When ‘Fresh Thinking’ Becomes the Norm

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In line with the theme of the 2017 edition of the Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival, agencies and other participants who flexed their muscles to determine the best creative works, re-established the place of creativity and innovation in modern advertising, Raheem Akingbolu reports

Decades after Nigeria began to appreciate advertising as a core tool for marketing; there are signals that the country will soon carve a niche on the global landscape. At the just held Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival (LAIF), practitioners, especially the new breeds, showed the way the industry should go to become a creative hub. In practical terms, the winning entries showed that the future of advertising belong to those who can re-invent. The theme of this year’s edition is ‘Fresh Thinking.’

According to the Chairman of the LAIF 2017 Management Committee, Steve Babaeko, the entries for this year were master piece that would go a long way in repositioning the industry and Nigerian practitioners globally.

“We may not be there yet but with the outcome of this year’s LAIF award, I’m not in any way in doubt that the future is bright for advertising in Nigeria. On the success of the event, I did nothing specially; rather, we (management committee and the team from the secretariat of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria) put the right team in place, from the conceptualisation stage to execution. It has nothing to do with me; like I said, we put in place a strong jury. For the first time in the life of the awards, a woman, Mrs. Julia Oku-Jack, was unanimously agreed to be the President of the Jury. I am really proud of the work she has done. Honestly, I am seeing the results for the first time as everyone else. That everyone is happy here indicates the fact that she and her team have done a fantastic job” Babaeko told THISDAY shortly after the event on Sunday.

The winning agencies
To say the result of LAIF 2017 award stamps a new order in the industry will be an understatement. Aside DDB Lagos, a member of the Casers Group, which celebrated its 30thanniversary yesterday and placed second on the medal table, other seven agencies that topped the table are well under 10 years.

Again, Noah’s Ark, an agency that has consistently won local and international laurels, topped the list as the most creative agency in Nigeria at the moment by winning a grand prix. The night also saw the agency won six gold, nine silver and eight bronze medals, making a total of 24 medals.

Its ‘Data is Life’ Campaign Ad by Airtel Nigeria, gave the agency a better mileage at the competition. The campaign, which features a Nollywood actor, Gabriel Afolayan, had recently gone viral and attracted public commendation. With the Ad, Airtel and its agency turn what ordinarily should be a disadvantage to advantage. In today’s telecom market, Airtel is the only operator that is yet to roll out 4G. But the agency cleverly weaves the campaign around Afolayan, who appears stranded on an Island. The actor plays a challenging role by acting without dialogue through pantomimic dramatisation, as being described in drama parlance. With the campaign and how the actor eventually finds his way out of the Island, Airtel is able to tell its patrons that what matters is good network.

DDB won nine Gold, 11 Silver, 14 Bronze winning 34 medals in all to place second on the table. Five years old X3M Ideas places 3rd on the medal table with nine Gold, five Silver and six Bronze carting home 20 medals. The agency has consistent for five years placed been within the first three brackets.

Placed fourth is 7even Interactive, a two year old agency, the youngest in the first four creative fire houses in the land. Last year it recorded a feet being the youngest, winning 8 medal at its first outing. In August it won a Loeries, an international award based in South Africa for one of its creatives. 7even Interactive placed emerged as the 4th most creative agency in Nigeria with four Gold, five Silver and seven Bronze making a total of 16 medals.
In the 5th position is Up in the Sky, another young agency, with three Gold and 1 Bronze. This is another young agency making steady progress in the Advertising industry.

BBDO, another member of the Casers Group won two Gold, two Silver and four Bronze, which equals to eight medals; Leo Burnett has one Gold, one Silver and three Bronze, which is five medals; Centrespread wins one Gold and 3 Bronze; STB McCann one Gold and two Bronze, Medals and 141-Worldwide one Gold and one Bronze to place 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th respectively.

To add glamour to the awards, Chairman and founder, Rosabel Advertising group/ Past President of AAAN, Senator Akin Odunsi and CEO, Verdant Zeal and first Chairman, LAIF Management Committee, Mr. Tunji Olugbodi, were specially rewarded with LAIF Time Achievement Award and LAIF Special Recognition Award respectively. The recipients did not acknowledge that the value of LAIF has appreciated greatly; they also called on practitioners to aim higher and raise the bar.

Unanswered Questions
Days after the award, an important question has remained hanging – why are the old generation agencies fizzling out in the game? Even Insight Publicis, the nation’s most respected ad agency didn’t participate in this year’s edition while the few ones that participated were pushed to the background.

However, while some analysts have explained the poor performance on the part of the legendary ad firms, away as reluctance of some of them to submit entries, some have argued that the problem is as a result of poor ideas on the part of the old practitioners.

Two analysts, Messrs John Ajayi and Aniete Udoh, though admitted that the first stage for agencies that are aspiring to win the award is submission of entries, but they also frown at lack of creative deepness on the pact of some agencies.

According to Aniete, some of the old agencies are yet to realise that the goal post for creativity had since moved. “It is high time Nigeria agencies realised the need to raise the bar. The world of creativity has moved from where they are imagining. We need to re-event to catch up with global trend; there is no short cut.”

For John Ajayi, who shares the same sentiment, the fact that a few agencies are winning the award over and over simply indicates that the winners are doing something different from others.
“We cannot entertain unnecessary fear that a few agencies have continued to win the award. The truth is that these are set of agencies and practitioners, who have seen creativity as the hallmark of their business and they key into it hundred percent. If we look at it very carefully, we will discover that it is this same set of agencies that are attracting the little global and continental recognition we have gotten in the area of creativity. For this simple reason, clients and brand owners that are creatively inclined will always aspire to hire these set of agencies to impact their businesses because they (the agencies), have gotten something to show.

While not erasing the possibility of some discontentment in an award of this nature and magnitude, Babaeko had earlier stated that there will be a team independent of himself and the President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN, Mr. Kayode Oluwasona, to take feedbacks and investigate and address any misgiving from any quarter.

In all, for Babaeko the LAIF 2017 awards is a confirmation that the Nigerian industry can do great work which can win international awards, it’s all about packing the entries in the right way.

The chairman also corroborated Ajayi that most of the agencies leading LAIF 2017 medal table have won international awards this year. For instance, Noah’s Ark won an Epica Gold, X3M Ideas won a Silver at the African Cristal while 7even Interactive won a Bronze at the Loeries in far away Durban, South Africa just last August. He pointed out this to underscore the sincerity and excellent job the world class jury brought to bear on the awards.

Though an excellent outing by all standard, the event, which also featured Juju maestro, Sir Shina Peters and held at a better venue also recorded a few flaws, especially in the area of poor management of the crowd that turned up for the event. The organisers have also been criticised for not allocating enough time for audience to appreciate the winning works before being blackout.

This notwithstanding, the creative competition has indeed set a new standard, especially with assurance by Babaeko, while feeding questions from journalists that it would attract entries from some West African countries between now and the next three years.