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Temitope Jemerigbe: An IMC Amazon Soaring High

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The popular quote of Cassandra Sanford aligns with the story of Temitope Jemerigbe, “If this is something that you really want to do, if you believe in it, simply keep forging forward because success will come.”

With hard work and dedication, Jemerigbe has been able to carve a niche for herself as one of the renowned practitioners in Nigeria’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) industry, an industry dominated by men at the helm of affairs like it exist in many other industries. One of the remarkable periods of her career was how she was able to turn DKK, a full-service marketing communications agency, around within a short period of leading the agency as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.

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“I just love to prove people wrong and therefore whatever I do, I aim to do it exceptionally well. There are no excuses in my books, if it’s achievable, then I will attempt it. I have trained myself to show up, even when I know it’s going to be challenging. I don’t get easily intimidated and frankly, I don’t let expectations of male dominance affect me.” She stated.

In no small measure, her contributions to the growth of the industry and the organizations she worked with have earned her several recognitions and accolades as one of the Amazons the industry is proud of.

Career Path

Explaining how her career evolved, she said “I started my career with STB McCann, working on the Coca-Cola brand and that set the tone for most of my career. I was opportune to learn global process and standard, which made me quickly understand the dynamics of a workplace and trained me fully as a full-fledged IMC executive before the fragmentation. What we have now is where all communication services have become independent. This made me very rounded and able to run an organisation that is truly IMC. You will recall the industry’s shock when we won the MTN PR business.

“I left from STB to Prima Garnet after a very short stint at Vigeo. At Prima Garnet, I picked up a lot of my managerial skills and structure that have the impact on my leadership style. Prima Garnet sowed the seed of how to run a well-structured organisation that doesn’t revolve around me and taught me fairness.

“From Prima Garnet, I went to ZK, now Yellow Brick Road. This was my first opportunity at true leadership, I was the pioneer Client Service Director and beyond ensuring appropriate management of client’s business and profitability for the organisation, I was tasked with putting the structure in place. When I left ZK, not on my terms, unfortunately, I made another shortstop at STB McCann. These 2 places prepared me for my next job as CEO of PR Redline. After a year of doing that I moved to DKK almost seven years ago.”

Role At DKK

From the state of nothing or state of crisis, successful leaders around the world, have been able to turn the fortune of their organizations around. Jemerigbe’s case is not different, she was able to turn the challenges she met on ground when she took over the affairs of the agency into opportunities and a profitable venture.

 “God has always favoured me and my diligence has also always paid off. Another real-life challenge was when I took on the job of rebuilding DKK. The company was handed over to me with over N61 million indebtedness, including outstanding salaries for a year, with only one client to service, and of course, all employees had resigned (though I saw this very point as an advantage because I was able to build my own team and I got the world most dedicated team). As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, a lawsuit was filed by the ex-staff within a month of taking over. Today, we have been able to settle the debts, the staff and the lawsuit. And we are still standing.” Jemerigbe disclosed.

She added that her experience at DKK is worthwhile, “Of all these experiences, my DKK journey is that which has showcased all that I have learnt. It was and still is, the true test of my ability. It made me conclude that consistency of purpose and focus are key ingredients for any leader to drive a vision.

“I had made a reference earlier to the challenge we started with when I took over DKK. To frill down a little more, it wasn’t a simple battle and the discountenance for what I was able to achieve because I am a woman is proof that when a woman rises, she has truly surmounted a lot. Within two weeks we got Kilimanjaro Restaurant brief and by the second month, we had added Visafone through a pitch. The beauty about this pitch was that myself and our Creative Director at the time, Sam Adeoye, had both worked on the same brief in another agency. So, when the opportunity came to DKK, we did an analysis of what we sold to a client in that other agency that did not work. We then went in the opposite direction. We knew from the presentation that we had the business. It was a nice way to start my journey to rebuilding the company. With three businesses, NLPC (inherited from the old DKK and remains with us till date), Kilimanjaro and Visafone the future looked good,” she explained.

Furthermore, she said, “One major distraction that would have derailed me, was the genuine concern from friends, who believed my boss is a ‘user’. I was bombarded with calls not to take the job but my personal goal drove me and I stayed the cause. It turned out that people will always be people and they do spread inaccurate stories.  Today, there are five shareholders and I own a sizeable value.

“Apart from this, I needed to bring DKK out of the shadow of its founding company. Now, we are recognised for who we are and as an autonomous company. I think for my predecessors, they found comfort in holding on to the strings,” Jemerigbe stated.

Interestingly, her dedication earned her special recognition, “My dedication and tenacity were recognized when I got an award in 2014 as the Brand Female CEO of the Year. When I made the inquiry on why the award came to me, because I was pitched against my seniors in the industry, the organisers assured me that they were aware of what I had achieved with DKK. That response was pleasing.”

The Driving Force and Overcoming Challenges

Some of her principle to life revolves round tenacity, determination, not easily ruffled and being optimistic. “Be deliberate: Things don’t happen by chance, we have to be strategic.” She stated.

Speaking on how she handles challenges, “I will speak to how this has helped me in my career. First, being a polytechnic graduate, one would have expected challenges in getting a good job considering the depth of discrimination in the job market. However, before I finished school, I did some research and drew up a list of sectors that don’t have outright discrimination against polytechnic graduates in the recruitment criteria, so while others were dreaming of chasing money in industries that don’t even see their worth, I was strategizing. I then made a note of which organisations to target in those sectors and I promise you I have worked in at least three of those companies on my list. But I didn’t just stop at my HND degree too. I made a conscious effort to invest in self-development and upgraded my degree with a MSc in Marketing in the UK, gaining new insights.

