Mr. Biodun Shobanjo, Chairman of Troyka Group
By Biodun Obisesan
The Integrated Marketing Communications Industry in Nigeria has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, from a humble beginning in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The impact of the sector is felt in almost every sector of the economy.
This is more so because brand building is becoming more complex in today’s digital savvy world, identifying and bonding with brand loyalists is becoming increasingly challenging for both brand builders and marketers.
On the one hand, loyalists have become more savvy and critical towards brands, have higher expectations from marketers, are more empowered and increasingly rely on their peers for their brand decisions. On the other hand, the evolution and increasing complexity of today’s media environment represents new challenges that force brand builders to venture outside of their creative and media comfort zone, and in the process re-assess their key success metrics.
This paradigm shift means that traditional media outfits may be losing their cutting edge and a new way of doing things is the norm.
To this end, when a compendium of Integrated Marketing Communications is compiled, it will be incomplete without the immense contribution of Mr. Biodun Shobanjo, Chairman of Troyka Group, an investment holding company comprising the following successful businesses – Insight Communications (Nigeria’s leading advertising agency, and sub-Sahara’s biggest marketing communications outfit), The Quadrant Company (Public Relations consultancy), Optimum Exposures (Nigeria’s leading out-of-home advertising company), All Seasons Mediacom and Carat Media Perspectives (media independents), and Halogen (security, asset protection and resource management). No single individual has bestridden the industry like a colossus the way he has done.
This was the singular reason BrandPower Magazine recognised and honored him with the ‘BrandPower Award for Distinction’ at the Civic Centre, in Lagos recently. Receiving the award, Shobanjo thanked the organisers for recognising what he described as his “modest contribution to the growth of advertising and brand management” in Nigeria.
After 38 distinguished years in the advertising business, Shobanjo is widely acknowledged as one of the individuals who revolutionised the face of modern advertising in Nigeria. As the founder of Insight, he was the chief executive officer of the company for 25 years, a position from which he stepped down at the end of December 2004.
Among the many awards and accolades received by Shobanjo during his stellar career were the May 2009 nomination as one of the 50 Notable Leaders in Corporate Nigeria in 2008, and the first quarter of 2009 by Newswatch. In Sept 2009, The NEWS selected him as one of 30 Nigerian world-class Entrepreneurs.
In February 2010, he was inaugurated as the First Ambassador-General of mass medical mission (mmm) of National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP), while in March 2010; City People Media Group honoured him with the award of CEO of The Year.
In October 2010, The Guardian selected him among Nigeria’s 20 Outstanding Entrepreneurs of the Decade (2000-2010), and in December 2010, the NIMN awarded him the Most Valuable Personality (Titan Class) for Life Achievement in Advertising Development. In February 2011, Marketing Edge Magazine honoured him as its Brand Personality of Year 2010. In 2009, Shobanjo became the host and CEO of the first and only season of the TV reality programme ‘The Apprentice Africa’, which aired in 6 African countries.
Abiodun Olusina was born on December 24, 1944, in Jebba, Kwara State, a peripatetic civil servant father worked with Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). He attended St. George’s Primary School, Zaria, and thereafter proceeded to Odogbolu Grammar School. He also attended College of the Institute of Marketing, Cookham, Maidenhead, England, where he obtained the College’s Certificate in Marketing.
The Shobanjo family’s peregrinations imbued the young man with a cosmopolitan worldview and his early experience as a broadcaster prepared him for life as an advertising practitioner.
Biodun Shobanjo started his communications career in 1964 with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) as a studio manager and left as a producer in 1971. He later joined the Client Service department of American/Nigerian- owned agency, Grant Advertising, in 1971.
He was appointed to the Board after four-and-a-half years and served as Deputy Managing Director (DMD) for four more years. He rose to the post of the DMD before his 30th birthday, and co-founded Insight Communications (also known as Insight Grey) in 1979.
