Peter Ukhurebor:  As a Kid, I Always Dreamt of Sitting Down with CEOs to Sell Ideas

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Super Saturday

We Sit Down with Clients to Conceptualise Ideas That Sell

Peter Ukhurebor is Principal Consultant and Chief Strategist at Osaukus Playground, an advertising firm based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The outfit covers all  conventional media of propagation and digital marketing technology.  Before he relocated to South Africa, he had started his advertising career as an art director with 141 Worldwide, a member of the Prima Garnet Group, working on Etisalat, British American Tabacco, BAT, and IEI accounts. Like most restless creative minds, he moved to Blue Seal Advertising as the Head of Copy handling accounts like PZ Cussons Haier Thermocool and Golden Penny Pasta. In  South Africa; he work  for Globe Creative Advertising as Head of Business Africa. He then joined Osaukus Playground before moving back to Nigeria. He is also Head of Jupiter Drawing Room, a West African new business acquisition. He spoke with Azuka Ogujiuba on advertising and technology and  why he loves what he does and why he is just who he is.

What’s the difference between marketing and advertising?

At first glance, marketing and advertising seem to be different terms to describe the same thing: getting a product or service sold. In actual fact, although they both contribute to the same end objective, they are distinct from each other and each has its own process. Understanding the difference between marketing and advertising will help you streamline your customer acquisition strategy. Advertising is the process of making your product and service known to the marketplace. It is essentially spreading the word about what your company has to offer. While marketing is the way in which you convince potential buyers that you have the right product for them. Advertising is how you communicate to them the existence of that product. Advertising attracts and intrigues a consumer while marketing persuades the consumer to use the said product, service or idea. You cannot have one without the other.

 Your vast experience in advertising seems more deployed in South Africa  than  Nigeria. Why?

I studied Advertising in South Africa. After graduation, I decided to stay back and work with a firm called Globe Creative. Prior to graduation in 2009, I worked with two agencies in Nigeria one of which is 141 Worldwide. I was the art director. I was given my first job by Steve Babaeko who gave me the opportunity of a life time. I then worked on accounts like IEI, British America Tobacco and Etisalat. I moved to Blue Seal Advertising where I was the head of the copy department. I worked on Haier Thermocool, Golden Penny Pasta as well as PZ Cusson accounts. After this I went back to South Africa to study more.

In today’s economy where most organisations and individuals use the cyber space to advertise, is your business not  threatened?

The world has changed a lot in the past 16 years when looking at technology   . The internet became more relevant and agencies became aware of the new trends. So they braced up for the new challenges ahead by creating subsidiaries to cater for this new form of engagement. Then came internet enabled phones and the communication got easier by 2005. Some advertising agencies took note. By 2009, communication had changed and major search engine systems now had advertising platforms where all you needed was to engage your niche market via progragmatic marketing. Programmatic marketing is marketing to a specific target audience. For example Wedding Naija Digest has a platform for people planning to get married to showcase their pictures via instagram, Facebook or a blog. With this, you have a chain of vendors contacting them to advertise on their page; from photographers, to make-up artist. And these vendors are targeting a niche market that needs such services.

So to answer the question; yes it is a threat we must all face. Clients cut budgets and focus more on in-house brand management teams. But at the end, we are called professionals for a reason; we know how to engage and maintain the respect of our clients’ consumer market; no matter what platform.  The norm has moved to digital and we ready.

What does your company do differently for clients in South Africa and Nigeria?

I work with Jupiter Drawing Room on an advisory level on New Business acquisition and Osaukus Playground as a Senior Partner. We are setting up shop in Lagos in first quarter of 2017 as Jupiter Drawing Room, Lagos. Jupiter is one of the biggest agencies in South Africa with its founder, Graham Warshop, starting the agency in his 30s in Cape Town to become Africa’s biggest and brightest agency with its expansion across the SADEC region of Africa and it has become a force to reckon with worldwide. The award winning campaigns for its clients and position strategies for brands like ASBA, Burger King has given it worldwide recognition. It is mantle is to put the clients’ needs first with positioning strategies that will maintain the respect of the client’s consumer market. As for Osaukus Playground, it is an agency with a presence in Lagos and Cape Town. It is with a business model that attracts a unique line of clientele. Our model is ‘all work, no play’. We believe in burning the candle at night to achieve our clients’ needs and going the extra mile to educate our clients why their products or services are not doing well in the marketplace while offering a solution to their problems.

How do you manage clients both countries at the same time?

Having the right team is important. An advertising agency is divided into three parts: creative, brand management and human resource/traffic. Each agency assigns people to handle businesses (accounts). So once an account is won, there are people who are the custodians of such accounts in the agency. So when I am urgently needed by a client, I make myself available.

At what point did you realise your best shot in life would be advertising?

Growing up, I wanted to be different. I wanted to be able to wear a pair of canvas Allstars with a funny hair style and sit with CEOs of the biggest companies in the world and they will listen to me speak. Then came my undergraduate years as a geology student at University of Port Harcourt. A friend invited me for modeling casting in Lagos for Limca at JWT in the year 2002. When I stepped in the agency and saw what they were doing, I knew what I wanted to for the rest of my life. I knew I wanted to be in advertising. I kept coming to Lagos for more jobs; did a few adverts like Zip up with Society for Family Health. After graduation, I ran off to South Africa to advertising college to learn more about being an adman.

