and musical instrument, acrobatic display and a warm welcome displayed in Nsibidi heralds his reception. Strong message in the Igbo dialect emphatically reminded the viewer, “Never forget who you are, never forget your identity, never forget! It was thereafter the Hero Beer brand came into the picture as a brand that reminds people to take pride in their heritage and remember to get back to it.

The print/outdoor ad has a concise graphic representation of the entire campaign embedded in it. On the left is a rich pattern design of Nsibidi symbols while the right side has a bottle of Hero at the extreme left. Just before it is the central message of the campaign, ‘Never Forget Identity,’ and below it, Echefula. The middle has a proud ‘modern’ man dressed in Isiagu with a matching red cap. The left side of his face is encased in Nsibidi while the right side is bare. The payoff for the brand, ‘Beer for Heroes’ rounds off the message.

Buttressing on the aim of the campaign, Taiwo Agboola, Chief Operating Officer of 7even Interactive said it is to connect the brand at an even deeper level with the people that have welcomed and accepted it as part of their culture while also reminding them to take pride in their heritage, identity, celebrate their culture and embrace their traditions. Though mostly set for the South Eastern part of Nigeria, Taiwo says this campaign explores the uniqueness and beauty of diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria, while encouraging Hero loyalists to be proud about their heritage, way of life, beliefs and tradition.

Ndukwe Onuaha, Creative Director of 7even Interactive, a creative maestro who has plied his trade with SO&U, 141, Centrespread FCB, ZK and Noah’s Ark explains further: “We as an agency are always looking inwards in order to tell stories that can connect with anyone because the best stories you can tell are stories you can tell about yourself. We wanted to tell those stories that are not tainted by foreign ideals but are authenticated by our daily experiences.”

Winning the Hero account was opportunity meeting preparation for the agency willing and always ready to go the extra mile and for an agency willing to make the client uncomfortable with the kind of result it wants to get. As Ndukwe puts it, it is a case of the mountain and Mohammed being ready.  “When we won the Hero account, it was an opportunity to bring our aspirations to be. We have always tell the authentic Nigerian story and match it with a brand that actually wants to connect with the Nigerian. What we did was to ask ourselves what can connect with everyone no matter where they are. Now Hero is a brand known commonly as Oompa in the East. This comes with a sense of history around it. As part of our insights into the brand, we told ourselves that Igbos are very migratory but as we keep moving, we lose a sense of culture, we start assimilating other cultures, ideals and starting losing a sense of sorts. So, we wanted to remind Hero consumers never to forget who they are.”

Others

It was the late Charles Paul Simmons, a renowned American Writer and novelist who said that “True greatness consists in being great in little things.” 7even Interactive has proved that every time it has to go on the strategy board to come out with result oriented works, it delivers at every opportunity. Be it works for clients, advocacy campaigns, industry contribution or even an in house creative. Examples of these abound.  Earlier in the year, the agency needed a few people to join its team. It was looking for interns who will fit into the structure and modus operandi of the agency. To do this, it created the ‘Vacancy’ campaign.

The ingenious campaign has received commendation locally and internationally for its sheer brilliance! The campaign also made it to the Ads of the World, same as the Echefula campaign. Captioned ‘they grow up fast,’ the campaign promised to throw interns “right into the deep end from the very first day.” Two of the ad materials convey this message very succinctly. The first is a simple ad showing a baby’s feeding bottle with a supposed alcoholic content as well as an ice cube inside. The second also captioned likewise, shows a simple image of a baby’s foot wear adorned with cowboy’s boots accessories.

Executive Creative Director at The Mark Agency, an integrated marketing and communications agency located in Canberra, Australia commended the campaign while Salil Sharma, a Creative Director in India described the Vacancy campaign as “Mind Blowing Job….”

Closely related to this ad is 7even Interactive’s print campaign materials created for that year’s LAIF Awards in 2017. Interestingly, that campaign was also featured on the prestigious Ads of the world. The agency simply deployed abstract illustrations to depict what goes on the typical agency’s shop floor, the hustles and bustles and the deadlines.

