by Kester Osahenye
I want to touch on two subject areas that are sensitive, particularly to marketing communication professionals in Nigeria. I would apologise later if I stepped on ‘big toes’. I was invited to two major events last weekend by great ‘Lagos GANGS’: I left mid way into the end of year appreciation ceremony of an international NGO, where I volunteer my useful talent and time intermittently. This beautifully planned ceremony was almost turned into a political jamboree by the wholly arbitrary behaviour of ill-mannered politicians, who roused the indignation of the populace that are already tired of failed promises.
The second ceremony was the Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF), I wish the organisers would look at the etymology of the word “Festival”, was it indeed a festival of ideas and advertising concepts and creative energies from the litanies of AAAN agencies (Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria) or None AAAN agencies in Nigeria? No it was not, I have not seen authentic, credible or hard-nosed awards for advertising in Nigeria, truth be told, Nigerians have produced one of the best advertising and marketing communications experts globally. Advertising practitioners and clients have done great jobs that deserve mentioning, nominations and laurels, did all the agencies submit outstanding jobs to the ‘panel of judges’? (like we call them in Nigeria). Where are the veterans like Julia Oku and other award winning experts, who have written copies that leap-frogged dying brands to market leaders? who were the jurors or juries at LAIF? Did they reach a consensus before nominating some of these works? Was it an agglomeration of ‘New Creative Directors’? What were the parameters for selection?
The experts and incorruptible Nigerians we worked with at the Nigerian Media Merit Awards, whether the Trustees or Assessors were all practitioners or former media personalities who impacted every genre of journalism: Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Hadji Alade Odunewu, Prince Tony Momoh, Kevin Amaechi, Bode Alalade, Prof Ralph Akinfeleye, Mrs Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Dr Elizabeth Ikem etc
I watched with consternation when the audience applauded jobs that should not get a place in a kindergarten ‘creative contest being nominated for LAIF, indeed it was a loud laugh for me. I taught on part-time basis at APCON some years back, when one of the urbane and selfless Nigerian was the Registrar, I bought show-reel of TVCs and award winning advertising materials, I shared them with my students, some of my students bombarded me with questions such as “Why can’t our ads win CANNES LION – International Festival of Creativity Awards”? “Why can’t we see memorable ads, that were powerful and made us love those brands? like “if it is not Panadol, it can never be like Panadol”?, “Bagco Super Bag strong ka kara ka”, “Elegance is to the 80s and 90s what Da Viva is to the present” “Zip Up- Gold Circle” ? etc.
In this digital age, some of the ‘digital errors’ at LAIF were unforgivable, pedestrian and laughable, errors in naming, videos not synchronising with the winning creative works. It is heartening to note that LAIF does not have a website. The agencies and clients failed totally in giving the next generation great works that are compelling, top-notch and uncommon. Cannes awards would be a elusive if agencies and LAIF continue this way. To use this worn out cliché, we had ‘fresh air’ at LAIF award when DDB’s MTN car-Fi spewed some creative verve to clinch the award, Insight didn’t forget its legacy of winning with their work on Indomie.
LAIF must repackage their awards to match international standards, judging process must be made known and democratic in approach, to recognize creative excellence, it must not be limited to AAAN agencies, creativity cannot be boxed-up in primordial planks. There are new solutions and algorithms that typified how to give awards by voting or polling system. The popularity and creativity of any work must be selected through a combination of ratings, voting, comments, re-tweets, Pinterest, Instagram, facebook submissions and other social media channels to evaluate the works that must win LAIF Gold, Silver and Bronze awards.
Historically, the business of advertising in Nigeria was great and attractive, it wasn’t an all comers affairs like it ostensibly is now, beyond the statutory responsibilities of vetting and setting syllabuses for higher institutions APCON must wake up to its responsibilities and encourage creativity in advertising. APCON Committee on Advertising Practice Reforms (ACAPR) from 2010 did a great job, they must wake up. The late CEO of Reads & Marks Limited Mr. Willy Nnorom was the only leading light who didn’t practice his act in Lagos but in Enugu, yet he contributed immensely to building APCON intellectual machinery. APCON ASP can support LAIF awards by putting together good frameworks that could turn things around for LAIF, that could also herald excellent remedy against all and sundry forms of political chicanery at LAIF.
Kester works for a global Telecoms and is a creative writer and marketing communication expert.