Agencies and Brands That Shaped 2016

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For many, 2016 was a year like never before for all the wrong reasons; at least business wise. And the advertising industry was not left out. But even at that, some advertising agencies still pulled off some laudable feats during the year. Raheem Akingbolu writes

It has often been said that when there is any downturn in receivables by companies, even multinationals, the first casualty is the advertising and media budget. But in Nigeria, that seemed to have been taken to another level as advertising spend in the last two quarters of 2016 was abysmally low. No thanks to the economic recession that held the country at her financial jugular. Even companies that normally increase their media visibilities and other below the line activities towards the end of each year drastically cut down on this.

“It was a deliberate move on the part of many companies,” a top advertising and marketing executive told THISDAY during the week. “If you don’t know, giving out Christmas hampers is a form of perception management activity; and each year, companies spend hundreds of millions of naira on this. But how many companies did this last year? How many of them contracted their PR and advertising agencies to help them package this? Let me tell you this: when the economy was okay, hamper contracts were a great source of revenue for the advertising industry every year.”

However, as discouraging as the advertising horizon was last year, some agencies still pulled the punches and one could not but notice them among the park. They were the agencies that reminded the industry that advertising still remains an integral part of the marketing mix. The story, for these outfits, is not likely to be different in 2017. Below are a few of those to watch out for this year:

Troyka Group: In what looked like a well calculated attempt to cushion the effect of the recession period, Biodun Sobanjo’s Troyka Group, in 2016, concluded its equity partnership deal with Publicis Groupe. As a leading wholly integrated marketing communications service provider in West Africa, the partnership would give the group and its six subsidiary agencies; Insight Communications, The Thinkshop, All Seasons Media, Media Perspectives, The Quadrant Company and Hotsauce a good opportunity to navigate the business environment in 2017. With this partnership, agencies under Troyka, especially Bolaji Okusaga’s led TQC, are likely to have a busy year. Definitely.

Casers Group: For three decades, the Casers group and its subsidiaries, DDB Lagos, Capital Media and Magenta have been making waves in the Nigerian marketing communications space. However, what appears to be the group’s high point of operation in the market was DDB’s clinching of the MTN creative account few years ago. MTN, being one of the highest advertising spenders in the country, immediately shored up the profile of the group. Last week, the telecommunication agency announced that it has appointed Omnicom Group, an affiliate of Casers, as its integrated global agency. With the announcement, more businesses may be pushed to the local affiliate, Casers, in 2017.

TBWA Concept: For the Kelechi Nwosu’s TBWA, 2017 may be a defining year, giving the opportunities that may come its way as a result of the announcement by MTN that Omnicom Group, an affiliate of TBWA, has been appointed the integrated global agency of the telecom brand. Currently, the agency handles creative brief of Stanbic IBTC Bank. Another busy year is definitely on the horizon.

Noah’s Ark: In 2016, Lanre Adisa and his creative agency made the country proud by winning international creative awards. The agency also won new businesses including the Airtel creative brief. Towards the end of the year, the agency also made a strategic move in line with the business reality of the moment by signing a business affiliate with Dentsu Aegis Network. With the deal, the agency will sure attract new briefs in 2017. The agency’s sister company, Indigo, also stands a good chance of winning more business in 2017, giving its performance last year.

TPT International: A leading public relations for nearly two decades, TPT stands a good chance of topping the chart in 2017. With the largest chunk of the Nigerian Breweries PR account and Promasidors still in its kitty, the agency has what it takes to compete favourably in 2017. Aside having adequate human resources support, the fact that its chairman, Tokunbo Modupe, has resumed fully might turn things round positive for the agency. The experienced practitioner was engrossed in the politics of his native Ondo State in the last few years and shuttled between the state and Lagos States for the period. He will surely have a busy 2017, at least professionally.

Bluebird Communications Limited: The name of the game for Kunle Ogunmefun-owned Bluebird Communications is humility. It was the first associate member of the Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria, AAPN, which later changed to Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN. It was a time no agency wanted to be an associate member (for a year) before becoming a full member. But Bluebird took the humble part and today, one of the big players in the industry with other subsidiaries and accounts like Toyota, Centurion Systems, Lighting Africa and so on. 2016 was a busy year for the agency and if the quality of the accounts it still holds are anything to go by, a busy 2017 is on the cards.

SO&U: If considered from the point of view of business billings and operations, then one can conveniently say Udeme Ufot’s agency stand a better chance to rule the world of marketing in 2017. Over the years, SO&U business has not only witnessed tremendous growth, it is one of the few agencies that have hit the billions of naira billings mark. Its strength lies in the ability to guarantee clients total value in concept development, design, media planning and public relations. Owned by the erstwhile Chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Mr. Udeme Ufot, SO&U currently handles many local and multinational brands.

