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How Noah’s Ark Emerged Agency of the Year With Airtel’s ‘Prayer Warrior’ TVC, Others At African Cristals


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By Jeremiah Agada

“…I must say that there is a connection between this work and our African roots. All of us at the jury had this universal connection to it. We recognised ourselves behind this production. The main reason we chose it is because it has the main link between the universal cultures that cuts across Africa (where) we have more than fifty countries with different cultures, different foods and different footprints…”

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These were the words of Souleymane KHOL, VP, Sales Marketing Distribution & Revenue Management for Accor Africa & Indian Ocean while speaking on behalf of the Cristal Festival’s Advertiser’s Grand Jury, explaining the rationale behind its choice of Airtel’s ‘Prayer Warrior ‘(Amin) TVC for the festival’s highest honour- Festival Grand Prix, the Festival Grand Cristal.

Needless to say, it was an epoch-making night at Marrakech, Morocco during the Awards Ceremony of the African Cristals Festival as Nigeria’s most globally acclaimed creative agency, Noah’s Ark Communications went on to sweep nine more medals into its kitty. A breakdown shows it got the Festival Grand Prix, another Grand Prix in the African Culture category, 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 3 bronze medals.

Other campaigns that won laurels for the agency include; ‘Ruth’, a short film, ‘Monitoring spirit (Whatchu doing??)’ also for the Airtel brand, Pure Love Challenge for Hypo, Peak Unstoppables for Friesland Campina WAMCO and Whatever Works Out-Fitness Challenge for Three Crowns Milk.

Not surprisingly, Noah’s Ark was the toast of the night as it edged other advertising power houses from other parts of Africa like South Africa’s creative giants – King James, FoxP2, DDB SA, Kenya’s Isobar, Morocco’s JWT Casablanca and Mauritius’s Circus – to win the most coveted Agency of The Year ranking!

Brand Communicator takes a look at the agency’s record-breaking ad that won the evening’s highest price- the ‘Prayer Warrior’ TVC.

How does a Television Commercial, TVC, done entirely in Yoruba – one of Nigeria’s three most indigenous languages, resonate across over 50 countries in Africa, across thousands of cultures and people and beyond? The answer may not be farfetched.

Despite the advances in civilisation, globalisation and technology, the fact remains that Africans are primarily family based. That is why when Africans go abroad and settles down, they begin to send for their relatives. The reason why a jury comprising Africans from different countries, orientation and mentality could resonate, will not be unconnected to the African family bond and of course, gratitude. The ad will resonate even with non-Africans as family and gratitude are universal concepts. Everyone is obliged to say “Thank you” in a show of gratitude. A look at the TVC’s synopsis for starters will suffice.

These concepts of gratitude and family bond were adopted by Noah’s Ark Communications to create the TVC for the Airtel brand to promote its SmartRECHARGE 10x campaign. The campaign relived love and child-mother bond through a story-telling approach. In the Ad, Iya Rainbow discovered that her son, Oluwasegun had sent her a Christmas hamper overflowing with goodies that gladdened her heart. As customary of humans, the mother was moved to show appreciations. As also customary with Yorubas, her appreciation took the form of non-stop prayers.

The prayers commence from her son’s waking moments, through his morning routine-weightlifting, brushing teeth, taking his bath and dressing for work. The prayers follow him through his day- while in the lift with others, having lunch and when he was home by evening, playing a game of ludo with friends.

‘Segun interjects her prayer with ‘Amin’ at every point. He, however, interrupts his mother’s prayers, concerned that her airtime would soon get exhausted. Iya Rainbow, takes the opportunity to lay the background for the TVC’s key message of abundant airtime through SmartRECHARGE to allay her son’s fears by asking a rhetoric question: “Have you seen the sea run dry?” She answered her question with an emphatic,”It just can’t!”

The TVC takes a more-entertaining twist when Iya Rainbow detects voices in the background and asks her son to put the phone on speaker when told the voices belong to his friends. At that point, the brand message rolls out, telling subscribers that they can get ten times their recharge. Thereafter a call to action was made and eligibility stated.

The TVC comes to an end in a funny twist when Iya Rainbow narrows down her prayer to a vendor-‘Mr. Announcer’-trying to call attention to his goods at the background.

Brand Communicator caught up with the Noah’s Ark’s team Red, the team that put together the Airtel TVC to get more insight into the birthing and execution of the campaign. Jesujoba Popoola, a copywriter in the team captures the excitement of the team. He said, “It’s a good feeling knowing that our works are doing great out there. They say that the reward for good work is more work. When the news filtered in that our work has won the Festival Grand Prix, we were here at the office working.”

Baruch Apata, Group Head, copy, said that the Prayer Warrior/Amin TVC started out as another script entirely. “Amin started as a script of a boy coming back from school. His mother calls him before the bus takes off, calls him when it has taken off, and when the bus enters a filling station to get fuel. She even asks him to give the phone to the driver.

“We wrote that script and a couple of others but it did not fly through. One of the things we usually do is when we write scripts here, we have to present it before people who will not be sentimental in their analysis of your work. We had to look at other possibilities, and that is where the ‘Amin’ insight came.

“Somewhere in the conversation, we came to Yoruba mothers, one of the things they like to do is pray for their children. We started thinking of scenarios where your mother will continue to talk back and forth without fear of exhausting her airtime.