How is your company dealing with economic downturn in Nigeria?

Clients are currently cutting budgets. The economy is currently in a horrendous state, but this is the time that businesses can bounce back and create mega chains. We are taking time to educate our clients on the best way to structure their businesses during this imminent recession.

Was  xenophobia impacted on your business?

Xenophobia is carried out by people with the lack of understanding of the word Ubuntu. In translation, it means ‘Brotherly Love’. An average South African man has love in his heart towards his brothers from other African countries. Doing business within South Africa is risk free in relation to security. The ANC government with its vast knowledge of the role other African countries contributed in the struggle taken time to educate its populace.

As the principal consultant of Osaukus Playground, what is your role?  

 Osaukus Africa, of which Osaukus Playground is a subsidiary of, has been in existence since 2011. I operate as the chief operating officer of the company which takes orders from the advisory board. My duty is to engage new and prospective businesses and see how we can help them in building or managing their existing business. Osaukus Playground is an agency meant to cater for the needs of businesses that require 360 brand communication services. This service is basically through the line advertising. Our mode of operation is simple. Before we work on any business we have to under what makes the business tick. For example, let’s say a confectionery brand. We have to understand its products. Why you think you can sell more than your competitors? How good are your products compared to the next? Most of the time agencies are too scared to tell a client their products are not up to standard and cannot meet the markets desires even after carrying a market survey they go ahead to give the client a false sense of feeling about their products. We won’t represent a business if we feel we can’t add value in marketplace.

Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa. We like small businesses to grow into chains and the country has the potential for any business. We understand this; hence every client we take up, we sit down with their team and understand their plans for one, two, three to 10 years. We look at an expansion plan. We don’t look at just creating beautiful campaigns but building good business. For example, Insight Communication did a great job with the then Bank PHB campaign creating a futuristic theme but the communication was lost when starting into the bank. Their communication was brilliant but the delivery to the consumer’s market expectation was not achieved when stepping into their branches. So being able to create good ads is great but making the client deliver on a promise you create is important. That’s why we are called brand custodians.

While you worked and practised advertising, which advertisement was memorable to you as part of the team and why?

I think the most would be when I worked with Globe Creative using Augmented Reality in 2010 on a campaign in South Africa. We were the first to introduce that in Africa on an advertising campaign via point of sale materials.

Which advertisement is your favorite and why?

The best advert is a press advert from Levis from 1978.

You are so politically inclined, alert and very vocal. Do you have any political ambition?

I love my country Nigeria. My mother started with politics under the now defunct Social Democratic Party, PDP, in the 90s. That was when I first got introduced to what goes on in the political sphere of the nation. I have a desire to see my country in a better light when aboard; be it in the United States of America or Japan because I am proud of my heritage. That’s why we created CSR campaign in 2014 called ‘ivotenaija’ which was basically a system to encourage Nigerians to vote. I project a possibility for 2023 in my state of origin.

From your perspective as an entrepreneur, do you think the present government has any plans to support small scale businesses and do you think they are creating enough good atmosphere for foreign investors to come down for businesses and investments?

The present government is still finding its feet in relation to a direction they want to lead the country. I do applaud the efforts of the president. He does mean well for the nation. As of going to press for this interview, Nigeria might be heading for a recession at the end of second quarter. A few policies need to change for the economy to bounce back and a lot has to be put in place not just by the government but by every Nigerian. What the government needs to do is call for a National Economic Summit with a focus on small and medium scale businesses. President Buhari said something a few days back which I totally agree with. Nigeria has been too dependent on oil and neglecting other sources of generating income within the country. It is therefore imperative to grow the economy by building small scale businesses.

What can be done for good business and investment atmosphere and to also make Nigerians in Diaspora to relocate back home?

Now, this is what I passionate about. In 2014, I relocated to Nigeria and understood what the problems facing Nigeria were. In order to attract an atmosphere for investments, a lot has to be put in place. I have to dive into all parts of the economy. Let’s take it step by step. Nigeria has the third biggest movie industry in the world but has no structure. South Africa makes 10% of Hollywood movies giving a rebate of 25% for every $7million spent. Why can’t there be a Nollywood in the vast land of Epe in Lagos and capitalise on such huge market?

In the area of music, Nigeria music has gained worldwide recognition. That’s why you can walk into a predominately white club in Amsterdam and hear a DBanj song being played, but in relation to corporate package for the music industry a lot still need to be done on a collective stage. It is terrible to note that Nigeria has no retain chain. I love the initiatives of the likes of Lagos Fashion Week and their ideas, but a lot still need to be done, imagine having the first Nigerian owned retail chain or a proper walk in departmental store where you can buy Deola Sagoe at an affordable rate because of mass production.

We have not taken certain thing serious yet. Finally, security is still an issue. Investors will not come in if they feel there is no guarantee of their lives and business. The government is trying to curb this menace and other Nigerians should join in support. These are the issues.