Goddie Ofose, Editor of The Industry Newspaper takes a dive into the operational nuances of SBI Stagwell and discovers that this habitual next generational agency, unlike its predecessors, SBI has continued to set the pace in media planning and buying agencies. In a chat with Samuel Odusami, Mass communication graduate, master’s degrees in strategy and international relations, Digital Transformation & Marketing Strategist/Project Manager at SBI Media UK, he spoke extensively on how the company has continued to evolve.
There’s no doubt the fact that the process of media planning and buying is vital in determining the success of business all over the world, and business owners who have eyes for growth don’t take this with a pinch of salt. In fact, the quest for growth has made brand handlers to beam their search light on best media planning and buying agencies to handle their briefs.
Media planning and buying agencies on the other hand do everything possible within the confine of business ethics to remain relevant by way of providing top notch services to their clients. In Nigeria, and in Africa at large, media planning and buying agencies have done so much for their clients despite a stiff business environment.
One of such agencies is SBI Media Group, now known as a one-stop shop for marketing communication. The agency can boast of a team of people close to about one hundred. When it started operation, the agency had less than twenty people. Today, its staff is close to one hundred and more, especially direct professionals working in the business.
The 360-degree media agency has operations in Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Dubai. Recently, through some of its partners, it got licensed to start operations in the United Kingdom. Its plan is to be Africa’s global agency and that is the strategic relations the agency is riding on. SBI Media Group is positioned to be the bridge between Africa and the world.
The Rotimi Bankole led media planning and buying agency has been in business for nearly a decade, it started operation in 2013. Since then, the story has been hard work, team work, building, rebuilding, learning and unlearning.
Reason for Establishing SBI
The Group Head of Strategy and Global Business Development, Samuel Odusami offers some insights on how SBI Media has become Nigeria’s fastest growing media planning and buying agency. According to him, before the registration of SBI in 2013, there was a global recession. The recession was a mounting event. The biggest blow to the global economy was in 2007 and 2008; the economic crunch made it hard for a lot of companies. Some companies, like TV stations, could not continue. Businesses were folding up; people were losing their jobs and many new graduates had nothing to do, unless they created something for themselves. In the advertisement industry, social media was an eye opener for people, like Rotimi Bankole and I. One day, these big companies that we worked for may not be there or may not need us anymore. Knowledgeable, technology savvy, young (in our late 20s, and 30s) and flexible, we decided to change the narrative, and use this global shake-up as a golden opportunity to penetrate in the industry.
“With a good understanding of the Internet and very strong background in marketing, the situation of the global economy was a wake-up call for us. Moreover, the industry needed younger people to experiment; to build institutions within the industry. Today SBI is operating in South Africa, Accra Ghana. Now, I am in London and we have operating access in the UK. We are the only indigenous group that has operations in the UK today.”
Most agencies that were in business before us focused more on the bread-and-butter aspects of the business, which is very common in the industry. When we started, we developed a business module, with a high bridge module, that focused on doing excellent digital transformation for clients. So, digital capability was what we brought into the market in a very strong way. Today, I can boldly tell you that digital business contributes to our sales at 20% annual revenue which is very unusual for a typical Nigeria company. Also, the kind of business module we designed was very different.
He further pointed out that, “our group has enormous capabilities: we have individuals that are very strong in brand activation, digital transformation, digital marketing, and planning in all other areas, including PR and production. The kind of business we came up with is like complete shopping cards for clients. We came up with complete shopping cards for the industry and this is what brought us out. We are not copying anybody and that is why we stand out. SBI is the only agency that doesn’t compete with other agencies.”
Importance of pitches
What I mean is that it is not about waiting to be called for pitch. It is about creating solutions that will even attract clients to you. For instance, if you have only one client, have you been able to maximize the potential in dealing with that client? We created a complete module through the line with 360. We don’t build our business around if we do not get calls for pitches that our business is going to go down or we are going to be inactive in the business. My point is that anybody that wants to be successful in this business environment will need a solid business module.
