Rosabel Advertising Chief Executive Officer, Clement Omemu, reflects on his 20 years’ experience in the industry to speak to Senior Correspondent, GODDIE OFOSE, on several issues about advertising in Nigeria and the African continent.

Clement OmemuAssessment of advertising industry
The standard is not as high as I expected it to be. We are not growing at the speed I personally would like because things are evolving and technologies are changing the ways things are done. Brand approach is changing too.
I don’t think we are catching up globally in terms of output, and then again we are also dealing with issues of brand managers that are not well trained, brand managers who do not understand branding.
It is not about going to Lagos Business School to study branding or coming out with a certificate in marketing. It is about trends. There is a fast pace movement of trends and things are so fast that if you are not careful you will be lost.
Consumers are changing; lifestyles are changing, traditions also have changed, so you have to evolve with them.

Factors that drag down Nigerian advertising
Top on the list is exposure in the sense that we are not in touch with both internal and external markets. We cannot say we are local advertising when we are dealing with global brands and we are not exposed to consumer behaviour properly.
There are also best practices. Advertising in 1985 is not advertising in 2015, things have changed. And again we are not training and retraining workers, we just pack a group of people and put them in a place and start working.
I have spoken to many brand managers and I noticed they do not understand the act of brand building; they are still stock in the basics. Most brand managers want to please themselves and not the brand, forgetting that the brand has a life of its own. Today’s business says you become the brand, you speak the language of the brand and not your language.

Brand managers’ impact on creativity
I have discovered in my 20 years in this industry that we create templates and most of these brand managers or brand owners who have these templates should know what an idea should feel like or look like.
It’s just a few who do out of the box; many still live within the box “templates”.
Sometimes most agencies that are not bold enough will flow in that template and please clients but kill the brands.
It is only some few agencies who stand up to say they are going out of the box to do something different. They want to earn their pay so they must do what their clients want.
That has seriously boxed in Nigerian advertising. That is why you find in commercials like noodles that everybody sings. Even banks are doing jingles but do banks need jingles?
Why should a bank do jingles? Must it be jingle because Nigerians like music? No, there are over a hundred techniques in doing ads.
If someone tells me that if I save a certain amount then a certain amount will be added to me and that will mean I will be a little bit richer, I think I will listen to that than to listen to a song.

Foreign affiliation
When Nigeria started this affiliation it had a positive impact because technology was introduced and some new ideas of doing advertising was shared by both local and foreign affiliates.
But after a while it has also begun to lose its taste because some of the locals were trained and there was no need for affiliation again.
The way affiliation is done today is different from what it used to be. Then, they used to merge and it became one, but as it went on Nigerians began to realise that we have our own local substances.
Sometimes their ideology does not work for our Nigerian market, so local agents began to spring up; which is good.
Today what I see is affiliation not agency ideologies. WPP will say they are buying into one company. WPP has its own ideology and that local company has its own, so what links them is an account they share.
If WPP has an account in Nigeria and the local agency will work with that account, for me that kind of affiliation is not good because it means you are interested in making money off me because I am here and you are not ready for us to exchange ideas and become one entity.
Clem OmemuLocal agencies should not depend on foreign affiliations because it doesn’t guarantee success. That you have a big agency behind you doesn’t guarantee success.
In South Africa we have Ad Boys, King James; and also in Nigeria we have Noah’s Ark, X3M – these are companies that are growing.
When Rosabel left affiliation it didn’t die because it wasn’t dependent on that relationship – we were not one, we were an associate.
A lot of people thought Rosabel would suffer when Leo Burnett left. But that never happened. Our relationship was based on syndicated account.
An agency has to grow as a local and strong entity before it gets people to buy in, and when they buy in they should buy into your ideology as well.
Affiliation’s positive side was to open our eyes, introduce us to technology and how to do certain things, but after that every agency should be able to stand on its own.

Affiliation as vehicle for capital flight
That is exactly what I am saying, why can’t we grow a pan-African agency? Why can’t Rosabel be in West African, North African or Southern African countries?
Dentsu Aegis Network is in Nigeria but it is not called Dentsu Nigeria because they bought into some businesses and that is the capital flight you are talking about, but they don’t share the same ideology.

Staying with local agency after affiliation with foreign partner ends
There are situations where brands have said that, but again all these things are on contract basis.
Publicis bought Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi knowing that all the accounts in Nigeria that affiliate with Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi automatically become their own.
But again at the same time they will have to look for a local agency to partner with to grow these brands.
Insight Communication is one of them now. They are not called Publicis in Nigeria neither are they called Leo Burnett in Nigeria. When the account goes there will be an issue because it is not an Insight account, it’s a Publicis account.
That is one of the reasons I said having one entity is better than having an affiliation.

