Babaeko: Cristal is a Testament We Are the Agency to Beat


The African Cristal Awards held in Marrakech, Morocco last weekend with agencies from Nigeria, it became a very humbling experience as they nudges Nigeria and Nigerian agencies forward on the African and global creative arena. Adedayo Adejobi spoke to creative and music impresario, Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas, whose agency led the creative blitz


How does it feel being a winner at the Cristal Awards last weekend?


It is a very humbling experience. Like I always tell people, when we set up X3M Ideas, we didn’t setup to be second best to any other agency, we thought we could be the best and we have tenaciously work at this. Today, the fact that we win at that pan-African level underscores all the dreams, all the aspirations we had at the inception of X3M Ideas. We are glad we are leading the onslaught to break down barriers and destroy myths. We are indeed humbled.


Some agencies are wary of participating in such events, what do you think are the reasons for this?


These might be caused by a couple of reasons. Let us be factual about this, the award is not cheap, it’s quite expensive to participate in this kind of awards just like the Cannelions, few agencies can afford it. So when you consider the economy of the country where most agencies are struggling to keep their heads above the water, you will understand why only a handful of agencies submitted entries. Be that as it may, if you considered this, the financial outlay against the exposure for your staff, learning arising from it, you will realise it’s a good decision afterall.

Again, it needs be pointed out that some agencies are still bugged down by this old school mentality, they just think, ‘okay, the world stops in Nigeria’, no its doesn’t work like that, the world goes further than Nigeria. When you have activities at the continental level like this, if you want to be a player to be reckoned with in the world, then you have no options than to be at such events. It is not about showing off, it is in line of our duty and growing our brand.


Apart from the financial outlays, what else does the agency need to feature in such awards?

This is not a small scale award, it is a continental award. It takes guts and creativity. Creativity is the currency of the business. So the agency’s creative fire power is the in thing, if not, it will be just an exercise in donating money to charity. So most importantly, beyond everything else, the level of creativity you have in your agency and the kind of works you develop will determine your stand and chance to contest for laurels at that continental level.


A poster of the Cristal prior to the event shows only six agencies, what does this say about the business in Nigeria?


Honestly, if somebody came from Mars and saw that poster, he will be tempted to conclude that those are the five or six agencies doing business in the country. If that assumption is correct or not, we can debate that from now till eternity. In football, however, the teams that show up at the world cup are considered the best and the most viable in the game! It tells me something about the state of our industry, if there are just about six that made it through to the awards, then those are probably about the best and most viable players at least for now.


Of what effect or lesson is this to the client?


It does have some lesson or effect, the clients are not blind and they are not fools neither are they deceived. They look out for all those brand health indicators – are you able to show up where your mates are showing up at the continental and global levels? If you are not then the clients will probably be thinking why should we work with this agency? And if they don’t do that, they will be making a mental note of how the agencies are fairing. If he looked at the table and can’t find his agency then something is wrong. Though, this may just be for future decisions, it will certainly have far reaching implications for the clients and agencies as well.


Can you dissect how the rating and categorisation of the award are done, what determine the leader (s) of the pack to support the X3M leadership?


I really do not know how the ratings are done. But what I can say is that X3M Ideas is the only agency from Nigeria that won a Cristal. And the Cristal represents a gold. We are the only agency from Nigeria called up to the podium to receive our award. We won a Cristal (Gold) for Oando’s O-gas promo, an ‘Emerald’ for Etisalat and another Emerald for Oando and also got shortlisted for a couple of other clients including Multichoice. The rest of it I leave up to people to find out who won what? We have moved on already, we always look up to bigger things.


What is the rating of X3M Ideas with final outcome?


To be honest, I do not bother about position, we have always thought we are the best. This Cristal is a testament. Either we won this Cristal or not, no one can take that attitude away from us. It is that attitude that drives what we do, the way we present to our clients, handle their businesses, how we treat our people’s welfare, provide training and re-training supports, provide opportunities for global exposures  and care for them generally in our quest to be the best, that quest for excellence, drives us really hard. The power of “possibility” and “can do” spirit to the glory of God is not in short supply at X3M Ideas and other companies in the group. In line with this, any other thing that comes from here just like underscores the spirit behind the agency.


As the leader of the Nigerian pack, what does this say about the Nigerian industry dream for the Cannes?


It underscores the seismic shift that is happening gradually in the industry. There is a shift of power, there is a generation shift that is just coming into fruition to say “something new is happening”. It started about five years ago. X3M Ideas is just four years, we are not five yet, for us to go there and be the leader of the pack from Nigeria, it tells that the power shift is almost gone full circle for us to fly the flag of Nigeria at that level. For us it’s like putting Nigeria on the global map talking about advertising and marketing communications. I doubt if there is any Nigerian agency that won a Cristal or a gold at the main award. Being the first we are proud of the achievement and the clients we work with for giving us the opportunities.


What do you advice other players and the creative industry at large?

We just have to keep striving, no matter how many Cristal we have won either at the regional or mainstream Cristal there are still so many new grounds to conquer, the Cannes is there to be captured. Beyond the awards, what kind of resources we put at the beck and call of our people, training, how do we raise the standard to compete at the global scale going beyond the awards, these are key and very critical to developing the industry and individual companies and brands entrusted into our care.