New AAAN President Outlines Roadmap, Strategy for Tenure

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Steve Babaeko, President, AAAN.

The new President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN, Steve Babaeko in a LAIF & Direct Zoom meeting titled ‘‘Setting the Creative Agenda,’’ hosted by the Chief Executive Officer of Noah’s Ark Communication, Lanre Adisa has outlined his plans and strategy for his tenure.

While responding to questions from the Noah’s Ark Generalissimo last week Friday, Babaeko decried the various challenges facing creative agency business in Nigeria. He praised agencies for thriving but explained that more can be done especially in an era of digital disruption as the biggest room in the world is that of improvement.

Pitchers Awards
Lanre Adisa, CEO/CCO, Noah’s Ark Communications.

Asked about Nigeria’s absence on the international scene of recognition either through the Gunn Reports or Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Babaekeo replied: “The industry is beset with so many problems with many agencies struggling for survival, so the thought of awards locally or internationally is always secondary. We need to reconsider our business model in these dynamic times and hopefully find an arrow ground to support each other. That is the bedrock on which my campaign was built; to unite agencies.”

While adding that one of the problems for Nigeria’s absence on the global awards scene is the negative competitiveness among agencies, he called for collaborative work between them in creating award-winning works at Cannes, noting that, at the end of the day, the entire industry in the country gets the glory.

On the issue of standardization in the industry, client-agency relationship, pitching fees and other related issues, Babaeko explained that the industry has always had existing standards but explained that they need to be updated to fit into current industry realities. He added that the problem has always been enforcement.

For instance, he queried, “how many of our member agencies will upholf a standard, say, pitching fees? How many will agree if there is a rule that no agency pitches without a fee? You will find that some may go behind to do it for free!” The AAAN President that vowed to vigorously engage the Advertisers Association of Nigeria, ADVAN, as well as other heads of sectoral groups within the IMC industry to standardize a lot of things about the industry.

On the lackluster attitude of the government towards the industry, Babaeko has this to say: “the onus lies on us as an industry to fight for what we want because power will not be given to us. We have to fight for clout and visibility with the government. We need to make government understand our importance in the general scheme of things, the industry we support, the people we employ, etc. This is a very crucial industry pivotal to the survival of our economy and at the heart of the development of our economy.

Additionally, the President noted that the pioneers of the industry have a very big roll to play in getting the government to pay better attention to the industry and also patronize the industry as obtainable in other climes. “If pioneers of our industry which includes the likes of Troyka boss, Biodun Shobanjo; Rosabel’s Senator Akin Odunsi;  STB Mccanns’ Sir Steve Omojiafor; Casers Group’s Enyi Odigbo and SO&U’s Udeme Ufot should come together, the is no door in Aso Villa that will not be opened for them.”

“In fairness to Sir Steve, he is doing a yeoman’s job as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, trying to open these doors for us. We need these clouts, and we need to keep building them for the next generation\, so that the industry will continue to grow,” he explained.

Sir Steve Omojafor, Chairman, BoT, AAAN.

Relatedly, Chidi Onwumere, a participant via Facebook noted: “The confusion and perceived rivalry between NIPR and APCON/AAAN before the FG does not help matters. To put it in clear terms, NIPR somehow seems to have more appeal to Government officials than APCON does, even though the latter is a Parastatal of Government. Most PR departments in Government have their leadership as members of NIPR and so promotes the association very well. To really engage with government, APCON needs to do so much more than it has ever done to show its relevance to government. I even question the justification for its HQ being in Lagos,” he suggested.

While fielding questions from yet another participant of the session on the long overdue issue of an Advertising Academy for the industry, Babaeko regretted that plans for setting up one has long stayed in the pipeline. “The idea of an Advertising Academy was first mooted when Biodun Shobanjo was the President of the AAAN about twenty years ago, if my facts are correct.  This is long overdue. The fact is that we are waiting for the right time to do this, not realizing that there is never a right time for something like this. We may not be able to build an advertising academy to Harvard standard but then we can start. Though I always want to under promise and over deliver, this is part of my campaign promise.”

Another participant, Olalekan Akinyele suggested that the AAAN should adopt and fund O2 Academy or Orange Academy and some credible academies out there. “Should we start another academy from scratch?” he queried. Steve Babaeko’s response to that is that the AAAN has always supported these academies through various initiatives and support. However, he explained that a new academy in this regard, similar to the AAA in the South African market is necessary to complement efforts of existing academies and boost the supply of talent to the industry.

Part of the newly elected President’s agenda is uniting the industry as well as championing women empowerment. Recall, Babaeko began his career in 1995 with MC&A Saatchi & Saatchi where he worked for five years, then to Prima Garnet Ogilvy, where he also worked for another five years. He also spent 7 years at 141 Worldwide, where he worked as creative director before establishing X3M Ideas in 2012.

Today, he heads the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) which was founded in 1973 as a sectoral body within the Nigerian marketing communications landscape and has become a force to be reckoned with both locally and internationally. Formerly known as Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN), the Association formally changed its name from Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN) to Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) on May 1st, 2004 during its 31st AGM/Congress. AAAN is the umbrella body that coordinates and promotes the interest of Advertising Agencies in Nigeria.

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