On people with the impression that women that get to the top do not always earn it credibly, she pointed out, “One major perception against the female leader is a discountenance to our hard-earned achievements as I said earlier. Naturally, even amongst women, they are convinced that we have only gotten to the top because we are having affairs with the men. I mean, everywhere I have worked, people have just assumed that she only got there because she knows how to get the bosses. I have heard it so much, I turn deaf ears to it. At the beginning of my rebirth journey for DKK and on the heels of the lawsuit, came the vicious campaign that I was sleeping with my boss and so he is injecting funds into the business.  In actual fact, not a kobo was reinvested into the business from the parent company or the owners of the business at the time, and that earned me and our present ED, Folabomi, the stake we have in the business. Those rumours drove me to prove people wrong that women need not to fall into bed with men to get to the top. I can categorically say, I have never stooped that low and you can bet that it can’t happen in the future. 

“Finally, I love taking ownership of my work and decisions. Basically, I first win in my mind and outlook, then I join in the game,” she emphasized.

Meanwhile, on closing the gap of the dearth of female professionals in IMC, she said, “It’s a continuous battle in every industry and at a global level. We are at present taking pragmatic and deliberate steps to groom women to the position of leadership in the IMC. The annual Cocktail for Women in Advertising and Communication (WIA) took place sometime in October last year, and we came up with an agenda of how we can attain gender balance in this sector. Beyond WIA, there is a number of other initiatives geared towards raising strong female practitioners like Women In Marketing & Communications Conference (WIMCA) organized by Brand Communicator. Nothing would be handed to a woman on a platter of gold, but with focused effort, the gap can be bridged. We also looked at global practices geared toward the same objective. Actually, it’s not an IMC industry problem, it’s in most sectors and we are starting to address the problem.”

Similarly, she said, “I still believe there are frontiers to conquer, but my advice to younger female professionals is the same principles I work with. Stand out. They need to be deliberate, be exceptionally good in what they do. They shouldn’t be okay with excuses and must take ownership of their career path. It starts with them having a positive image of themselves and their abilities. They also need to take initiatives and just dare to be different. And of course, they shouldn’t listen to the naysayers who are there to distract but be totally focused.”

Striking A Balance

Striking a balance between careers and managing the home front as a wife and mother is challenging for most women, overcoming the challenges, Jemerigbe disclosed that she put in place a very strong support structure, both at home and workplace, and this has helped her achieve her dreams.

“I have been very deliberate in putting a very strong support structure in place- both at home and at my workplace. I have two wonderful children that I tag priceless, and caring for them, whether I am there or not, remains core in my mind. Truth is when I receive accolades for achieving anything, I give a major shout out to my mum and all those who have found themselves bailing me out at one point or the other when duty called. Without them, it would simply have been impossible.

“I must also say my husband is one of the reasons I have achieved a good work/life balance. His support is unwavering. An understanding spouse is very, very important for any woman, who wants to build both career/business and raise a good family. If you must rise, marry the right person otherwise there will be issues on the home front and it’s only a matter of time before it affects your career. So, work life and home front can boost one another. When the balance is struck, the pressure is off and one can function effectively and efficiently. On the work front, just ensure you have a team of dedicated/dependable people and things will work even in your absence, making it possible to take time off to attend to family matters that are beyond the routine.

“I am a strong believer that one area (i.e. home or work) does not necessarily have to affect the other. Both are very important, and I always say this to younger women, you can’t take one over the other, otherwise you will be frustrated, and you will lose your dream,” she hinted.

Contribution to humanity

 “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa.

The above quote emphasizes the importance of contributing to humanity. For Jemerigbe, contributing to humanity is paramount.

“For very personal reasons and being a mother of a survivor, I naturally gravitate towards anything that has to do with improving the lives of those living with Sickle Cell. Presently, I am a board member with Sickle Cell Advocacy & Management Initiative (SAMI) founded by Toyin Adesola and Chaired by Mr. Pholusho Phillips. With my experience in SAMI, I can say it is not a death sentence if you have the means to give the carrier a quality life, but I am not ignorant of the fact that a higher percentage of people living with the condition are from very poor backgrounds and cannot afford their basic routine medication.

“One of the many things we do in SAMI is that we hold a monthly medical outreach, where we give free drugs to survivors that will last till the following month. As I said earlier, you don’t find yourself in a good position for just close family and oneself. There is a bigger world that we need to reach and impact. People think that you need to start very big to make an impact, but really, starting small is okay. Within everybody’s sphere, there is someone in need and we should do our part. SAMI has given me the opportunity to find fulfilment apart from my career life. It does feel good to be involved in something bigger than one’s self.

“Also, I am an executive with Light House Network, a body set up to mentor women: passing the torch from one generation of women to the other. I am also a very active member in WISCSAR, another female body set up to help bridge the gap and empower career women in achieving the much-needed balance. With my growth and having successfully surmounted some expected “career women” challenges, I have committed to work with other women in grooming the next generation of power women.

“Apart from these, I fight for women who are abused. This is so dear to my heart and I would just like to implore women everywhere to get involved. Let’s be our sister’s keeper. I hold one-on-one mentoring and do what I can, including using my resource to ensure such women are empowered,” she stated.

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