EXTREME IMPACT:The Story of CSR Initiatives of X3M IDEAS @ Five
By Tunji Faleye
Over the years, the establishment of many advertising agencies in Nigeria has brought serious competition into the industry, and only agencies with wealth of creativity have become relevant in the intensely competitive advertising landscape. This is why the continuous rise of X3M IDEAS in spite of high mortality rate of many advertising agencies needs to be applauded and kudos be given to Steve Babaeko, CEO and his team for the agency’s relevance and never say die spirit that has placed it in a vantage position.
An appraisal of X3M IDEAS’ five years of operation in the Integrated Marketing Communications enterprise showed that the agency right from the time it opened shop on August 01, 2012 is an astute believer in excellence, creativity and innovations. The agency has solidly established itself as one of the Nigeria’s fastest growing marketing communication agencies that have demonstrated uncommon courage in contributing meaningfully to the advertising business in Nigeria.
In spite of becoming a destination of choice for brands who desire high-octaine creativity and huge commercial success in the Nigerian business environment, it has not closed it eyes to the community where it operates. The agency’s Corporate Social Responsibility is worthy of emulation as many schools have benefited from its widow’s mite.
X3M IDEAS’ commitment to giving back to the under privileged has been exceptional. The agency did not wait till profits starts rolling in as it took-off laudable CSR initiatives from the very first year of operations, against the conventional belief that an organization must have spent a couple of years before taking up CSR initiative(s) to make impact in the society. Since X3M IDEAS started it CSR Initiatives, it has maintained the tempo beyond its annual anniversary celebrations, to leverage on worthy causes designed to impact the society, outside the profit-making purpose of setting up an enterprise.
Worth noting is the style of its CSR project. While other organisations prefer to roll out the drum and celebrate the event amid pump and circumstances, X3M IDEAS always mark its anniversary with one CSR project or the others without the usual fanfare. For instance, all CSR projects embarked upon by the agency over the past five years have demonstrated its commitment to complement government’s effort in various areas. On August 1st, 2013, the agency celebrated its first anniversary, with the renovation and handing over of a block of five classrooms (equipped with chairs, desks and chalk boards) to Opebi Junior High School, Opebi, under the Ikeja Educational District.
Also, during its second anniversary on August 1st 2014, X3M IDEAS donated educational materials/ICT tools to enhance teaching of ICT in selected schools in Ikeja, Lagos. Thus, the agency has been contributing enormously in the area of CSR to the amazement of Nigerian in its few years of existence.
One of the schools that benefitted from the X3M Ideas’ second anniversary CSR project was Oregun Senior High School, Oregun, Lagos where ICT tools were donated and handed over to the school principal, Mrs. Toyin Kuti and the vice principal, Mrs. Idowu Deniga. Some of the tools include: two units of laptops (pre-loaded with the required software/computer applications), one unit of multimedia projector, one unit of tripod projection screen and 10 units of UPS.
In the same vein, Community High School Wasimi, Maryland, Lagos also got two units of laptops (pre-loaded with the required software/computer applications), one unit of 2HP air-conditioners and 10 Units of UPS for its ICT classroom.
In 2015, Lagos State Special Correctional Centre for Boys, Oregun, also benefitted from X3M IDEA’S CRS project by constructing and equipping a modern bathrooms and toilets for the use of the students and teachers.
Also in 2016, X3M IDEAS took its CSR project to Ikeja Senior High School, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos where it constructed a library and equipped it with furniture and relevant textbooks.
Commenting on the consistency of X3M IDEAS’ CSR initiatives since its first year of operation, Steve Babaeko says, “One thing about responsibility is that nobody can force an individual or corporate institution to be responsible, but you choose to be a responsible citizen. As a business, you are a corporate citizen, anybody that is expecting that government will solve all the societal problems, then that person’s head is buried somewhere in the cloud. There is nowhere in the world where government is able to solve all the problems but, as a corporate citizen I think we all have the responsibility to find what areas we can intervene , that is what we always do.