THISDAY/ARISE TV: A major stakeholder in the value chain of the marketing communications industry, media thus has a role to play in shaping businesses in 2017. With the contribution of the two media outfits – THISDAY and ARISE TV, to business and political developments in 2016, they may as well lead in 2017 when it comes to agenda setting and platforms for brands to excel. The management of the two organisations must have seen this coming as a lot are currently being done to restructure the media conglomerate.

XLR8: Believed to be one of the most professionally run PR agencies in the country, XLR8, owed by a former MTN big shot, Calistux Okoruwa, had no dull moment in 2016, despite the harsh economy. As at the time of writing this, the agency still handles some mouth watering accounts like Guinness, British America Tobacco, Stanbic IBTC and Multichoice. From any angle one chooses to look at it, 2017 will also be a busy year for the agency.

IDEAS House: If what defines a marketing communication agency is the ability to look beyond others and proffer far-reaching solutions to marketing challenges, then one can comfortably concludes that IDEAS House will rule the experiential business environment in 2017. With the recession eating deep into marketing budgets of companies, savvy brand managers are now looking beyond advertising to influence consumers and this has suddenly placed experiential marketing solutions at advantage.

For Kehinde Salami’s IDEAS House, this year may be the time to reap the gain of its creative ingenuity. The story of how the agency used what it tagged ‘Scorched Health’, to change the fortune of NBC at a time 5Alive Juice was difficult to find in retail shops, is still fresh in the memory. Another innovation that recently stood the agency out was the Guinness Ref which was used to create a special bond between the Guinness Brand and Nigeria consumers to commemorate the partnership between the brand and the Super Eagles.

Starcom Media: In the age when media buying agencies are the ones churning out the biggest volume of advertising spend in the industry, Starcom, with hands in many juicy accounts, including Nigerian Breweries, may dictate the tone of businesses in 2017.

CMC Connect Burson-Marsteller: Owned by the current president of the Africa Public Relations Association, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, CMC Connect Burson-Marsteller is one of the agencies to watch in 2017. Its performance on Airtel account in 2016 may boost the agency’s chance of winning more businesses in 2017. Again, its international status and global influence of Badejo-Okusanya may be an advantage.

PFCAfrica: PaulineFredericks and Co caused a stir in the market towards the end of 2016, when it added the Nigerite PR account to its business. The agency, which also works forMansard Insurance Plc, is well positioned to win more businesses in 2017.

Oracle Experience Limited: Oracle and a few experiential agencies have in the last few years proved to brand owners that it is easier to sell products that are innovative and socially conscious than pushing for more market share through advertising. The agency, which has consistently worked for Nigerian Breweries, is believed to have contributed immensely to the success of most brands from the stable in recent time. Among other achievement, Oracle was the agency that created a tunnel that spanned several meters with 3,500 bottles to re-launch Gulder in Lagos. Owned by Felix Eiremiokae, the agency has also replicated such creative breakthrough on brands like Heineken and Star. With the current trend in the marketing place and the sudden preference for experiential solutions by business owners, Oracle is well positioned to win more businesses in 2017.

Media Edge/Marketing Edge: The two sister companies involve in Public Relations, publication of a leading marketing journal and awards. Aside its blossomed PR business in 2016, by working to reposition Oando, Nigerite and Grand Oak, Marketing Edge award became one of the most celebrated in the market, when it struck a partnership deal with Loeries Award Company of South Africa. The management took it up a notch last week when the CEO of the continental creative ranking company, Andrew Human announced in Lagos that the Durban, South Africa based company has renewed its relationship with Marketing Edge.
With the determination to deepen PR practice and diversify operations, 2017 will be a year for new accomplishment for the sister companies.

PRNigeria: One of the few agencies that are based in Abuja, PRNigeria owned by multi talented communication expert, Yushau Shuaib, made an indelible mark in the industry in 2016 when it won the International Public Relations Association (IPRA)’s Golden World Award (GWA) in Crisis Management. A silent achiever, PRNigeria is believed to have helped many government agencies and top political office holders to reshape their dented images. In 2017, with the increasing demand for the Below the Line (BTL) marketing solutions, many politicians and agencies may seek the service of the company.

X3M Ideas: As a creative firm, X3M hit the ground running immediately it opened shop for business few years ago. Today, with part of Etisalat account, Diamond Bank and others, the agency is waxing stronger each passing day. In 2016, the agency proved its mettle in far away Marrakesh, Morocco, as a leading digital advertising creative agency at the African Cristal Award, where it attracted a global recognition. Also, at the 2016 edition of the Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF), X3M Ideas won five medals. With this achieved in a year many players considered difficult, 2017 will likely be more rewarding.