Much earlier in the year, February to be precise, the agency ran a Valentine campaign for the Hero brand also. The campaign, like others mentioned was also featured on Ads of the World. Captioned ‘Everyone needs a Hero, happy Valentine’s Day,’ the ad by the beer brand for the love season was innovative. The agency gave insights for this campaign: “This Valentine’s Day, we’re looking to interrupt how this story is told, we made Hero Lager the romantic Beer of the Nigerian beer market. We deployed cheeky messages to competing brands, compelling them to share Love amongst ourselves on this special day. Even as competing brands, we make each other strive better, and we wouldn’t even be here without them.

Competitive Advantage

These few campaigns among many others have made 7even Interactive the go-to agency for many discerning clients. Asides this, the question of what gives the agency an edge in the industry was posed to Ndukwe. More than anything, Ndukwe says what separates the agency from the pool of others is its ability to go across and overboard in delivering result-oriented works that will ‘scare’ the client as regards their ability to meet up with demand at the break of such campaign. “We have become that agency that clients reach out to when they need to do something more daring. Right from Fidelity Bank-our first clients, the ideas we come up with have never been the normal off the shelf ideas you get anywhere. Our biggest fear here is never to fall into some sort of creative recession.

“When clients want crazy ideas to help push their brands out there, they talk to us. You can see that from what we did together with the client on Fidelity Bank and Hero lager, just for emphasis. That is why we have had businesses on referrals without having to go and pitch. It is a good thing when you are just by yourself in your little corner doing your thing and there is a mail from a client who wants to do business with you based on the strength of what you have done in the past. We have had a few of those.”

Collaborating Ndukwe, Taiwo said, “When we started, we said we wanted to be unconventional. We don’t want to be the regular run-off-the-mill agency operation, we wanted to be vibrant, thorough, unconventional and defiant-in a good way. We didn’t set out to be the norm. I think if you take a walk around the agency, you will see the way our work, it is in light of that.

“We have had time when clients have asked us to mellow down on some of our ideas. They agree that these ideas are amazing but feel that we should slow down a bit. For us, we always want to make you uncomfortable-not in a bad way but when you look at some of our ideas, you will want to ask yourself if you execute this, will you have the capacity to take on the fall out effect? You want to ask if you have the capacity to supply when the demand becomes so much,” he added.

These successes however, Ndukwe confesses would not have been possible without the people that makeup the 7I (7even Interactive) team. “One important thing we have going for us is or people. Our people are always willing to push the envelope to give their very best 24/7. This is an industry that has a high turnover of people. Yet we have been able to maintain a lot of our people to a certain high percentage, and we also know that we have a lot of responsibility on our parts to keep them incentivized to do well. For us, having a team that believes in the dream and going all out is probably the highest achievement.”

Corporate Social Responsibility

A few years aback, Thomas Kolster was in Nigeria to talk about the concept of goodvertising. His attention was centred on how advertising can be used as a force for good, how brands can use advertising to earn the trust of an audience and demonstrating a brand’s corporate conscience or making audiences aware of its charitable or philanthropic activities. He posited that achieving that is one of the great creative challenges an advertising agency can be given.

As a form of its CSR, 7even Interactive took up the gauntlet of this challenge to create an advocacy challenge that will beam the light on the issue of rape in the society. It hoped that by experientially explaining the meaning of rape, the incident will be reduced, thereby contributing positively to the society.

To achieve this, the agency used Kate Henshaw, Simi, Praiz, Toni Kan and a few other Nigerian social currency figures in a mock campaign using their images to promote a non-existent brand, Frixion Vodka, without obtaining permission from them. These headliners in their different spheres of influence felt the 7even Interactive erred by using their images as models to advertise a brand to the public without as much as obtaining their consents. Some of them actually threatened to sue the young agency over this. Will you blame these stars? 

Images of the ‘ads’ are trended on social media with the celebrities displaying the brand and obviously endorsing it.  These sufficiently got the opinion leaders and influencers agitated and annoyed.  To assuage their frayed nerves, the agency followed up with individual letters of apology for using their images in the media without their ‘consent.’  The letter obtained from brandcrunch.com.ng reads:

Dear Kate,

We have used your name, image and social cred without your consent and for this we apologise. Our violation has taken an emotionally, psychological and physical toll on you, and you have every right to be angry. We appreciate the fact that you did not give this assault the silent treatment; you voiced your outrage and asked that justice be served. The Frixion brand is a phantom brand created to shine the light on a grave social evil that we are lending our voice against – RAPE. Our objective is to create awareness as well as recruit supporters for this fight against RAPE by publicly demonstrating RAPE on a platform where we can reach millions of Nigerians at once. By using your social cred without your consent, we “socially RAPEd” you and got the public to voice their distaste. We hope that these individuals can be converted as supporters for the fight against RAPE.

