MTN Nigeria recently launched a new thematic campaign tagged ‘Turn it up’ inspired by the company’s commitment to facilitate transformation, progress and success in the lives of Nigerians. In this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU, Richard Iweanoge, general manager, Brand and Communications, MTN Nigeria, speaks on why the campaign’s Television Commercial (TVC) resonates among its subscribers and what the telco hopes to achieve with the campaign. Excerpts:
What influenced your recently-launched thematic campaign, tagged ‘Turn it Up’?
I think we should go back to our mission. We have stated that as a core belief; we think everyone deserves the benefit of the modern connected life, and we, MTN, want to be the company that leads customers to that bold new digital world, and we think when we do that, we would have helped brighten life for people, because in the end technology is a tool. Ultimately, it is what you have inside of you that a tool can bring out and it has been true for all of man’s history.
We did a research and asked Nigerians; when we say brighter lives, what does it mean to you? Ultimately, it came down to a few things. People wanted to be better; people wanted to move up in life, and then our research brought up the fact that many people think that the way to be better or move up in life is to relocate. If you’re in the village, move from the village to the city and a lot of people in the city will leave the city to another country. So, that gave us this insight that many people think the solution to a better life is moving out.
Within us lies the capability to do anything we want to do, but maybe what people don’t have are the tools and the support to be able to express themselves. So, we felt we should be that brand that supports people to unleash their potential, and that led to this campaign to encourage people to think inside, think inwards. What is that thing that you really want to do and let us be that partner that enables you to achieve it.
When you look at our TVC, there are five layers to the story we wanted to tell. We wanted to tell the story of a village where people are leaving. When the people leave, they want to go and find a better life. We wanted to show, also, the dynamics that exist between the father and the son, where, I am sure everyone can relate to this, as a young boy your father is your hero and as you get older, the man gets older and he cannot continue with the things he used to do, then you have to step up your game and become the man in the house, we wanted to tell that story. We wanted to tell the story of a culture that was dying; people were leaving the village, the culture was dying and not many people were bothered about the culture. The man comes out the last time and only few people were there to even look at him. We wanted to tell a story of passion. That boy was passionate about something, he loves technology. From an early age he was tinkering with technology and he was thinking of what he could do with it. Finally, it is the story of rejuvenation using technology. Even after he left the village, he was able to come back and with that same passion, re-unite people, his culture and his family. We thought it would be an inspiring story for a lot of Nigerians to think around ‘what can I do?’ How can I be better without necessarily having to leave?
Something interesting happened a few days after we released that TVC. I got calls from multiple people pointing me to a young man – His name is Silas Adekunle – whose life almost totally reflects what we did. He was in Ibadan, went to school in US, left Nigeria with his parents, learnt robotics and he is back in Nigeria trying to get his people, as well as other people, to become more interested in science and technology. And he came to me and said wow; what you guys said is actually my life and is so true. So, it gladdens to see someone whose life reflects our story.
In all of this, the key thing here appears to be the movement from point A to B. How is ‘Turn It Up’ designed to stop this?
I actually disagree with you. The key thing there, for me, is not the movement. The movement is a reaction. The key thing there is about thinking inside and asking yourself ‘what can I do to better my life?’ As a partner, MTN enables you with the tools that can get you to the place you want to get to. And like I said, we want to be the company to lead our customers into that bold, new world. When we do that, and they are better than they are, they are going to do things that they want to do. Just look at all the things technology enables us to do. I can sit here record things on my phone, I can carry out bank transactions on my phone, I can connect with my family members anywhere in the world with my phone. There is just so much to do that is enabled by technology. So, it is not about the movement, it is all about thinking inside. ‘Turn It Up’ is not a package but a thematic campaign, it is almost like a philosophical statement to encourage you to be better than you are; to do things you really want to do and we, as a brand, will always stand there to support you to do those things.
So, if you like music and want to become a musician, we can enable you to achieve it; like the Y’ello Star music reality show that we are currently running. If you are a science student, we’ll give you access to the internet to do your research and even provide scholarship through MTN Foundation; if you have a business you want to start, we can enable you to start up that business with the things we offer. So, that is how we operate.
MTN has been giving grants to its partners to support their businesses. How are the grants structured?
MTN as a business is structured around supporting and enabling people. For example, we have the MTN Foundation that plays heavily in supporting different causes through health, education, youth empowerment and Arts and Culture Initiatives. However, when we launched the Turn It Up campaign, we went to the east, north, then the west, and south as a practical demonstration of enabling people to turn up their business. We did some on-ground activations where we had artisans attend. Depending on the particular field you are in – those particular businesses and some who became successful; we were able to give them tools of their trade to enable them turn up their business. The instance I can remember now is a lady in Aba, who is a seamstress and she said the only thing stopping her from making progress is that she doesn’t have the money to buy her machines for sewing; she participated and was part of those who became successful. We provided her with a sewing machine to enable her fashion business. If you ask me – that is a practical way of demonstrating how we can help you turn things up. That is not the core of the intention; the intention really is around inspiration, we want to inspire people; we want people to be able to believe in themselves, we want people to think of what they can do with the promise that with MTN you will always find a partner to enable you do whatever you want to do.
The TVC was shot in a secondary school somewhere. Do you think using that school can inspire the students?
We shot this in Ibeju-Lekki, at St Peters church Anglican primary school; just close to the sea. We are thinking that during the next ‘21 Days of Y’ello Care’, which is when our team of staff volunteers go out en-masse to help people in the society, the school will be one of the schools we might consider for renovation and bring up to standard as a way of turning things up for them.
Are there specific products tied to this campaign?
It’s a thematic campaign and was developed for inspiration but if we can extend that, what we are saying is that it is everything we do at MTN. Every product we offer is an enabler to something you want to do. So, you want to call a business associate, we enable that happen; you want to do your banking, we enable that; you want to open a small business, we enable that. So, it is not just one product: we usually say our entire business is set up to turn things up.
Putting this TVC together must be quite challenging; how did you decide this would be the right message for the market?
That’s a very good question because we have been on this for almost two years. There is a method to the madness. One of the first things we told ourselves is to embark on a research and feel the pulse of Nigerians. From our research, we discovered that people love music and football. We also researched what ‘turn it up’ meant to people and they told us in plain terms that it was about having a better life and stepping up in life. So, we knew, if that was their pain point, we had to create a message that resonates with what people really want. Also remember that, as a brand we believe that everyone deserves the benefit of a modern connected life, so we always know that whatever we do, we must use what we have to enable people do what they want to do.