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Atilola Odudare, Managing Director of Gems Communications is a strategic thinker, creative and passionate about advertising, confident and conservative. Since commencement of operations over a decade ago, this communications firm has been at the fore of deploying new technologies and ideas for business solutions. Odudare tells Adedayo Adejobi why he left the bits and bytes profession for advertising, those who’ve had tremendous impact on his career, how GEMS Abuja Rock-LED Billboards is re-defining outdoor advertising

Atilola Williams Odudare studied computer science and worked in the Information Technology Department of the Nigerian Air Force before he moved to Optimum Exposures, a subsidiary of the Troyka Group and Outdoor advertising arm of the parent company. He was the Systems and Admin Manager. The Insight group being a training ground, after a few years, Odudare was moved across other departments, including Marketing. The training no doubt prepared him for the challenges of life. He would have ideally gone back to Computer Science, his first but then, after thorough training, he has become a thoroughbred marketing person.

After six years at Optimum Exposures and armed with the requisite experience, he went ahead to form Gems Communications, a marketing communication and Outdoor Advertising company of his dream. With its corporate headquarters in Abuja and branches in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana and still counting, Odudare has done quite a lot of laudable and innovative projects which have redefined his industry’s business values.

Fast forward to today, he’s been around for almost three decades now, and of many firsts, he brought in Light Emitting Diode (LED) and scroller boards amongst others.

It wasn’t as though there was no job in the labour market for him to have left his well-paying middle management job for another middle management job in a rather unknown territory, but passion for home and enterprise pushed him to pitch his tenth in Advertising. It was indeed a huge and herculean task catching up with new trends in the business, staying ahead of happenings, and the tricks of the trade, especially as it affects the out-of home industry. Looking back, in the long run, it paid off.

Being in the trade of interpreting facts, figures, and data, it is worthy of note that, he is again the first to write software programme to manage outdoor advertising audience Pan-Nigeria.

 ‘‘Being able to combine the experience from the computer world with advertising was an exciting, fantastic and seamless experience for me. It was an experience I enjoyed, though I had to work extra hard,’’ he enthused.

Spurred by new things, innovation, challenges, he’s team carry the same spirit, corporate culture and work ethics. At the touch of a few keys on the computer, he solved problems and managed clients’ many requests.

Experience Trumps Everything

For every serious minded, committed and focused professional in the ilk of Atilola, it has not been a work in the park. He has been through tough times, daunting challenges and almost felt like giving in. ‘‘When the challenges came, I had to go back to the drawing board to see how to solve the puzzle. And then I moved on. In actual fact, I believe every challenge is an opportunity for a human being to step up the ladder. If there are no challenges, there won’t be new and successive growth. Man needs to be challenged to be successful. Like I said, the experience has been so interesting. I have met loads of people in this industry who have positively shaped my life, my professional career and living. I have met people that have challenged me, and appreciated me. It has modelled me into a better man today. I keep saying this, if I were still to be in the computer field, I would have been fed up because computing is simply about giving instruction and expecting a usual experience. But with human beings and marketing communications, it is about managing the human psychology. The experience has been so rich such that it has moulded me into a better human being.’’

In the cause of his career, Odudare is eternally grateful to Mr. Jimi Awosika, one he readily qualifies as a great manager of men. Another man he holds in high esteem and has played a pivotal role in his professional life is the Czar of advertising himself, Abiodun Shobanjo. If you gave Odudare an hour to talk on Shobanjo, be sure to expect a book filled with positive memories and glowing tributes on how much the duo have positively impacted his life.

Life in Marriage

Life in marriage for the advertising man has no doubt been a wonderful one. ‘‘It has its own challenges anyway, but when I look back, I have cause to thank God. There are indeed challenges, expectations yet to be met, but I believe in God that all of those expectations will be met. Thank God for my marriage.’’ To his loin, with two children and counting, he has trained and mentored so many other children who have in turn become his source of joy and pride.

How I turn down the Heat

He likes informed and intellectual conversations, relaxing with friends x-raying the dark days of this country. At a point in the history of the nation when power brokers at the helm of affairs killed and maimed people, his house practically became a melting pot for friends to discuss the state of the nation. His past-time is to talk about current affairs and spiritual re-engineering which allows him commune with God. And that could probably put him in seclusion for a short period of time. Seeing other people happy on his account is relaxation for him. It makes him happy.

Meeting my Wife

The chance meeting of his wife, read like the fairy tale. ‘‘I met her in a bus when she was closing from work. Her office was on Race Course, while I was in the Air Force then. I closed from work, the bus already picked her and I joined on the way. We got talking and one thing led to the other. Three years after, we became husband and wife. Interestingly, I was still in my uniform then. When I look back, we’ve shared very happy and sad moments together. I see it as two souls who met for a purpose and that’s why despite whatever problem we might have had in the marital journey, I still can say without equivocation, that marriage is one of the best things that can happen to a human being in life. Marriage is good. It is a joyous institution.’’

In his late fifties, the secret of his youthful looks is eating healthy, good sleep and not allowing problems to weigh him down, even in dire straits.

How I’m Raising the Bar through Traffic Data Report

The GEMs CEO is upbeat about the traffic data report his firm provides: “Traffic Data Report is in line with the company’s tradition of exploiting technology to introduce new value-adding offerings. We decided to ensure that the company provides the required Traffic Data Report to advertisers for its premium sites after the completion of its magnificent 300m2 LED screen (E-VISUAL) and Trivision posted 10m above the ground in the city of Lagos (along Lagos/Ibadan Expressway). In addition, the company is working tirelessly, using the latest technology to deploy the tools, mechanism and software designed to capture, record and analyse these traffic data on all of its Out-of-Home structures pan-Nigeria.

“It will certainly ensure that accurate information is provided to advertisers to aid ROI measurement on their spending and effective planning. A quick look at the Traffic Analysis Report below reveals that our magnificent 300m2 delivers maximum value for every kobo spent and it cuts across all Social Economic Classes (A – as they travel to city like Ibadan for social and religious events, Class B, C and D – as they travel from their owned and rented apartments to work and other areas of Lagos State).

“It is generating very positive reactions. Gone are the days when boards or hoardings are bought or selected without any data to support the location or the reach to target audience. Clients now demand data and strict brand specific parameters are followed for OOH media now. So, this is quite a novelty idea for advertisers.

“We also have the remote viewing technology on the boards. With this, clients can view the boards remotely on their mobile phones and lap tops from anywhere. Gone are the days when clients just buy boards based on their media budgets. These days, a lot of justifications and parameters go into what board is bought and why. Our LED screens are with P-20 technology which uses advanced user-friendly billboard software for real time performance monitoring, brightness monitoring, remote LED calibration, rapid anomaly detection, data storage and reporting.

“To a large extent, Nigeria is moving at par with what is obtainable globally. We only need to step up our game in terms of technology and power. The advancement all over the world is backed up with the technology available and of course for technology to be useful, it needs electrical power.”

Why are Nigerian brands still not maximising the opportunities of Out-of-Home offers? The GEMs CEO remarks: “Well, a brand can only maximise what it has full control over. Unfortunately, brands and Brand Managers do not have control over the Industry. They only work with what they are offered or what is available. I will say they are, based on the level of service available to them.”