 We apologise for any inconvenience that our antics have caused you. We hope that you understand that we appreciate and respect your social cred, which is why we chose to use you to further our goals. Again, we apologise for any trouble we have caused you. We however have one favour to ask you: please support the cause by posting this mail and this attached image on your social media platform and encourage your followers to support the cause. Together, we can inspire Nigerians to say NO to RAPE, and #YesToConsent.

Warm Regards,

7even Interactive.

With the letter out of the way, the agency’s motive became clear. The online platform quoted Agboola as saying that the agency’s objective is to “raise awareness for rape by re-enacting it on a social platform. The easiest way to define rape is sex without consent, the key word being without consent” says Taiwo Agboola.   As its social contribution, the agency  schemed to get people, especially those that matter in social circles to discuss the 4-letter word – Rape which has become a commonplace social ill which the society often sweep under the carpet,” he had added.

The agency’s logic is, if Kate et al could be furious about using their pictures in a ‘commercial’ without consent, then RAPE as an offence should be dealt with in more strict terms by all and sundry, Agboola pointed out. “We hope that Frixion campaign will educate and sensitize the public on importance of consent during sexual encounters as well as encourage people to speak up against this immoral and inhumane act. To all rape victims out there, we care and we are speaking out for you,” says the COO.

On the fictitious brand used, Ndukwe explained “It’s a fictional brand. No brand is called Frixion, we did this to be able to push our idea without any commercial baggage.  It is a social cause and we are pushing it as such” We believe it’s a worthy cause for the good of the society and human race generally that’s we are deploying resources at our disposal including our friends to bring about the needed social change.

 Apart from the ‘Frixion Vodka teaser Ad that got the stars jumped out of their hiding places, the agency has also unveil a set of online materials that deflate some of the reasons advanced for the causes of the misdemeanour .  Some of the messages on the banners include “What did you think I meant when I asked you to come over”; If you really didn’t want it, why did you dress like that” etc. However, one overriding message on all the copies that drills down the campaign says “There is never an excuse for RAPE” The campaign message trended under hashtag #YESTOCONSENT.

Giving the rationale for the CSR campaign, Taiwo had explained it was the agency’s way of contributing its quota towards the community. “We felt there was need to sensitize the community in which we operate and the country at large on the evils of rape by advising people to seek consent first before sexual relationship.” To gain traction at the teaser stage, the agency created a fictional brand called Frixion Vodka and deployed images and pictures of celebrities, musicians and actors without their consent as models for the Frixion brand.

Awards & Recognitions

Since it opened shop in 2015, 7even Interactive has become a regular visitor to the awards arena both locally and internationally. In fact, no year has gone past since then that it has not won any awards for campaigns executed. In 2016 for instance, it berthed the award winning, talk-of-the-town ‘Tough Job’ campaign for Fidelity Bank. This spectacular campaign is perhaps thought to be one of the propelling force that got the agency to the limelight. The sheer creative ingenuity of the work done from an excellent consumer insight earned the campaign, agency and bank accolades within Nigeria and internationally. At the annual Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF) in 2016, the campaign won eight awards across various categories. 7even Interactive which is one of the youngest on the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria’s (AAAN) roll call at the awards, is on record as the agency to pick the first medal of the night when it got awarded bronze in the radio category for “Best Use of Copy” for its work for Fidelity Bank. 

Other awards the agency won with the campaign include a silver on Radio: Corporate Image; a second Silver LAIF Film: Corporate Image; a Bronze for Film: Best Use of Production Design & Art Illustration and another Bronze for Logo Unveil in the Radio Corporate Image category. Other award-winning works done for the bank by the agency include a Bronze each for Fidelity Bank (Our Word) Radio under the Investment & Other Financials products category; “Best Use of Film Editing” for Fidelity Bank (Tough Job) and Film prize for Fidelity Bank (Tough Job) under the Bank & Investment category. ‘Tough Job’ also got an international nomination and recognition at Marrakech, Morocco (2016) Advertising Festival award.  The agency’s performance at the LAIF ranked it at an impressive 8th position on the table of Nigeria’s creative shops. 