“We know we do not have all the money in the world but it has become like tradition for us to find areas of intervention, from the first year where we renovated about six blocks of classrooms in Opebi to the second year where we gave two schools IT facilities like computers, UPS, cooling systems to make sure the offices are cool, then the following year, we provided a functional toilet/bathroom for a reformatory school for boys in Ikeja, and last year we donated a library to a secondary school in GRA Ikeja. We won’t stop being consistent with this act. It is part of our DNA to always give out of our little resources to support the government and the future generation because the future depends on them. This year, we want our fifth anniversary to be special and for the first time we are going out of Lagos to Borno State. We will be donating chairs to the school that was burned down by Boko Harssam in Chibok. Though, the school has been moved to a temporary site where the students have no chairs, we want to take this as our responsibility by donating new chairs and tables for the entire school and that will be our first project outside Lagos and we are really proud to be associated with that.”
Other Social Causes
Apart from that, it will also be recalled that X3M IDEAS has been in the vanguard of promoting social cause. The agency partnered Lagos State Government by creating materials (pro bono) for the first Lagos Horn Free Day in 2014, that were exposed across all media including new or social media.
According to the agency, the Horn Free Day was a noble and very laudable project by the Lagos State government led by former Governor Babatunde Fashola, SAN, and it deserved the support of all.
The Horn Free Day was intended to persuade citizens that there is a better way to live than indulging in noise pollution which has been found to be harmful to their health.
Being a full service digital agency, X3M IDEAS’ vision from day one has always being to be the best local agency providing global solutions to drive innovative marketing ideas and strategies that support and build its clients businesses. Over the years, there is nothing the agency has done that has being outside that vision. Backed by sound strategy and unique thinking, the agency aims to always be the partner that understands the brand and the clients; creating superior value for the clients, employees and shareholders.
At X3M IDEAS, every campaign is measured for impact and effectiveness and that is why the agency has continued to attract more clients into its fold.
According to Babaeko, “in spite of difficulties that have made it hard for any agency to capture every sector of the economy, we were interested right from the beginning to work or partner with stakeholders in key aspects of the economy and I think to a large extent we have succeeded in doing that because, if you look at some of the very key aspects of the economy, we already have presence there where we are serving clients as diligently as we can, but in terms of our plan based on the kind of vision we have, we can never fully actualize all of those plans, but we are already working on the next five year’splan but most of the key milestones we mapped out for ourselves have been accomplished.”
The understanding of the industry at all times has made the agency unique and be ahead of competition. Also, the people and the culture have positioned the agency as the destination of choice for many clients. When asked about the competitive advantages of the agency over the others in the industry, Babaeko was quick to say, “I think it is the team! It is a very young, brilliant, agile and ready-to-move kind of team and the culture of never saying never! We never quit, we do whatever it takes to build a brand that is in our custody, we work extra hours. Anywhere knowledge can be found, we will seek it and use it to help the brands we have in our custody to grow in a very crowded marketplace. I think all of those things have been one of the advantages we have over most people in the market.
Highlighting other X3M IDEAS competitive edge, Olasunkanmi Atolagbe, human resources manager, X3M IDEAS opines, “our vibrant team is made up of young men and women from different backgrounds. Right from inception, our focus was never to hire people who had practiced advertising for years, rather we went in search of those who had never done advertising before. We believe that they will bring a totally different perspective to our business. And it’s been very interesting working with these great minds. They have been able to make a great impact given their understanding of trends, love for new inventions in technology and other areas of life. In addition, their thirst for winning is admirable. These have helped them to continually exhibit their competitive nature but in a healthy manner.
Essentially, in order to contribute meaningfully to the practice of advertising -well-being of the industry and its clients, X3M IDEAS, since it opened shop five years ago, takes the training of its staff as the major priority in building a legacy that will put the agency ahead of others.