Caritas Communications: A leading energy, oil and gas specialist reputation consultancy firm, Caritas consolidated its firm grip of a special segment of the market in 2016 when it emerged the best Reputation Management Consulting firm at the 2016 African Corporate Excellence Awards. The agency recognition was announced by the United Kingdom based Corporate Vision (CV) Magazine. It beat other reputation management firms to clinch the award in the consultancy category. With its hands in many multinational accounts and hospitality businesses, Caritas is an agency to watch in 2017.

Black House Media Limited: 10 year-old BHM Limited is obviously one of the most celebrated agencies in 2016. In an industry where data and measurement are always a challenge, the agency in 2016 launched the first PR Report, which served as a major step towards solving a perennial industry problem. With Nigerian Breweries, Interswitch and Kroll businesses, Black House Media will have a busy 2017.

Marketing and Media/Allianz Media: One of the biggest out-of-home advertising agencies in the country, these two agencies, owned by one the industry’s most experienced practitioners, TOE Ekechi, have been breaking new frontiers in the outdoor segment of the advertising industry for decades. According to their chairman, Ekechi, 2016 was tough but they still pulled so many punches and even opened new prime sights. Surely, if there are outdoor agencies that will be busy in the industry in 2017, Marketing and Media as well as Allianz Media will be part of them.

Prima Garnet: The silent re-engineering taking place at one of the nation’s oldest third generation indigenous advertising agencies is an indication that the Lolu Akinwunmi-led advertising giant will have a busy 2017. To kick start the year, the experienced agency has started work on a multi-national advocacy account that will likely keep it busy for the rest of the year. This is aside other businesses the agency won towards the end of last year without making much noise about it.

HQSC: A leading advertising agency, HQSC worked very well to reposition Euro Global Foods and Distilleries Ltd and Sona Agro Allied Foods in 2016. Today, products from the two companies have become household names in the Nigerian market. The agency’s recent foray into publication of marketing communication magazine called Brandpower has boosted its profile in the last three years. Considering its rising profile, HQSC will play a major role in opening the market in 2017.

Leo Burnett: Two year old Leo Burnet surprised stakeholders at the 2016 LAIF Awards by becoming fourth on the medal table winning three Gold, five Silver and five Bronze medals. The Sam Osunsoko-led agency suddenly became star of the night beating some well established agencies and winning 13 medals behind DDB Lagos (22), Noah’s Ark (18) and Insight Publicis (20). For the agency to have gone this far in less than two years of operation in the highly competitive advertising business in the country, speaks volumes of what to expect in 2017.

Sesema PR: Public Relations and Marketing Communications agency, Sesema PR, has, in the last few years involved in various stages of development to redefine its operation. In 2016, the agency used many opportunities to tell the world that it prioritised its relationships with clients and promised to maintain the record. Through what it tagged ‘open house’ Mrs. Tampiri Irimagha-Akemu-led agency reiterated the high esteem accorded every business partner and what prospective clients stand to gain by engaging Sesema PR. The agency currently boasts of both local and multinational clientele with the likes of Visa, Etihad Airways, Vinci Hair Clinic, and Ovie Brume Foundation as major clients.

Chain Reactions: Chain Reactions began to play among the big leagues when it clinched the Etisalat’s PR account which was keenly contest two years ago. Though it had, before then, worked for some brands and governments of Lagos and Ekiti, the telecommunication business simply shored up its profile. Its current affiliation to Edelman’s network may be a masterstroke because of the global influence of the network and how it will help the agency enhance more skills and competency.

HS Media Group: Strategically positioned to explore the opportunities in the sports and entertainment industry, HotSports Media Group, consolidated its businesses in 2016 with the inauguration of a new corporate head office in Oregun Lagos. According to a source close to the company, the decision of the management to establish one stop shop for entertainment and sport content was in preparation for the much awaited digital migration.

Redmedia Africa: For its outstanding achievement in the area of youth marketing and digital revolution, Redmedia Africa has suddenly become the new bride in the marketing communications industry. The agency’s contribution to the victory of the All Progressive Congress in the 2015 election was not only a watershed but an opportunity to win more businesses in 2016, including the presidential campaign of the current Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, Nigerian Breweries and Union Bank PR accounts. While positioning for more business in 2017, observers are keen about seeing how the company will be able to use its experience in the area of youth marketing to make a brand like Union Bank resonates with today’s market.