“Talking about writing the content of the Amin ad is easy but then, we had to screen through several other scripts to get to this one. We selected those odd moments that the mom will call for prayers, then we built from there.”

Business Lead for the team, Judith Ezeali, throws more light on the TVC and how the team came up with the ‘Amin’ concept. “The brief was to sell unlimited data. During the regular brainstorming session, the general question was that, ‘when you have so much, what do you do with it? You can do anyhow. So, if you get ten times more than what you could have received, you have so much liberty to do as you wish.

“The insight for the TVC came from one of our colleagues who said that whenever her mother calls, she would want to spend more time on the phone, she wants to talk on the phone for hours unending. We had many other insights but this resonated more with us. That is the summary of the birth of ‘Amin.’

“The campaign was billed for Q3, towards the end of the year. We were all thinking it will run through the festive period and we thought, that is the period people sent gifts and packages home to parents for the yuletide period. We know that parents in gratitude will call to pray for you.”


Corroborating Judith, Bolaji Alausa, Executive Creative Director of Noah’s Ark adds, “The telecommunication space had recently experienced a saturation of promotions skewed at luring subscribers to switch network providers or spend more to get a lot more on the network. So, how do we connect to subscribers with our promotion in a quarter where consumers have offered larger than ours, and still keep the brand love for new and existing subscribers without losing the essence of the festive season?

“We found out that people with more airtime tend to have more energy to express more forms of emotions for longer, like our mothers when they get a hold of abundant credit and want to show their gratitude. These insights became the TV spot: Prayer Warrior (Amin), featuring the legendary Iya Rainbow.”

When the ‘Prayer Warrior’ TVC went digital on the social media, the response was overwhelming. Kofoworola Akingbola, Account lead, digital for the team says of it, “From the first time Amin landed as a final script after multiple tweaking, I knew it was something that will be very big especially online. Why? Even though the TVC was delivered in Yoruba, at the end of the day, it still resonated with everyone. We had to do a subtitle version after popular demand.”

The process of creating resonance for any campaign by the agency is deliberate. Judith explains the process. “There is something we do internally when working on a brief. We think beyond the brief. We start from the universal point of view, we look for elements that are global that can cut across races, continents and countries, then we streamline these elements and then look at the strongest ones that can resonate.

“We then bring it down to Africa, because we are Africans at the end of the day. We take it across cultures and bring it down to Nigeria. Now, if we cannot sell this concept to that Nigerian that hawks gala on the road or to the woman that sells pepper in the local market, then we have not done anything.

Akingbola takes it from the digital view: “From the digital standpoint, immediately we launched the TVC online, the response was overwhelming. One of the comments I will not forget in a hurry is that of a lady. She said she watched the TVC about ten times and then broke down. Why? Her mom was just like Iya rainbow before she passed away quite recently.”

With Noah’s Ark Communication’s win with the Airtel ‘Prayer Warrior’ TVC at the African Cristals among other notable achievements, the international perspective on creativity in Nigeria in recent time is changing for the better. Little wonder, Lanre Adisa who heads the agency as Managing Director/Chief Creative Officer was appointed by Cannes Lions to its jury, thereby breaking an all-time jinx of the country’s non-participation at the jury of the global ad Mundial.

Uzoma Okoye, Managing Director of Etu Odi Communications in a recent chat with Brand Communicator team said that awards are one of the best measures of judging and measuring creativity. He said recent exploits by agencies in Nigeria at international awards indicates that creativity in Nigeria is growing and the country is beginning to take her place at the global stage as far as creative advertising is concerned.

The implication of these strides according to Abolaji Alausa in an interview in January with The Fruit Tree Magazine, will make multinationals recognize agencies in Nigeria as a creative force and cutting off that age-old tether to parent offices in New York or London. “I see an end to the adoption of global campaigns with little care for local nuance and imposition of expatriates as the sole source of know-how etc. I see local brands gaining as much recognition as global ones. I see us exporting expertise to other regions on the continent and the rest.

For the Airtel brand, the win at Cristals is a welcomed development. How it affects the brand is something that should reflect in its bottom line. Airtel Nigeria is one of the foremost profit-making group in Africa. In recent times, it emerged the second market leader in the Nigerian Telecomms sector according to statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission.

In response to the win, Ahmad Mohkles said that the award reflects Airtel’s passion to connect with its major stakeholders in an emotional, tasteful, creative and innovative manner.

“As a key stakeholder in the society, we keep looking for innovative and creative ways to celebrate our customers, join in their successes and victories as well as empower them to fulfil their dreams and realize their full potentials.

“Airtel will continue to inspire narrative that will enthrone customers as kings just as we will continue to offer innovative and bespoke value offerings that will make life simpler, better and more enjoyable for telecoms consumers in Nigeria,” he said.

Perhaps what many will attribute to as the downside of the ad is the use of Yoruba language through the TVC. Chinwe Anakwe, a recent graduate from Orange Academy says: “The TVC is great. From the moment I saw it online, I knew it will go far. However, I expected that the ad will take into cognisance the demography and of course, the psychography of Nigeria, being an ad campaign expected to run pan-Nigerian.”

Chinwe’s observation is not wrong. However, just as there are expressions that are better left in its natural state as meaning and essence maybe lost in translation, so is the Amin ad. The use of Yoruba made it very impactful, interesting and memorable.

It is only hoped that the ad will feature at Cannes and give Nigeria its deserved place at the global festival.







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