SBI and Media Buying
We have a strategic vision now, which is about 10-15 visions. We want to be the Africa Global Agency in the next 10-15years. How should people perceive us, if we are Africa global Agency, and we provide full service 360 all-round through the line solutions in marketing, communications, and we even provide business advisory services with links to marketing. We started with an airline, Green Africa. The only thing the owner, Babawande, brought to us was a business plan. We worked with him and his team to translate the business plan into an airline. It took about five years for everything to fall in place. Today, he is the youngest airline owner in the world. We are in Green Africa, and we offer services through the line services of Green Africa. We are Africa Global Agency. We are everywhere. So, see us as complete shopping cards for your agency
SBI and Partnership
It is a challenge network, and SBI is also the challenger network. We came into an industry where people just follow the norm by starting an agency, getting a very big office, and focusing on a particular team; and expect to do well. A lot of people tried our business module, but failed. We were able to succeed because we were more focused on building an institution and a vision. It was about coming with an alternative network. We have started the partnership, and, in the next couple of days, we will be launching our first project together. The global standards, in terms of tools, platforms and avenues are very limited. So, we are also feeding up into that network.
Relationship with Digital Outfit
They are our subsidiaries. Through Stream, we offer below the line events, branding, and do a lot of fabrication. We do a lot of projects on Streams and have a very fantastic team that they have been working with since 2015. Stream is our first subsidiary. Digit is our digital platform, digital transformation, and digital marketing. Digital represents 20-25% of our annual revenue, and it is going to grow beyond that, because this year our digital is growing faster.
SBI and Outdoor
We don’t compete in the industry; we are collaborators. We are team players and we believe in working with other partners. The first brand in Landmark was one of our partners. We don’t call our partners clients because, when you call them clients, it means that the relationship is not organic. One of our strongest partners, in buying and selling, across the world is Global Partners. We have a lot of partners. We have done a lot of landmarks, and that will give our partners that very strong statement as well.
We operate in different countries of the world. Image market is the best market; everybody should be in now, even the global brands. Image market also comes with its own risk: political instability, insecurity, and other social issues. However, if you have the right thing, people will follow you.
Our first partner was a private investor, Konga. We actually started with them when they were looking for investors. The first project we did was less than five hundred thousand naira (N500, 000.00). It was so interesting in the sense that it was just like a test; and when we started the radio campaign, we got a message that we won. Close to five years, we worked and built a relationship with them, until the company was acquired. We have a lot of partners. We have had electronic subsidiaries since 2016/2017, and the relationship grows stronger. We also partner with Access Bank.
Even before the global Lockdown, we operated our business as though we knew something like that would happen. For instance, we had already instituted cloud and digital transformation in our operations; and had adopted WhatsApp communication within our group. As early as 2015 we have been using WhatsApp for internal communication, and we were moving from one partner to sharing our solutions. So, when the Lockdown came, we didn’t have any downtime because we were already using various cloud applications for email and documents, and some of our technology tools we used in design and branding.
Important of Human Element
We didn’t build our company in a very rigid way. We did it in a fluid way, in the sense that we can adapt to things and changing circumstances. We do not have a perfect system, but we continue to perfect it. Perfection is the destination of the whole process. What we did was to find people that understand that we are not looking for perfect people. We actually attracted people who want to develop and impact, and be leaders in whatever they are doing; and that has worked for us. We have it to our credit: one of the senior management staff has been with us since 2015, when operation fully started. We train and develop people, with the intention of making them the best version of themselves. So, any day they want to start something for themselves, they will have the knowledge and confidence they can work with.
SBI and Growth
We are dedicated to a vision. Secondly, we have been able to attract the right people; we have the right team. Our most important asset is not technology, the money we make, but our team and the team we have been able to build outside our own team. We have been able to build a very strong team with our partners to the extent that the partners are even the biggest marketers in the business.
Rotimi Bankole and Skills
Rotimi has an eye for talent. He doesn’t know it all, and doesn’t have to be the one to design and build the mobile apps. He gets the best people to do the job.
As a quiet leader with a natural talent for driving business growth, he is widely sought after for his expertise in retaining clients and navigating the challenges that others often struggle with. His passion for developing people and fostering a welcoming, collaborative environment has earned him a reputation as both a friend and a colleague, and his innovative approach has been adopted by businesses across the globe as a blueprint for building a successful and cohesive team.
Through his unwavering commitment to empowering others and unlocking their potential, he has built a network of individuals whose collective richness extends far beyond material wealth. His three-year-old SMW initiative serves as a prime example of his dedication to bridging the gap and providing opportunities for young people to monetize their skills and talents.