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Genesis of brand reporting in Nigeria

by Emmanuel Ogundele
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Tracing the roots of Brand Journalism in Nigeria may not be an easy exercise to embark on after all, and that may be owing to several reasons. Since brand journalism began to emerge as yet another beat in the mist of several other existing journalism beats, the issues about brands was never considered a serious subject matter to dwell on, especially when compared to other long existing beats such as finance reporting, energy beat reporting, maritime for instance, to mention just a few. 

The subject of brands and branding sounded quite obscure and if anything, abstract going by its very nature. In fact, brand journalism is such a beat that not too many reporters would want to readily embrace, at least, not as a matter of choice. It was largely seen as unattractive and may be uninteresting.

 But, truth is that over a period of about the last decade, narratives about brand journalism and overall writings about brands appear to have turned around positively, and for a number of reasons, brand journalism has assumed a larger than life image and gained increased ascendancy over and above the much bigger and well established beats that existed long before it.  Brand Journalism has gradually come to be widely accepted and presently so much more in vogue, and this is as a result of the growing global awareness around the brand phenomenon. Truth is that, we live in a new world presently where everything is brand, and brand is everything.

 The root of brand journalism in Nigeria could well be traced back to periods around mid 90s when, suddenly Newspaper publications came to sudden realization of the need to inquire more deeply and to understand the processes and workings around advertising agencies and the creativity industry in general.

They saw the need perhaps to portray advertising agencies who are the brains behind the advertorial works, in more positive light, believing that by so doing, they could curry the agencies favour in more of adverts patronage to their respective publications considering that advertisements support was the single life wire to Newspapers survival at the time the media in generally.

And so there was what looked like a general consensus by publishers of major newspapers to open columns and pages primarily devoted to commentaries and coverage of issues around the advertising agencies, client companies and the accounts they worked for, which translates to the brands behind the advertorials.

The Newspapers that championed the initiative were most naturally the leading titles in the market then, the likes of –The Guardian, Punch, ThisDay newspapers and Vanguard. As the trend continued to become more entrenched, other new comer publications also joined in the fray creating brand related pages with various titles. Champion newspaper, New Age (both, now defunct), Daily Independent, The Sun, The Nation all established pages and columns for brands reportage. 

Discussions around brand journalism would be incomplete without acknowledging works of pioneer brandreporters who championed course of the beat in the formative stages. Akin Adeoya covered one of the most vibrant brand journalism columns on ThisDay newspapers by the title; Campaign which he  jointly produced alongside his friend and ideological arch rival John Tolulope Ajayi. ThisDay’s Campaign page became a constant for quite a long period and enjoyed widespread readership of industry stakeholders. In fact it became the companion page for majority of advertising agency practitioners at the time. Bankole Ebisemiju anchored what was close to being brands related page at the Guardian, though the column was subsumed under the wider title on Media. Augustine Odibo was anchor man for Vanguards brands column which had the more explicit tag- Advertising, Marketing. The four individuals here mentioned represents the first generation of brand writers to ever grace the industry. There contributions to growth of the beat were largely acknowledged  and recognized by many industry followers.

Then came the second generation of brand writers to emerge following the exit of the pioneer four.  Kabir Garba took over the Guardian’s media page covering Media and advertising related issues afollowing exit of Bankole Ebisemiju’s  At Vanguard, following the exit of Austin Odibo, yours sincerely anchored Vangurad’s advertising, marketing and management page for the period spanning between 1999 up till 2008. Mary Awowede anchored what looked like brands oriented page for the Punch while at Champion Newspaper while Funke Oduwole anchored  Brands and Promotional page at Champion newspapers before handling it over to Kasie Abone.

Tunmise Adekunle, Dele Alao ( both of blessed memories) covered brands page at ThisDay and The Nation newspapers respectively  long after the era of Adeoya and Ajayi. Obinna Ezeobi covered brands at defunct New Age newspaper but only to move on much later to Punch. Jude Nwauzor called the shuts at Daily Independent and Neta Nwosu collaborating with Wale Alabi to anchore brands page for The Sun.

 The camp of brand journalists was indeed at the time, a big and happy family, but in spite of this, a major challenge that affected growth of the beat was the absence an umbrella association to unify beat members such as it was the case with other journalism beats.

What obtained among the members was at best a loose association of free individuals operating in accordance to dictates of personal will. However credit must be given at this point to the efforts of some later day brand writers spearheaded by erudite Publisher of The Industry Newspapers, Goddie Ofose who through share ingenuity gave birth to what is presently the first ever umbrella body which seeks to unify members on the beat via Brand Journalist Association of Nigeria (BJAN). Ofose as two time chairman of the association initiated positive revolutionary moves that has successfully positioned BJAN as mouth piece for brand journalists and, it has to a large extend continued to propagate the groups interests in a manner that has placed the BJAN platform in positive limelight and reckoning both at the national and international brand forums.

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