Lack of globally acceptable awards in Africa
Africa is not an organised continent, we are in different realms.
When a European says I am a European, he or she means it because there are so many things that bind them together, one of which is economy. But the African economy is in bits and pieces, nothing binds us as Africans.
In Europe you have a flag already, whether you are from Holland, France or England, there is an economy that binds them together, same thing with the Middle East. Whether you are from Iran or Emirates, they see themselves as one entity so they cooperate.
In Africa, it is not like that, even in the same zone. Our own Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival-Laif Awards is not even national.
Cannes has said this is a global awards system, Dubai Lynx tells you it is out of Dubai but it is global too, Loeries says it is a global award from Africa.
The Loeries used to come from South Africa and if you look at the meaning it is African prestigious global awards; but West Africa is not there, just a few people from Central Africa and North Africa.
If it was an African global award why are we not there?
Loeries is next to Cannes, the way it is organised and the calibre of the panel of judges; but again it is too South African.
They have extended Loeries to West, Central, East Africa, and the Middle East.
In fact, the overall grand winners were from Dubai, the Middle East; and South Africa came third. But to think that West Africans were not represented is sad. However, they have been trying to reach to West Africans for them to take part in the awards.

C OmemuSouth Africa perception of Nigeria creatively
Yes, that is also a perception, much of which they have there. Most ordinary practitioners in South Africa believe that advertising this way is not up to power especially when we have not won Cannes and they have won it many times.
It is now they are opening up to us for collaboration.

Laif being organised by sectoral group
From inception we have had different award plaques. Laif is still timid and it is being handled by an association, which is wrong. It is supposed to be privately run by experts, then you can attract the world to it.
We are still struggling and it hurts me that Laif is 10 and for 10 years we are still crawling.
In appointing the Laif’s jury we are very myopic, it’s a lot of emotional blackmail, a case of ‘we like this person, we don’t like that person’.
We have one jury for all categories. In other parts of the world every category has its own jury so that one jury will not face everything. We have a lot to learn.

Declining numbers
I think it is fear factor, everybody is looking at the economy and brands are scared and beginning to cut their margins and in the end the brands suffer.
I believe in brand health check other than sales driven brand management. In other words, my brand does N2 million therefore I will put N1 million in advertising.
Even if the brand does N2 million, the fact that it has done N2 million should give me the impetus to do more. It is in times like these you should even project your brand the more.
Some believe they should do more of experiential or do more of digital, but I say all of these are windows because the understanding of your consumer and his lifestyle should be what project your brand.

Communication windows that threaten advertising budget
It shouldn’t be. Every agency should have “through the line thinking”. We have channels of exposure, there is digital, there is print, there is radio and there is TV; it is not about sharing the budget as if you are sharing biscuit.
It should be about your brand, what is your target, where do they reside. You profile the target and the channel room where you will meet them.
People just sit down and do it as if they are doing a scale of preference, it shouldn’t be so.
Look at Orijin, they are doing very well and they are well distributed; because if you don’t distribute your brand very well, if you like put it on TV day and night, nobody will buy.

Pitch fee
When you say do a pitch to demonstrate strategy and creativity and you want it as real as possible then the agency will spend some money to do it, and it is not all of them that will win; so who is now going to bear the cost of doing that?
You spend N300,000 to do a pitch yet invite seven to ten agencies and all of them spend about the same amount to do one brief, that is wickedness.
I believe people should pay for pitches. They do pay in other countries, that is why they don’t invite too many agencies; they just call two or three. Some of them go out of the way to do research, so who is going to pay for the research?
When it is credentials they don’t pay because it is all about you, but when it comes to doing work to pitch with other people then you should pay.

Non-payment of pitch fee in Nigeria
The association has been pushing for the payment of pitch fee but I think we have been timid about it.
We said at the last annual general meeting that the association should write to the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) and tell them that henceforth all members of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) will get a pitch fee.
That will signal that ADVAN is now serious and if any company is calling for any pitch it will limit it because it is going to part with N500,000 for two or more agencies.
It is crazy to invite six to seven agencies to pitch for one brief.

Political advertising and advertising agencies
It is a Nigerian phenomenon where charlatans are given work to do.
Two years ago in our AGM in Abuja we met with former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, on how to ensure that political parties patronise certified ad agencies.
Since then what has the AAAN done to sensitise the public or politicians that if you want to advertise you should talk to AAAN agencies?
Those in ICAN will tell you that once you are an ICAN certified company or accountant you look differently and seem differently.
But in the AAAN it is a case of if you have a brother or a friend who is related to government official then you might get a job.
Most government agencies have budget for advertising but they don’t advertise; for them advertising is when you need to send information out to the public such as pubic notice

Culled from The Niche on Sunday