Interestingly, X3M IDEAS is probably one of the top two or three agencies that have continued to train its members of staff in spite of the current recession. Apart from that, the agency organises business master class trainings for the staff in order to be abreast of current trends in the industry. According to Babaeko, “It has always being about training and retraining our people and that is why we bring a resource person every last Friday of every month for training. It is imperative to know that where advertising is going in the next couple of years, if you don’t start preparing for the foundation today, when that time comes you will realise that you are no longer relevant. And that you don’t even have the necessary skills to do the job.”
Corroborating this view, Sola Kosoko, Creative Director, X3M IDEAS said that motivation is key in the agency’s path to progress. According to him, “we applaud well-considered failures. Inspired ideas often fail, even when the idea is well vetted before it’s released. Like a lot of endeavors, being creative is also calculated risk. It’s about process. It’s about well thought out decisions. To motivate creativity, we appreciate well thought out ideas, even when they lead to failure.
“We celebrate the effort and audacity to think different….whatever the outcome. That says to employees that you are rewarding the mindset, the passion and the determination to try to improve…every day, every brief.”
For Olasunkanmi, “the work culture at X3M IDEAS encourages our people to relate better among themselves. Also the kind of work environment we have created – the employee engagement sessions and activities put in place are driven by our staff, and recently, a more relaxed office complex that we built, created a more conducive work environment for our team to operate.
“We have also put in place in the past five year a welfare programme that will help the agency as it grows. It has been quite interesting, as our welfare programme keeps getting better from year to year. Also, we reward dedicated members of staff who have continued to show tremendous improvements. The agency also gives its employees opportunity to excel both professionally and personally by providing them with a global work culture that gives them opportunity for innovation, collaboration and constant learning.”
All these welfare programmes and routine trainings have resulted in successes that the agency has recorded over the years. Through share commitment and tireless dedication, the array of individuals the agency is endowed with derives enjoyment in going extra miles for excellence in order to enable the agency become one of the biggest networks in the West African Sub-region in the next five to 10 years. This is fast becoming a reality as most of its clients are blue chip companies including 9Mobile, Supersports, Dangote Cement, DStv, WebMall, PernodRicard, Oando, Sticks and Stones, L’OREAL, British American Tobacco and lot more.
Interestingly, X3M IDEAS has continued to make a bold statement of its intent to be among the top advertising agencies in the country through the works it has done for some of its clients. For instance, X3M IDEAS again proved its mettle in faraway Marrakesh, Morocco as a leading digital advertising creative agency during the just concluded African Cristal Festivals winning a gold and two Emerald in the media category.
It will also be recalled that the agency has been winning awards since it entered for Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival Awards (LAIF). The story of LAIF award will not be complete without mentioning X3M IDEAS, a one-stop-shop marketing communications company that is 100 per cent built on ideas. With just over five years of existence in the business of IMC in the country, the creative agency has performed creditably well by winning many awards.
For instance, X3M IDEAS demonstrated its consistency in 2015 by occupying the 4th position on the medals table of the LAIF awards. Its unflinching innovative and creative consistencies for an impressive third year running as the young agency also showed at the 2015 LAIF award with the calibre of creative works that won awards for the agency.
The result showed that the agency has consistently improved as it coasted home three Gold, two Silver and three Bronze medals.
X3M IDEAS won gold courtesy of its work for Diamond Bank entitled: “Door” in the radio category of the corporate Image segment. The agency won another gold through its work for Etisalat Lagos Photo (Best use of original photography) while the third gold came in from the radio – Ads that never ran – courtesy a commercial for Virgin Atlantic. Its works for Diamond Bank (Doors) and Etisalat’s Easy Cliq Cyber picked a silver media each respectively.
Also, the agency’s works for Etisalat ‘Prize for Literature’ – Short Film got a bronze. Jollification Dog – (Cadbury) and ‘Just so you know’ (Western Union) both in the Ads that never ran category picked a bronze medal each. These bring X3M IDEAS’ medal haul at the 2015 LAIF to three Gold, two Silver and three Bronze medals. Comparatively, the agency has consistently improved over the last three years of its entry into the industry.
