Advertising for Nigeria by Nigerians in Nigeria

Advertising for Nigeria by Nigerians in Nigeria
By Kelechi Nwosu. Dr. Celey Okogun  and Jenkins Alumona

This article was culled from Thisday Live.

Very often, Ad men prefer to be seen and not heard. We seldom raise our heads to speak on issues of national importance even when they concern us directly.  Perhaps it is because by training and inclination, advertising people believe that our work should speak for us.  Therefore, a majority of advertising practitioners have been accused of being media shy; a case of the physicians not healing themselves.

Thus when President Goodluck Jonathan announced, for instance, a $200m intervention fund for the creative industry, it appeared as if the money was due only for the film and entertainment industry. No one, least of all practitioners in the advertising industry considered that the advertising industry is the bastion of creativity; producing ‘short ‘ films by way of commercials and telling stories for brands .

That said, some of us joined this creative advertising industry a few decades ago with the intent to develop fresh and new ideas for brands in the country. While the jury may yet be  out on what we have achieved, the truth is that major Nigerian, pan African and International brands have benefited immensely from the work of Nigeria’s creative advertising Industry.

The recent suggestion by certain elements that the advertising industry in Nigeria has not grown and therefore needs re-colonising is pathetically self serving and criminally incongruent with the current reality.  The declared desire of the new messiahs to teach us how to  communicate with our own people and grow brands in our own country with its peculiar culture and tendencies is as insulting as it is laughable .

It is most unreasonable to suggest that at a period when the world is celebrating our country’s creative explosion that Nigerians lack the capacity to communicate creatively. Clearly they lie. The truth is that advertising to Nigerians can best be done by Nigerians who understand Nigeria and then by non-Nigerians who understand Nigeria.

Theoretically, it is trite to say that advertising to a people , their stories  (visual or audio) is best told to the people by the people who understand the people. It stands to reason also that a people will  understand their own people better than outsiders.  Recall  MTN  Mama  Na boy. See Saka who has Ported from Etisalat to MTN and several other examples  that  illustrate that our stories are best told by us. Campaigns like these and many more show who we are and benefits the brand.

Nigerian advertisers, contrary to some of the blatant lies that have crept into the recent narrative of the reality of our industry  have mostly relied on Nigerian advertising agencies to make these sort of strong connections for their brands and ideas . Interestingly, a great number of the Agencies in the country are affiliates of the  World Agency groups(WPP,Interpublic, Omnicom,etc). What these worldwide brands networks  have therefore gained  is a solid footprint in Nigeria working with creative Nigerian firms who understand the Nigerian landscape and can develop resonant and befitting brand stories for the international  and local brands  scrambling for market share in the country.

Nigerian agencies can therefore claim rightly to have helped grow so many international brands here in the country. Much of the criticism though is that the Agencies should grow local brands and franchises.  The rebuttal from Agencies is that those brands are few and far in between. Apparently, Nigerians love to consume foreign brands at the expense of  developing  local brands. An example is the current scramble to  consume European football brands instead of developing our football  league!
It is actually true that Nigeria as a whole need to wake up to the real scramble going on to make us mass consumers instead of producers in our country.   Professor  Akpan Ekpo in an article on "the NEW Scramble for Nigeria” Tell April 29 says that‘’Nigerian leadership must put in place mechanism to reduce the exploitation of Nigeria and Nigerians. One way is to preserve certain business activities  for Nigerians and Africans.  This is not against competition,per se, but to ensure that Nigerians and Africans are given the opportunity to compete. Government has the right to intervene in the market to give its citizens  a fair deal. The new scramble ought to translate into building of factories of all kinds  that must engage in the production of goods and services  for the large domestic market and abroad…”

Obviously growth and development only happen when the  internal production are aligned  with consumption to create ideas, jobs and improve personal  incomes. The scramble for Nigeria  will be dysfunctional if we allow every man and his dog to land in Naija sell to us make their money without producing much in the economy. Call it protectionism or even development or affirmative action, clearly all sectoral groups in Nigeria  need  a strong local content development  like in the oil and shipping industry, that must make it mandatory for any FDI to participate in producing in the local economy.

The advertising industry as creative as it must be, therefore needs to  wake up to the above realities  and support  the growth of the Nigerian industry. The idea should be to make Nigeria a nation of producers as well as consumers. Again this goes back to the earlier assertion that Nigerian Creative talent are better disposed to tell the Nigerian story better than any foreigner be it Kenyan or Ghanaian or South African or English.

Nollywood, the Naija music industry ,warts and all, have become the poster boys of creativity by Nigerians telling the Nigerian story.  This  does not mean we should be insular and not learn from advanced economies. It  means we should not allow our minds and our stories to be colonized in word and in deed.

As the real creative industry turns 40 officially, we need to further engage Nigerians with content, made for them, that tell their stories . Ask the man in Kano if he wants to see non Hausa models dressed up and passing off as Hausa people in ads meant for  him or her. No of course:  he sees it as passing off. Understanding each other and setting a united national agenda via  creative communications is another  role that admen must play; and government should  take interest in that. Again it is trite to say that this is done better by Nigerians for Nigerians .

—Kelechi Nwosu, Celey Okogun and Jenkins Alumona are practising Admen based in Lagos.
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