In a world where hard facts and figures are oftentimes overrated, creativity can hold the reputation of being soft, instinctive, hard to measure or quantify. According to the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, however, the predicted top five skills needed in the future will be complex problem-solving, critical thinking, people management, coordinating with others, and creativity.
While technology has evolved, it hasn’t changed the fundamental need for creativity. Going by the mantra of Stephan Vogel, Ogilvy & Mather Germany’s chief creative officer, “Nothing is more efficient than creative advertising.” Vogel holds that “Creative advertising is more memorable, longer lasting, works with less media spending, and builds a fan community faster.”
In reality, perceived creativity is measured along five dimensions, which include originality, flexibility, elaboration, synthesis and artistic value; and studies have found that creative campaigns are, in general, more effective than other types of ads. Put simply, as the essence of advertising and branding, creativity is what gives life to messages about products and services that may otherwise be boring or insignificant in the hearts and minds of target customers. This explains why advertisers often turn to advertising agencies for the design and development of ad campaigns, even if it means taking a gamble on what will work best.
While responding to The Industry’s enquiries on contemporary issues in the Nigerian marketing communications space, Kelechi Nwosu, Managing Director, TBWA\ The Disruption Company, and one of the industry eggheads, emphasised on the age-old mantra, creativity, while addressing numerous germane issues.
Describing the country’s creative advertising space as tough, but growing, Nwosu advocated more agency collaboration within the disciplines of marketing communication. “We need to be more innovative and daring, and we need to reflect more on our contemporary Nigerian culture. Clients are also asking for results: we ought to prove that we provide value (which we do) and we need to ensure we get remunerated for it.”
The agency boss stressed on the need for agency businesses to develop own platforms and products, considering the fact that the “market is too shallow to wait for others to develop and then pitch the businesses”, while also calling on the Federal Government to stimulate and support the MARCOMM industry by following the regulations that will allow only licensed and registered practitioners to provide advertising services. “Unregistered firms from abroad that provide services to Nigerian advertisers must be regulated and stopped (where non-compliant) since that practice is not supported by Nigerian laws and is a loss of tax revenue for the country.”
Nwosu summed up 2020 as a tough year regarding the marketing communications industry, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 pandemic dropped Nigeria into a recession. “Except for a few advertisers with an eye on the long-term value of brands who maintained their advertising, even if modestly, most other advertisers quickly cut their marketing communications spend.”
On the 2021 industry projection, Nwosu expressed cautious optimism, citing the World Bank prediction of a recovery and growth of 2% for Nigeria. Specifically, he anchored his optimism on the resilience and tenacity of many brands to brave the conditions and see how to recover from last year. “Those are motivating factors that suggest that the year will have a modest recovery for the IMC sector.” He, however, noted that the recovery will be skewed positively towards agencies that are supporting brands in the growing sectors such as telecommunications, fintech, e-commerce, health & pharmaceutical, food & processing, among others.
Asked how the pandemic has affected the African advertising ecosystem, the TBWA\ The Disruption Company’s helmsman cited the absence of studied figures as reason for not speaking authoritatively on the matter. Meanwhile, he opined that the trends in Nigeria, South Africa and the world will not be different. “Advertising supports demand and where there was little or no demand, the industry and the players suffered loss of revenue to varying degrees. The rate of loss of revenue will be correlated to the diversity of the account portfolio of the agencies all over Africa. We must also realise that Africa is underdeveloped and generally under advertised.”
Referencing an article titled, “Nigeria Advertising Sector, Path to Growth”, by TVC’s Ronald Redmond, Nwosu quoted Redmond thus: “That even though our GDP $397 billion is currently the largest economy in Sub Saharan Africa followed closely by South Africa GDP $366 billion, the South African advertising sector is $2.6 billion (.7 percent of GDP) and this is almost six times the size of the Nigerian advertising sector $450 million (.1 percent of GDP).”
Nwosu appealed to Heads of Sectoral Groups (HASG) to pressure Federal Government of Nigeria on the empanelling of the APCON Council to make sure the regulation and leadership role of APCON is enhanced. He particularly stressed that it will allow reforms already formulated for the industry to take off, believing firmly that it will cascade to better professionalism and value for the industry practitioners. “The IMC industry should be concerned about macro-economic policies and work with the various sectors (telco, manufacturing, finance etc.) to influence and stabilise government policies. Adverse policies on the advertisers especially the FMCGs tend to have a huge impact on the IMC industry. We help with behaviour change for tangible and intangible goods. You cannot literally have a capitalist or even socialist economy without advertising.
“We do not want any free money, but that they should enforce the existing APCON regulations that only recognised and licensed firms should do government communications.”
The industry egghead highlighted the need for IMC practitioners to design and create products and platforms for clients and for themselves. “Our country is in dire need of creativity and productivity; it cannot be left to advertisers alone. Agencies should utilise the skills they have built to create these. For us at TBWA\CONCEPT, The Spirit of Lagos Behaviour change campaign (2012-2014) and Proudly Made in Aba (2017 & 2017) are great examples.”
TBWA has been in the forefront of helping SMEs, and Nwosu, while sharing some of the agency’s major projects with The Industry,mentioned SME SHOP initiative as its deliberate response to the SME market. “Realising that the sector was critical to growth in Nigeria, we studied the market for four years and launched our offering known as the SME SHOP. Clearly, we still have a lot to learn about SMEs and their communication needs, but we have, however, had modest successes in capacity training, consulting for SMEs in branding, business growth, and how to get loans and set up financial processes.”
He also noted that typical challenges for SMEs were exacerbated by Covid-19, but stated that TBWA\CONCEPT, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, had designed and is now implementing programmes SME SHIFT, which answers some of the identified challenges. “The programme has free training videos in modules with experienced and deep facilitators speaking on different need areas which we learnt via a pre-programme research. Mrs. Nike Ogunlesi of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Ms Uloma Ike of Bank of Industry (BOI), Ranti Atunwa of TBWA\CONCEPT and six other prominent facilitators are part of the faculty. Check it out on smeshop.ng. So far, we have trained over 1000 businesses online, offering free business clinics to 50 SMEs, majorly female owned.”
On the impact of the Aba project and government’s contribution to it, Nwosu said that the Proudly Made In Aba (PMIA) initiative, developed and supported by Ford Foundation over three years ago, has been a success. “It attracted businesses to the SMEs in Aba and generated enquiries that led to revenue increases. The leather sector and the textile sector reported N1.6 billion direct sales during the campaign period in 2018. An estimated $100,000 worth of free, positive publicity was generated for brand Aba.”
He further revealed that there was a HACKATHON sponsored by Ford Foundation that resulted from the first phase of PMIA and over $100,000 was given as prizes to the winners who were selected based on how they would use technology to build brands out of Aba, adding that Clintonel, a second prize winner, has successfully started a CAD supported manufacturing Lab in Aba.
He, however, noted, “We were minimally supported by the Abia State Government (ABSG) via logistics and information, but we are yet to get their full support to help the government strategically build some strong brands in fashion, textile, leather, and fabrication out of Aba. All attempts to gain the attention of the ABSG have failed.”