Apart, the duo of the agency’s talents – Uduak Akpan (Art Director) and Jessica Iwayemi (Copy Writer) won the “2015 Young LAIFERS” awards beating other young professionals from other agencies.
Earlier in June 2015, X3M IDEAS got five nominations at the Marakesh, Morocco based ‘African Cristal Advertising Festival.
In 2016, X3M Ideas won three gold, one silver and one bronze in the Best Use of Socio Media category at the Cristal Award in Marakesh. Also in 2017 at the Cristal Award, the agency won one gold with Oando O-Gas Switch, under Promo Direct, one Emerald with Oando O Gas Switch under Promo Direct “Client Acquisition,”and another Emerald with Etisalat (SUPER RECHARGE 1.0) under Promo & Direct ‘’Client Acquisition.” Not only this, X3M IDEAS bagged City People awards in 2017 as “Fast rising agency of the year”, Marketing Edge also awarded X3M IDEAS Outstanding Creative Agency of the Year. The agency finally won Most Innovation Driven Creative Agency in West Africa (Brand Innovation Category) at the prestigious West Africa Innovation Awards.
It will be recalled that X3M IDEAS, the future-forward marketing communications agency, made its debut at the LAIF awards in November 2013 barely one year it opened shop on August 2012 to record one gold, two silver and one bronze medals.
The agency also recorded two gold, five silver and six bronze medals carting home an impressive 13 medals in the 2014 edition of LAIF award,
Apart from 17 medals at LAIF Awards, record shows that the agency has received additional awards from different organizations, over the five years of its existence.
Talking on the awards the agency has won so far, surprisingly, Babaeko said, “the biggest award for me is seeing the brands we work for doing well in the marketplace, to me that is the biggest award and that award is not physical to the extent that you really don’t hold it with your hands but you see it work. We appreciate every other award from the Cristal to the LIAF awards to any other thing we may have won, but the ones that we appreciate the most is to see brands we are working on win, once those brands win, we feel we are winners already.”
Table for Awards and Achievements
- LAIF AWARDS
|1.||Special Gold Award.||Best use of new media||Etisalat (Can you hear me)|
|2.||Gold Award||TVC Banking and Investment.||Diamond(You need a new bank)|
|3.||Special Gold Award||Best use of new media.||Etisalat (Can you hear me)|
|4.||Gold Award||TVC Banking and Investment||Diamond (You need a new bank)|
|5.||Special Silver Award||Best use of media.||Etisalat (Hold yourself)|
|6.||Special Silver Award||Radio Petroleum Oando||Oando (Engine Music)|
|7.||Special Silver Award||Best use of communication (Radio)||Etisalat (Easy Cliq Face off)|
|8.||Silver Award||TVC Miscellaneous.||Dangote Cement (Jealous)|
|9.||Special Bronze Award||Best use of new media online.||Project Alert (Seyi Law)|
|10.||Special Bronze Award||Best use of TV Animation.||Etisalat (Hold Yourself)|
|11.||Special Bronze award||Best use of communication (Radio)||Etisalat Jingle|
|12.||Bronze Award||Political and social communication||Malaria no more Music video|
|13.||Bronze Award||Radio Ads that never ran||Etisalat (Delay)|
|14.||Bronze Award||TVC Banking and Investment.||Verve (Live, Love and Share).|
- MARKETING EDGE AWARDS: (Young advertising agency of the year)
- MARKETING WORLD AWARDS:(Creative Agency of the Year)
- MARKETING WORLD AWARDS: (Creative Agency of the year)
- LAGOS STATE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION: Support our Schools initiative and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Appreciation Award
- LAIF AWARD:
|1.||Gold Award.||Ads that never ran||Etisalat (Can you hear me)|
|2.||Gold Award||Best use of original photography.||Etisalat (LAGOS PHOTO 2)|
|3.||Gold Award||Coporate Image||Diamond Bank (Doors)|
|4.||Silver Award||Radio Telecom||Etisalat Easy clique more (cypher)|
