• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘Creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’

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Founder of TINK Africa, Franklin Ozekhome, who has spent a decade in advertising (media planning, brand strategy, account management, digital planning, marketing and new business) believes that brand managers are not investing enough in reading and exploring the world around them. In this interview with Daniel Obi, he challenges marketing communication professionals to start designing innovative solutions to resolve challenges within the industry. Excerpts

How would you describe IMC business in the outgone year 2014?

2014 has been an exciting year for Nigerian brands. New business wins were particularly interesting. We witnessed small and mid-sized agencies stepping up lasl year to pitch and win multinational accounts, while several others were honoured with local and international awards. In 2014, we had huge turnouts at Cannes Lions and the Loeries, and more agencies recognised by Lurzer’s Archive, African Cristal and at the Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival (LAIF) Awards. I believe marketing practitioners stepped confidently into the global spotlight in 2014 with a superb showcasing of new-world creativity. And the brands were the better for it.

What would be your projections for 2015, and what factors and trends would shape it?

It will be a very challenging year for agencies having to do much more for clients with limited budgets. New processes that will allow for quick-time responses will be approved and smartly effected. Subscription to fresh data banks, intelligence reports and platforms that will help generate almost real-time insights will increase; growth of identity solution systems, purchase of bio-data and security gadgets, platforms and tools; digitalisation of shopper marketing – mobile, online, experiential; repositioning and change of guard in senior management positions of the second and third generation agencies; rise of ‘Afrocosmos’: Celebration of everything African – culture, music, food, and lifestyle. It will be an interesting year indeed.

Do you think that the slide in international oil price and government intentions to cut spending will affect Nigerian IMC activity in 2015 forward?

Yes, there will be an adverse effect on sectors like manufacturing, retail, transportation, and of course, marketing communications. Marketers are naturally moved to cut their ad spend which will restrict the amount of planned activities that will be activated in 2015.

In spite of our large economy and population, local Nigerian brands are still struggling; what do you think are their challenges? And how can they navigate through the challenges?

Nigerian brands are beginning to map out successful footprints that are working out for them. By embracing our culture – our uniqueness and diversity as a people, the issues we are faced with on a daily basis, and endorsing our “Naija” identity, Nigerian brands have begun to carve out a distinct space for themselves in the community of global brands. However, there are still a lot of work to do. As marketing communication professionals, we need to start designing innovative solutions to resolve ongoing challenges within the industry.

One of which is our apathy for taking time out to generate fresh ideas and create original works, products and tools that will help transform some of the issues experienced across different industries. We are very complacent when it comes to stretching our minds into developing new thinking, processes and platforms that are in tandem with current global realities. There are still very few brands that challenge the status quo and make bold moves like GTBank (banking x fashion), Tecno (mobile x innovation), Guinness (drinks x pop culture) and Etisalat (telecoms x youth trends). These are leadership brands that understand their markets and began laying out their own blueprints for success years ago while others are simply reacting to fads like reality TV shows, music concerts etc. Nothing is new but it takes innovative brands to redefine culture and to promote progressive thinking within a society. 

Are you concerned that Nigerian creative works have not won at Cannes? How do we navigate through this?

The level of creativity is a reflection of the mindset of our talents within the industry – on both the client and agency side. If you seat at your desk and come up with good works that are celebrated locally, you begin to think you’re a superstar until you benchmark those same works against international standards. One thing I have personally noticed among younger Nigerian ‘creatives’ – and I use the term loosely to refer to brand managers, planners, designers, copy writers, etc. – is that they don’t invest enough in reading and exploring the world around them.

When I started out as a strategy planner, I travelled the world – on my own account and with support from my employers – visiting and interning with global agencies, studying new planning models, tools and research methodologies. Most times, I spent two-thirds of my salary on books and magazines. I read voraciously on different subjects – brand innovation, design thinking, engagement planning, sensory branding, human-kind marketing – and applied these learnings on any project that I was working on. You were considered a joke if you didn’t subscribe or read Advertising Age, Campaign or Marketing Magazine. Every month, we received copies of M2 and Brandfaces to check out the latest stories, articles and campaign updates about Nigeria brands. Nowadays, when I give lectures or assign cases studies to executives and mid-level managers working in the industry, I’m amazed to learn that they do not subscribe or have even read these magazines online. Some have never heard of Wally Olins, John Hegarty, Martin Lindstrom or Kelvin Roberts. Students of brands and branding cut their teeth by understudying case studies from such creative minds. Where do people, especially creatives, get inspiration from? Traveling… reading… exploring… and discovering.

Creativity is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. People have to be ready to be out in the work: understudying cultures, brands, people; conducting research and analyzing trends. It’s what you have within you that you give out. Way Forward: Talent officers and brand custodians should imbibe a culture of thought leadership across their organizations. They have to build, encourage and promote welfare packages that recognize and reward creativity and innovation. There’s only so much AAAN, APCON and Orange Academy can do. There are tens of thousands of marketing practitioners working daily on brands. We need to ask ourselves if we are getting the best out of them.

Do you think that clients’ over-bearing influence on agencies impedes creative works?

It’s easy to pass on the blame for non-creativity to clients who are primarily looking for solutions that will solve their problems. That’s why they have engaged you in the first place. The real issue, however, is that some agencies tend to package or sell advertising and media vehicles rather than redefining the category-segment (where applicable), thoroughly understanding the consumer mindset or interrogating the brand’s positioning. If you analyse a situation, break it down thoroughly and come up with innovative ideas that will take your client’s brand from Point A to B, there’s no way they won’t jump on that idea. Every client or marketer wants the best for their brands; they want to be seen as champions of their brands and whatever you do to give them that spotlight – they’re game. If your client debates an agency’s position on a creative work that they’re sure would help them resolve a problem, then the client obviously doesn’t believe in the idea.

Translation: They don’t respect the agency enough and therefore, will not take the risk of implementing creative works that they’re obviously not comfortable with. So, they pitch in themselves trying to steer the agency to a more comfortable zone.

Pitching fee is still an issue in the IMC industry, how do you think this would be addressed?

The Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) had instituted a policy that clearly states the Rules of Engagement between registered agencies and any marketing organisation requesting for an agency to pitch for their business. That is what is expected from an industry’s regulatory body. The onus is on agency chieftains to effectively implement this policy across their respective agencies. They have to speak and stand as one. The pitch fee is only an issue because clients know that some agencies will forfeit their rights to request for it. This puts other ‘stand-up’ agencies in a difficult position. For the industry to be respected like the medical or legal professional, we have to collectively reaffirm our position to clients on new business. If you’re inviting more than one agency to pitch for your account, you have to pay a pitch rejection fee to the agencies that are not selected. If this is not of interest to the client, then they should simply profile the agencies they would like to work with and appoint them based on their credentials.

Tell me more about your firm, TINK Africa, what gap has it come to fill in the Nigerian IMC industry?

TINK is a start-up consumer intelligence platform. It is specifically designed for marketing and creative professionals doing business in Africa by helping them respond more effectively to evolving consumer needs, lifestyles, behaviour and general cultural phenomenon. We investigate trends, analyse them and proffer innovative solutions based on consumer insights and real-time intelligence. TINK is an inspiration platform and guide to innovation and future-thinking ideas that will help you stay ahead of the competition.

Daniel Obi