Babaeko: Nigerian Advertising Industry is Better Off with LAIF Awards

Steve Babaeko

Vice President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, who also doubles as Chairman of the Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF), Mr. Steve Babaeko speaks on the contribution of the creative competition to the growth of advertising industry in Nigeria. He also advocates the need for advertising agencies to begin telling the African stories through their creative works. Raheem Akingbolu presents the excerpts:  



What makes a good ad?

Creativity is subjective but if I may use a definition of a good ad, I will use David Ogilvy’s definition. He said, “If it doesn’t sell, then is not creative”.  I use this because the essence of an agency being engaged by a client in the first place is to address a marketing challenge. The client wants you to look for the best creative way to solve a marketing challenge and if all what you do is to come out with one flamboyant idea that is winning you award and your client is still sleeping and waking up with his challenge. Then you have not achieved anything. You will continue to win your award until you discover that there is no client to work for because the company might have died as a result of the marketing challenge he briefed you on, which has taken a toll on its business.

Year in, year out, organisers of the Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF), send strong message through the festival on the relevance of advertising to brand building. What should Nigerians expect this year?

The truth is that almost every year, something new is added to LAIF award to deepen its essence and purpose. Beyond that, if a project like that is conceived in Nigeria and has been executed for 13 consecutive years, then it is not a joke.  As a professional body, the award is a major milestone achievement that advertising community has achieved and sustained over the years. This year, definitely, we have something new that would be added.  One major difference between what happened in the past and what will happen this year is that we have other activities that would usher in the festival during our ‘Creative Week.’ For the Creative Week, there will be seminar, there will be jurors’ sitting and there will be Young Laifers Competition. Our Chief Juror for this year is Mr. Michael Zylstra, the Chief Strategy Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network, South Africa.

For robust industry discourse, AAAN in partnership with Globacom Nigeria is presenting Mr. Thebe Ikalafeng as Keynote Speaker for AAAN 2018 LAIF Awards Seminar. Ikalafeng is the founder and Chairman, Brand Leadership Group, South Africa and 1st African Chairman of Loeries Awards.  He is recognised as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans.


Compared to previous years, is there any improvement on number of entries and willingness to participate on the part of agencies?

The response has been very encouraging. In fact, we have more agencies participating compared to last year. With the information I have gotten so far, the number of agencies participating has jacked up by about 20 per cent. But if I must confess, the most gratifying thing for me is the fact that more young agencies put in entries. That is a major achievement because every year, we try to avoid a situation whereby the small agencies will assume the competition is for bigger agencies.  So, we are having more participation from new entrants into the industry.


Aside being a rewarding platform for agencies, what other purpose does LAIF serves?

Every year we challenge ourselves, we look at challenges facing the industry. For instance, technology has become a disruptive phenomenon in the global advertising world. We ask ourselves; what can we do to make Nigerian practitioners battle ready to contend with the global technological trend?  How are we preparing for the new order in technology, especially as it concerns data and creativity? Above all, LAIF is making a clarion call to every agency that; for us to survive tomorrow, we have to be ready today. As in the past, that is part of what we want to see with the agencies participating in the award this year.


13 editions are enough to determine if the practice and the practitioners have fared better while the festival lasted. Can you share with us how LAIF has impacted the industry?

Rather than answering this question, I will take it in the reverse. Let’s first imagine wiping away 13 years of LAIF Awards and see what the industry would have become in terms of quality of campaigns. Now back to its contribution to the development and growth of advertising industry,  there’s no doubt the fact that it still remains the major yardstick to determine which agencies are doing well and which clients are supporting innovation and creativity. Therefore, if it is removed, then there is nothing for us to aspire to. Look, a couple of years back,  clients didn’t bother much about LAIF award but in recent time, especially from the last five years down the line, clients are even the one reminding their agencies to enter one particular ad or another. What this tells us is that the clients want to see themselves win as well. LAIF is a major driver of creativity and innovation in this market. If you are a business or a client, one of the indices for the public to determine if you are growing with your agency is the performance of the agency through your campaigns as showcased in the LAIF award.  As at today, it is perhaps the biggest creative competition in West Africa and I hope relevant authorities will continue to support us so that it will go on.

One of the major wishes of patrons of the nation’s advertising community is to see a Nigerian agency becomes the world hero on the international stage. With LAIF Awards, are we getting there?

Yes, we are getting there. In the past three years for instance, Nigerian agencies have made the continent proud at some international award ceremonies and they have performed better than what was obtainable 20 years ago. I can name agencies that have been winning consecutively in the international circuit. At the Lorries, Nigerians are winning and at Crystal, the same achievement is being recorded. What Noah’s Ark and X3M Ideas did at this year’s edition of Crystal, is a major land mark. DDB is doing well in that regard too, Insight is doing great and many others are coming up. So, like I said, we are getting there but of course, there is room for improvement. With LAIF awards that has become a local platform for us to flex muscles, exploring other continental and global awards has been easier than before.