|5.||Silver Award||Banking and Investment||Diamond Bank (Doors)|
|6.||Bronze Award||TVC; Telecom Service||Project Alert (Seyi Law)|
|7.||Bronze Award||Ads that never ran||Cadbury (Jollification Dog)|
|8.||Bronze award||Ads that never ran||Western Union (Just so you know)|
- AFRICAN CRISTAL AWARD
CATEGORY: Best use of Social Media
ENTRY TITLE: Etisalat (Love stories)
- LAIF AWARDS
|1.||Gold Award.||PROMOTION(RADIO)||ETISALAT EASY STARTER “BUSTED’’|
|2.||Gold Award||PROMOTION ‘film” (TVC)||ETISALAT EASY STARTER “YOU AND ME|
|3.||Gold Award||TELECOM (TVC)||ETISALAT EASY STARTER “YOU AND ME”|
|4.||Silver Award||Radio Telecom||ETISALAT EASY STARTER “BUSTED|
|5.||Bronze Award||OOH Petroleum (press)||Oando Performance in Motion|
- CITY PEOPLE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE: “Fast rising agency of the year”
- AFRICAN CRISTAL AWARD;
|1.||(Cristal/Gold)||PROMO & DIRECT||OANDO (O-GAS SWITCH|
|2.||EMERALD (bronze)||PROMO & DIRECT
|OANDO (O-GAS SWITCH)|
|3.||EMERALD(bronze)||PROMO & DIRECT ‘’CLIENT ACQUISITION’’||ETISALAT (SUPER RECHARGE 1.0)|
- MARKETING EDGE AWARDS: Outstanding Creative Agency of the Year
- WEST AFRICA INNOVATION AWARDS:Most Innovation Driven Creative Agency in West Africa (Brand Innovation Category)
Some other recent initiatives of X3M IDEAS apart from advertising are worthy of emulation. According to Babaeko, the first is the recent campaign for DSTV` compact. “Beyond just creating TVCs and jingles, what we did was to create a micro site where we have quotes about living your dreams. We build the campaign around Odion Igalo who started playing football from Maracana Stadium in Ajegunle and now playing in the Europe. Doing that serves people the picture of living their dreams. That was a totally refreshing way of going digital,” he said.
Sharing some of the agency’s memorable innovative ideas in the last five years, Sola says, “we have a lot we are proud of on different levels. But I lean towards a particular campaign because it is a pointer to how we as advertising practitioners should interact with consumers and the world around us. The O Gas Switch campaign did more than sell products. It had heart. It was a genuine attempt to help protect the environment while empowering the consumer with a solution that brings about a progressive behavioural shift. That Africans highly applauded this effort at the recently concluded African Cristal awards is a sign that our great continent recognizes the need to create ideas that empower consumers. That will always be our focus at X3M IDEAS.”
Partnership and Projection
Partnership in any business is a welcome development. So, the decision by X3M IDEAS opening discussions with people of like minds is not a misplaced priority. According to Babaeko, “at the moment, we feel we are matured enough, as a business (Agency) and we have grown to the extent that if we are making plans for this business to be able to outlive its founders, we think it is the right time to look for people we can strategically partner with and people who have similar culture with us in terms of our creative values, HR values and every other thing that has become customary for us. We are definitely on the lookout and we have had the discussion with a few people and not concluded on anything yet, but we are definitely looking for people we can partner with that can help push this dream to the next level.”
Speaking on projection for the next five years, he adds, “I believe the opportunities are huge, as long as we continue to have the country intact and the economy does better, there is no end to where we can go. Some of our plans to step beyond the shore of this country are also beginning to mature as well, so you might see alot of that. In the next five years, we would have been prepared for the succession planning for somebody else to lead the team. We would have expanded and all the positive things that can possibly happen are the things I see in store for this company.”