Kasie Abone writes about Bunmi Oke, a woman who has shattered the glass ceiling in the advertising industry, and wants to make her mark indelible
Broach a topic she is passionate about, her pair of eyes glow and light up her whole being. When she speaks, she radiates infectious smile that belies the enormous responsibility she is saddled with not only remaining on top as a lady who runs a successful advertising agency business but also the responsibility that comes with being the number one advertising person in Nigeria.
Mrs. Bunmi Oke, the Chief Operating Officer of 141 Worldwide, one of the leading advertising firms in Lagos, was recently elected the president of Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). By her election, Oke becomes the second woman to have been elected into such enviable position in the 39-year history of the association.
A stickler to time. for punctuality, she was already at her office in Ikeja before the correspondent arrived for the 10:30a.m appointment and had left instructions. Just before the interview kicked off, another lady who arrived about 40 minutes late for a 10 am appointment was politely asked to reschedule her appointment. “Sometimes you have to change norms to achieve certain goals. You have to be extremely organised, ruthless in keeping to your time or else you become unreliable. Don’t forget that your reputation will always go ahead of you,” she said.
How does it feel being elected president in an association dominated by men? She says her emergence at the helms of affair was both an honour and privilege. “It’s also more hard works as reward for hard work is more work. I am going to be an ambassador for the advertising profession and womanhood. It is an opportunity for me to do a lot more for the profession to move it forward.”
And talking about moving the profession forward, she said her team would bring more respectability to the advertising practitioners among clients, get government to patronise the association. In addition she said she is determined to ensure that her colleagues get their due by ensuring the right fees are paid. “We provide intangible services; we are an ideas company. We build intangible assets of brands, people and services for our clients. We want a situation where people pay for certain things.”
For seven years, Bunmi as she is fondly called has stirred the ship of 141Worldwide to enviable position. The agency handles bluechip accounts including Etisalat, Tom Tom among many others. For its creative efforts the agency had won awards that had placed the agency on high pedestal. Bunmi who cut her teeth at Grants Advertising over 25 years ago, shared her success story with us. In her words “clients are not interested in sentiments but in your ability, what you have to offer.
I learnt that any agency that is going to be successful needs a great team; and that team must be ready to provide the services for which the clients need help. I also learnt that no matter how good or intelligent you are, if you dont work in a team you wont succeed. Those who really understand agency business need a structure to work. You need to know where you want to play in this business. I had always wanted to play at the international level for better exposure and training.
She added, “We are focused. We have never made the mistake of thinking we have reached utopian heights. We have also had a lot of divine favour. We work very hard but clients are people; they see passion and knowledge. What we do is about passion, commitment, drive and professionalism.
How has gender affected her? THISDAY asked. To her, gender is a non-issue. God, she said characterised people differently and whatever opportunity one has can be either a stepping-stone or stumbling block. “Being a woman people want to see what you can offer. Its an opportunity to prove that you know what you are doing to the extent that they now forget that you are a woman and concentrate on the reason you came.
THISDAY wanted to know what drives her. This British born Nigerian explained that her motivation is driven by the fact that there is a bigger calling to life. So “it seems that you are working towards where you want to be eventually. Every day is an opportunity to either make a difference or sit down and complain. And I find out that grumbling keeps you on the same spot. It takes a little effort to actually make a difference.”
Combining the business of running an agency, the association and family could be a daunting task. How then does she balance work and family? Bunmi attributes her success to her husband who has remained her pillar of support whom she described as her champion. Even at home, she says its been great team work. Besides, she said she loves challenges as challenges make champions. “If you are challenged, it brings out the best in you. If I sleep only two hours for sometime to achieve certain goal, it doesn’t break my back.”
Now that she presides over the association, what is the expectation for next LAIF award that she had chaired, she promised the award, which comes up on November, would be more exciting. “This will be the first LAIF that will be headed by a female president. This is a time to show that when a woman is in charge, there must be a difference that even when we do things we do it better. We will move the stake higher, make it more competitive and impactful. We will take our advertising globally and we have a lot of work to do,” she emphasised.
When her two years tenure comes to an end, Bunmi says she would like to get the much talked about advertising academy running, revitalise the industry, bring more members into the fold and mobilise her colleagues to influence government policies as it concerns their practice. And when she is done with advertising, she would love to engage with a non-governmental organisation where she will add value to humanity.