He went on to grow the company from an initial 18-man strong team into an advertising behemoth. It was not easy starting as the building they were using then in Surulere, Lagos, was empty and only one or two people were willing to give them a chance and there was the issue of start-up capital. No bank came to their support.
There were months when the management had to skip paydays. Today, the story is different. Insight is undoubtedly, Nigeria’s No. 1 advertising agency, and pioneered total marketing communication solutions, among other milestones, in the industry.
When the company found itself in a situation where outdoor advertising contractors were shortchanging clients with poor service delivery, Insight’s most important clients were threatening to take their entire businesses if the outdoor advertising side was not improved. With no control over the contractors, they took their fate in their hands by investing in outdoor company.
They bought a company in the Eastern part of Nigeria and changed its name into Optimum Exposures. Today, the company is one of the most innovative outdoor companies in Nigeria and ranks as the largest outdoor advertising company in Nigeria.
Not wanting to go against the ethics of their profession, while having the desire to offer a proper PR consultancy, Insight set up Quadrant Company in January 1990, (with some of their people at Insight as arrowheads) to offer public relations services to their clients. The same year, the need to address account conflict resulted in the establishment of MC&A, the Saatchi & Saatchi affiliate company.
Following the need to provide security for their key assets, which is people, they floated a security guard company called Halogen Security. The outfit was to look after their senior managers, their residences and offices. As the outfit grew, they discovered that they had extra capacity and decided to offer their products to those who desired them. In 1997, they established four companies: All Seasons Media Company, MIT Healthcare, African Barter Company and Optistal. These companies are to take care of various aspects of advertising.
In 1988, Shobanjo was one of the founding members of Council of Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria and later presided over the association. He was adjudged Nigeria’s “Advertising Man of the 20th Century”, by Weekend Concord in 1999, and equally bagged the SuccessDigest Enterprise Award as the “Entrepreneur of The Decade”.
He is a fellow of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and Fellow of the Commonwealth Journalists Association. He is also a Member of the British Institute of Public Relations and Chartered Member, British Institute of Marketing.
Because of his dexterity, he joined Alex Okosi (MTV Networks Africa), Ben Murray-Bruce (Silverbird Group), Leke Alder (Alder Consulting) and Mo Abudu (Inspire Africa) at the MTV sponsored panel for ‘Real Talk’, MTV’s seminar and executive discussion on Youth Marketing held last year.
Commenting on this, Okosi said, “Mr. Shobanjo’s in-depth understanding of every facet of broadcasting, advertising and public relations as well as the challenges faced by marketers and brands….significantly elevated the level of Real Talk. We are excited that Mr. Shobanjo…was a part of this event.”
What makes Biodun Shobanjo tick and how was he able to midwife a company that has thus far stood the test of time? He attributes his success to his a fierce determination and a steely can-do attitude. “I was young when I left Grant advertising and young people are very daring, so it didn’t cross my mind that I wouldn’t make it. Again, without being immodest, I really have never failed in my life. If you’re not used to failing, you do not even contemplate failure.”
The sartorially elegant man of style says there are four essential elements for success and he lists them as “Professionalism. The other is honour. The third is integrity. The fourth is passion. They come in any order, but if you have these four things, chances are that you’re going to succeed.”
A consummate advertising and marketing communications practitioner, it was not surprising when he was identified as a perfect choice for the CEO of The Apprentice Africa because as a believer in people, his business style has favoured a mentoring ambience which has spawned protégés who are leading lights in the advertising and marketing communications industry in Nigeria.
Today, it would not be immodest to say that at least the 10 top CEOs of the 10 top advertising and marketing communications outfits in Nigeria are proud alumni of what admirers love to refer to as the Insight University.
He was on the Apprentice Africa programme where he brought almost forty years of top-notch corporate experience, entrepreneurial savvy, multi-disciplinary industry experience and a business maxim founded squarely on the belief that success is not negotiable to bear on the show. As he loves to say: “Winning is not everything. It is the only thing!”