The multimedia ‘Tough job’ campaign interestingly shot by the agency, parodies the onerous responsibilities a bank owes to its customers, giving vent to the bank’s solemn brand promise, built of the powerful payoff line, “We keep our word.”  It underscore’s Fidelity Bank’s preparedness to run through ‘brick walls’ in the pursuit of positive and long lasting solutions to the banking and financial needs of the people. Tough job demonstrates that a tough business environment requests more than funding alone to make success of a business.  It suggests solution by a bank must include mental and physical support. The 60 seconds cut of the TVC shows clips of the Fidelity team expertly undertaking strenuous and physical tasking exercises to indicate that Fidelity is prepared and certified to take the customer through seemingly daunting business and financial requirements.  The radio and press are as dynamic and creative as the TVC. 

All these were just in the very first year of the agency’s operations commencement. When the agency initially set sail into the market, not many had envisaged it will survive the highly volatile industry that had claimed the lives of many agencies. In fact, being a time the nation was plunging into a crippling recession that adversely affected marketing spend, pundits had expected a different outcome. Little did they know that the agency will become a formidable competition in the creative advertising space.

“We came at a tough time when businesses were either cutting down on sizes or right sizing while some were out rightly closing operation but young as we were, we were determined and ready to push the envelope and change the industry graph  in positive light. We were challenged, encouraged and inspired by our crop clients to keep our eyes on the ball with a possibility mind-set,” Taiwo reminisced.

That year, after the LAIF ‘escapades,’ Agboola had fired a warning salvo to all who ever doubted that 7even Interactive will be among foremost agencies contributing to the growth of the creative advertising business in Nigeria. Expressing his joy too, he had said the agency is motivated to do so much more.

Corroboratively, Ndukwe assured that the agency will continue to do daring works that will go beyond the conventional to help the client win in the marketplace. He empahsized, “We are barely a year old, youthful but highly disciplined and a thoroughbred professional agency. We give our all to whatever assignment the client commits to our hands. Tonight is a testimony of the enormous diligence and creative fire power built into 7even Interactive system.”

The best advertiser, they say, is a satisfied customer. The CEO of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo had a thing to say about the win: “to be recognized at LAIF validates the hard work that we have put into the development and execution of our new corporate identity,” adding that“…we are highly delighted to share this success with our agency, 7even Interactive, who led the creative effort and worked with us throughout the rebranding process.”

To assure industry watchers that the agency is not a ‘one-hit-wonder,’ in 2017, 7even Interactive it increased its awards haul once again as it recorded an unprecedented feat as the only 2017 Loeries award winner to emerge in the entire West African sub-region. This was based on its winning campaign tagged “FrixionVodka” at the annual awards in Durban, South Africa.

The self-funded and very impactful Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaign was an initiative against the menace of rape. The novelty, surprise element, the cause, its import and concept of the campaign instantly endeared it to Nigerians with notable elite celebrities such as Kate Henshaw, Toni Kan, Praise, Simi among others volunteering to partner with the agency in its unique fight against the social malaise. Winning in the “Digital & Interactive Communication: Social Media category, the agency’s work is one of the only three Nigerian advertising agencies’ entries that got shortlisted for the prestigious awards.

In addition, the multi-levels award winning agency moved from the 9th position in 2016 to the 4th position on the 2017 Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF) medal table. It won 4 Gold, 5 Silver and 7 Bronze medals courtesy its works for Uber, the digital campaign for Mainone among other clients. “FrixionVodca” was also generously awarded.

On these achievements in the last five years, Taiwo says the make-up of the team as well as its dynamism were instrumental. “Five years ago when we set out, it was thought that the market is saturated but that is no longer the case as agencies have various businesses they are executing for clients.  The market is dynamic, increasingly, clients are looking for leaner, meaner teams that can work with limited budget and deliver successes based on those metrics that have been there since time. Even as budgets are shrinking. When we started out, it was with a client that trusted us. We had nothing and we have grown to where we are today. We are not there yet but when you count top agencies in Nigeria, we are part of the mix.

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