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SO&U/Globacom relationship: End of an era

Words filtering out of the nation’s marketing communications industry indicate that the eight-year relationship between industry giant, SO&U, and mobile telecoms provider, Globacom, may have come to an end. To industry watchers, the question in the coming days is not going to be why a healthy and highly fruitful relationship may have ended.

It is interesting to note that SO&U was able to build and sustain a robust relationship with Globacom for a long period, chiefly on account of the disposition of its owner, a stickler for excellence.

How did SO&U do it? What was it able to do those others before it could not do? These questions became pertinent given that SO&U was not the first agency that was signed on to handle advertising communication for Globacom at inception. Before the company took over management of the Globacom communication account, other equally reputable advertising agencies had handled the job – agencies like Insight Communications, Rosabel, DDB and TBWA.

The average period each stayed with the telecom firm was two years, some less. In fact, BBDO, one of the world’s leading advertising agencies based in the United Kingdom, is said to have left after just six months. So, what did SO&U bring into the relationship that enabled it to win and retain the trust and confidence of Mike Adenuga, the Globacom chairman, for the whole of eight solid years?

The answer to this question may lie in what could be considered the DNA of SO&U, which is excellent service delivery driven by its motto: “Nothing is Impossible”.

Read Also: Globacom sees 1m subscribers as telecom industry growth slows

In its 31 years of existence, SO&U has operated on the principle of delivering bespoke services to clients, powered by a determination to make them succeed, no matter what it wouldlegitimately take to achieve that. The company has built into its workforce a culture of first loving the client and loving the brand, in order to be able to work for the brand. This is said to be borne out of the belief by Udeme Ufot, Group Managing Director of the SO&U Group that you cannot work for a client if you don’t love and respect him.

Relationship between the staff and clients is taken beyond the official level, to enable the former to see the job as their own. In other words, on every task SO&U staff are involved in, they do not work for the client; they work for themselves.

The agency is said to have created a structure that is designed to adapt to, and accommodate the unusual modus operandi of the client. It also put in place a structure and process that raised the capacity of the staff to deliver on the business and motivate them to perform above expectations.

It is believed that having learnt from the mistakes of its predecessors, SO&U approached the Globacom assignment from the position of experience, not its own experience with thecompany, but its knowledge of the experiences of others before it. Most importantly, it took up the Globacom assignment with a clear understanding of what the client needed, backed by expertise that was built over many years of delivering exciting and highly effective communication messages for some of the biggest local and international brands.

Those who know Adenuga closely say he is never sentimental when it comes to issues affecting Globacom, or any of his businesses, and does not mix friendship or family ties with business. Some of those that have handled advertising communications for Globacom are said to be close to him, one way or the other. But that did not make him bat an eyelid while showing them the door, for failure to perform. It must have taken more than ingenuity for SO&U to succeed where others failed.

Insiders say the Globacom assignment was one of the toughest and most challenging SO&U has handled in its period of existence. The company is said to have worked under very difficult conditions on several occasions, literally squeezing water out of stone and making bricks without straws to meet the expectations of Adenuga and, ultimately, make Globacom a household name and a leading telecom service provider in the country and beyond.

The agency confounded the entire industry with uncommon resolve, resilience, sacrifice, and doggedness, in the process becoming a reference point on how to manage the Globacom business – a business others were either too scared to come close to, or simply do not have what it takes to handle. The agencysucceeded in working with and satisfying a client everybody thinks is difficult to work with and impossible to satisfy. In the industry today, the question is still being asked as to how SO&U did it. What was the magic?

The reward for this rare commitment to the client’s success was the record of working for the company for a longer period than any agency before it. It cannot be conjectured at this stage if any other agency will match this feat, let alone surpass it. It can also not be ruled out the possibility that the SO&U feat at Globacom may, in a long time to come, be impossible to match. But the important takeaway in the relationship that is said to have just ended is that SO&U succeeded where others failed, because of its strong attachment to its motto.

Without doubt, the Globacom assignment has added yet another feather to the many that SO&U has on its glittering cap in the more than three decades of its very active participation and prominence in an industry where many others, including big names of yesteryears, have since fallen by the wayside, becoming history sooner than anybody could have imagined.

One thing, for sure, is that between eight years of working on the Glo brand and earlier five-year tenure on the MTN brand, SO&U has over 13 years of top-grade experience at the most competitive level in the telecom industry.

The agency with a string of awards came, saw, and conquered. The company has moved on. The public can only wait to see where it lands next, perhaps to achieve another feat.

Madu writes from Lagos

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