The Chief Executive Officer of Headstart Consulting Limited, Fanen Acho is an experienced marketing, media, communication and creative professional. Having worked in DDB Lagos, Superbrand, African Practice and some corporate organisations, he decided to champion a new course in integrated marketing communication industry. He speaks at the anniversary to mark 6 years of Headstart in Lagos, Acho said communication solution has gone beyond campaigns. He however admonished brands to desist from tackling every marketing problem with a marketing campaign.

New segment in IMC
We have a platform called free spirit, a leading recruitment platform in the media, marketing communication field. We noticed a gap in the industry; reason there is a lot of movement, even in corporate. And there was no dedicated recruitment platform that offers that services. So we felt we should create a platform that allows us to do a data base of professionals in our industry that could be recruited by large corporate organisations and agencies. We started it last February, July this year we have had over 180 people. The plan right now is to do a nationwide fair. Ultimate, our goal is to make it a talent recruitment platform.
This service is just one of the services from headstart but most schools are not producing market ready graduate because of that many employers are not interested in fresh graduate. They wanted people who are experienced and ready to work. Generally, the quality of graduate is very poor. Secondly, most of the young graduates now, do not believe in time, they do not want in process. They want to get a job today and earn what a person who has been in the industry for 20 years earn. So most times you are looking at the level of passion and interest. If you get that, you can train them. And it is also very difficult to get people who want to learn and grow.

Strategic offerings
Headstart is not a recruitment company; it is a strategy and innovation company. Our core work is on brand development and innovation. Recruitment is a small part of what we do to solve a need in the industry. I will give you an example, in 2009 when we started, our first big client was Skye bank. The first task was to review there brand management department and see how they could become more effective. When we did that work and restructuring of the department, the next thing was that the people in that department do not have the ready skills to do the job. So we felt we could help them recruit for that department. So recruitment was a service we added on to enhance the work that we do. we do not do core advertising work, campaigns and all that, but core brand strategy work. When you are done with the work, you leave the client, but sometimes there is nobody in house to implement what you have developed, which means you have to recruit. So it is a complementary service.



guests at the 6th anniversary meets and greets
guests at the 6th anniversary meets and greets

We like to see ourselves as a strategy company and work in five core areas, enterprise innovation, brand development, creative services, organisation transformation market intelligence. Our approach to work is integrated and interdisciplinary. When a client brings a brief to us, we do not want to just assume that it is a branding problem. For example, a client came to us that its sales were dropping. A typical advertising company would say let us do a new campaign to create awareness and all that. But when we analysed the problem, it was not a campaign that they needed, the problem was distribution. So it was solving a distribution problem. So we do not assume that every problem is advertising problem. Most times, even marketing problems have roots that are deeper than marketing; it could be a people problem, a process or culture problem. So we do not see ourselves as a typical; advertising company but a strategy and innovation one.

Market readiness for new ideas
The problem is not paying but understanding what we do. I give you an example, a client comes to us that it needs a new logo, but when we did the analysis, we discovered fine, the logo needs to be changed but there are other issues. Right now, we are helping a business man who wants to create an e-commerce platform. So we analyse the whole process and right now we are working on developing a financial mode for the business. He was surprise that we have moved from designing a logo to now showing a two page excel sheet on financial model. So the first thing is to get them to understand and appreciate what we do. When they ask if we are an advertising agency, we say no, but we do some advertising. Are you a design firm, we do design but we are not a design firm. So the issue is getting them to understand what we do but in six years, we thing we have made some progress in getting clients to understand what we do. For most clients, the relationship grows and it really not about what we can do and not do but about approach.
Every problem you bring to them, they tend to think campaign is the solution.

The future
Our goals are very ambitious. First of all, we want to be a resource to the industry through free spirit. Two, we would like to be at the fore front and emerging leader in strategy and innovation discipline. Thirdly, we want to focus more on creating proprietary products and assets that clients can explore as against doing speeches. For example, right now we have three main products besides our consultancy services. We have a product called dexterial, an online research platform that analysis pr activities. We have free spirit a recruitment platform and find you edge, and leading the brand, a brand acculturation platform. So intend of chasing clients through pitches, they come for our proprietary products.