LAIF plays a big role in Nigeria’s advertising industry’s business pitches – Lanre Adisa
Companies have deepened their demand for performance from marketing communication agency partners as the year 2020 laid prostrate a number of businesses. Survival is the new currency.
In this interview, Lanre Adisa, CEO/ Chief Creative Officer of 13 –year old Noah’s Ark Communications Limited, an agency that has consistently won local and international awards for best ideas and creativity, gives insights on how agencies can survive tough times. He spoke to Daniel Obi on other issues including LAIF Awards, impact of COVID-19, #EndSARS, economic recession, Noah’s Ark –Dentsu Aegies relationship and the Buhari-led government cold relationship with the advertising industry. Excerpts
How would you describe the emergence of Noah’s Ark Communications as the Agency of the Year in the 2020 Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival, LAIF Awards?
One feels humbled that in five years Noah’s Ark has been adjudged as Agency of the Year in an industry that is close to 100 years old. In all the 15 years of LAIF Awards, the juries have awarded the Grand Prix only 6 times and Noah’s Ark has won it three times: in 2015, 2017 and 2020. That is something to be grateful for as it is awe-inspiring. It also confirms what we believe in; that is the supremacy of the idea, as ideas will always win. It also shows consistency. Winning means working hard for it. Any agency whether old or young can win but what is important is how relevant the agency has been in the scheme of things and how important you are to the clients. It is also being able to attract the best talents, not just by paying them loads of money but by being able to motivate them to be at their best.
This year was a peculiar year. Would you say that those factors that affected this year reflected in LAIF Awards?
I would say those factors which are known to us did not affect us in a negative sense. Even though we had limited time to call for entries and despite the fact that some key players in the industry did not enter for the awards, we had more entries of about 600 this year than last year when we had 550 entries. This year, we also had young and new agencies coming on board. Another good thing is that since it was a virtual event because of COVID-19, we had to rely on technology that was not in existence before now. Let me use this opportunity to commend the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, (AAAN) Exco for agreeing that the awards be held in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. This pushed us to look inward. We got ourselves an amazing portal built by young Nigerians which can be used beyond COVID-19.
How would you say the LAIF Awards has impacted on the level of creativity in the Nigerian advertising industry?
First, I would say keeping the awards going for 15 years is quite commendable. If you consider the impact alone, you cannot but agree that the awards have been able to raise the standards among players as there is healthy competition among them. Therefore when players win the awards, they feel delighted and celebrate it.
It may interest you to know that the only reason one of our key clients invited us to pitch their business is because of our being able to occupy the top of the LAIF Awards table consistently. They said that they had been monitoring LAIF Awards over the years and they knew the agencies that have been winning consistently. LAIF Awards plays a big role in determining the level of creativity and business pitches in advertising industry. That is why we must protect it, guard it and ensure it continues to have integrity and respect within the industry.
This year has been marred by challenges from slow economic growth to Covid-19 pandemic to #EndSARS to economic recession, what is the impact of all this on the advertising industry?
It goes without saying that it is having a very big impact on our business. At times like this, what you need to do as a business is to ensure that you stay relevant in the industry.
It is a game of relevance. Clients will still run their businesses and consumers will still need those products and services. There is the tendency on the part of the client to cut budgets. But I always say what the clients need is a re-ordering of priorities and ask where should I put my money and who should I be talking to. Agencies also need to justify the trust clients have in them. These are demanding times. As a player, you must ensure you have the right team, focus and vision for the clients to stay with you. Some clients may not call for pitches but unilaterally select agencies to work with based on previous knowledge of the agencies. Therefore, as an agency, you must stay relevant and walk the talk. And you must have results to show for it.
To what percentage would you put the loss of revenue or profits by the advertising industry players this year due to COVID-19, #EndSARS and recession challenges?
It is a tough thing to estimate as we don’t share data. For instance, in the UK, it was said at the beginning of COVID-19 that media business will lose up to 25% revenue but it turned out that they dropped about 5%. For those in events and activation business, my guess is they could have dropped by about 60% revenue or more. Audio-visual, commercials productions also lost about 50% but for advertising, it could be about 30 % to 40% depending on where you are operating and what you do.
Do you see many players in the advertising industry surviving these challenges?
Before you come to the realisation of whether advertising industry would survive at all, it is important to first of all take a holistic look at the macro –economic space. From what we are told by IMF, it is said that in Q2, 2021, perhaps Nigeria should be out of recession. If we are out of it based on that prediction, it means it will impact positively on business.
In Q4, 2020, one saw some spike in activities of clients. I want to believe that Q2, 2021, when the economy is expected to be back on stream, advertising will bounce back. But this also depends on who the agencies are dealing with. For instance, multinationals are in a position to survive the recession as they have deep pockets, but local firms tend to freeze or shrink their marketing budgets and this may be challenging to some agencies. To survive the times, agencies need to be at their best at all times, stay focused and stay true to their vision. But ultimately it is about the value the agency adds to the clients’ businesses, the existing clients and how the agency manages those clients.
What is the value of the Nigeria’s IMC industry?
I cannot estimate but there was a report by KPMG that this year, the entertainment, communication and media industry should be about $10 billion this year. Advertising industry may take about 40% of this figure. But then again, that was before the pandemic.
Five years ago, Noah’s Ark entered into an affiliation with Dentsu Aegis Network. Is the partnership still existing?
Let me provide a background on how we got into the relationship. About five years ago, Dentsu Aegis Network came knocking on our doors and we believed there was something to gain in expanding the business horizon of Noah’s Ark from the point of view of not only business referral, but on talent development, access to tools that will make us better. On our own part, we have also made some inroads on the global stage as a Nigerian agency that is doing some good works and we thought that engaging with Dentsu Aegis would enhance what we were doing. But five years down the road, we did a review and we realised that the partnership was not taking us where we expected. All what we set to achieve did not happen as expected.
Besides, we also saw a misalignment of values and we thought that it was in our interest to get out of the relationship. Dentsu Aegis, as you know, has another local partner in Nigeria and there was an agreement that anything that had to do with media buying from our end will go to the local partner and they will also refer creative businesses to us. To the best of our ability, we kept our part and stepped down our media business to respect that agreement but we did not get a reciprocal fulfilment of that agreement from the other party.
We thought it was not in our best interest to continue that relationship. Let me state that we would be bringing back our media business now that we are out of that relationship.
Nonetheless, we will continue to seek foreign collaborations to enhance our value as an independent agency.
The advertising industry is still struggling to get a deserved recognition from government in terms of patronage. Is there anything the industry is not doing right?
I would say that it has not been all that bad generally with previous administrations but it has been bad with this administration. For some reason, I think there may be down to a chemistry problem, lack of understanding or other overriding interests. Be that as it may, as a professional body, we are pushing to ensure that our interests are protected and we hope to have a better relationship as it is in government’s best interest too as their communications will be better with our professional guidance.