Union Bank TVC: Speaking the Nigerian Language

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Raheem Akingbolu reviews a new Union Bank’s television commercial, pointing out its merits and message of resilience to Nigerians.

In setting, cast and story line, the new Union Bank television commercial (TVC), titled ‘Enabling Success’ didn’t only speak the Nigeria language, it resonates with the banking public by playing on relevant socio-economic issues to make a wake-up call.

Perhaps to demonstrate its patriotism and commitment to the target audience, the bank didn’t go to abroad to show skyscrapers and wonder roads in Dubai, London or New York. With its constant showcasing of Nigerian streets and touching on basic socio-economic issues, viewers are instantly connected to the message the commercial.

Though the TVC speaks the truth about Nigeria’s socio-economic realities, its language is persuasive and encouraging, a technique that helps its message to be easily understood by the target audience. Aside looking inward for content and setting, the TVC also varies from what is obtainable in the market through its patriotism and corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach. It breaks a conventional approach of few seconds advertising content by playing the role of an interventional role of a wise man to dissect the nation’s socio-political imbroglio.

Through, “Enabling Success” Union Bank asks critical questions and challenges the status quo, by mirroring the society in a dramatic approach to task both the leaders and followers.
Its opening message which is borrowed from Nigeria’s former National Anthem, ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee,’ is followed with ‘Those that divide our people are getting better at their game’ which is considered a wake-up call to both leaders and the followers.

Synopsis
It opens with monologue and a man jugging past various images and places that remind Nigerians of their environment. Among other things, the unseen character, who runs the commentary, reminds Nigerians of their leaders through the images of politicians in the posters, with promises and strong appeal for votes. There is also a palace that reminds Nigerians of royalty and a woman, who prepares her three children for school. Then a young man, who is getting ready to resume his commercial activities for the day is seeing washing his commercial motorcycle outside his apartment. Through the voice-over in the monologue, “our daily struggles to make ends meet united us”, Nigerians are reminded of the need to live together in unity, despite their diversities. ‘Enabling Success’ touches on how corruption has affected every phase of the Nigerian system, but still preaches national unity.

To tell Nigerians that corruption does not reside in big offices alone or among the politicians, the voice-over quickly touch on the unfaithfulness of artisans by using a man who is stranded in a deserted environment because his car broke down, as reference point. As the man look up and down in a dejected mood, viewers are reminded of greed and dishonesty on the part of mechanics.

In a sharp but deliberate attempt to further show its commitment to local content, the social commentary switches to Pidgin English and points out the ills on Nigerian campuses. Here, the rot on the campuses are unearthed as one is reminded of how lecturers oppress students in this era of sex for marks and handouts for higher grades.

Another area that points to the fact that Nigeria problem doesn’t have tribal mark or age is where the video reflects on activities of commercial bus drivers as relates to their naughty approach to passengers and frequent failure of artisans in satisfying their customers.

As if speaking for the artisans and other start-ups, the TVC frowns at their inability to secure loan facilities from banks. It moves on to condemn the unfriendly approaches of tax collectors from different levels of government who normally waylay Nigerians for collection and issuance of permits.

Though there is silence on the part of the voice-over at the blackout scene, as there is no mention of power failure or its cause, the message is passed through a young photographer, who looks frustrated as he struggles with his rickety generator to light up his studio.

To end the video, which is about three minutes, the bank cleverly key into the message with words of encouragement; ‘this bank understands what it means to push through challenges and yet believe.” With this, Union Bank identifies with Nigerians and tells them how to solve their challenges.

Relevance

More than before, Union Bank has demonstrated through ‘Enabling Success’ that it sets to meet the socio-economic needs of all Nigerians, regardless of their status.

By telling the Nigerian story, the bank seems to be showing the way to the future. In recent time, advertisers and creative agencies have insisted that the best way to go was for brand owners and their creative agencies to go back to drawing board and begin to think local.

Critical stakeholders in the marketing communications industry, especially creative agencies, brand owners and players in the out-of-home, have been urged to begin adopting story-telling style, peculiar to Africa to build their brands.

Speaking at this year’s edition of the Marketing Excellence Award, on the need for marketing campaigns to resonate with target consumers, the President of the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), Mrs. Folake Ani-Mumuney, had linked consumer engagement with language, culture style of campaign presentation.

While calling on Nigerian companies to be patriotic in their campaigns, she had said the association’s decision to weave the thematic thrusts of this year’s event around storytelling was informed by the need to further highlight a topic that has become one of the strongest marketing trends in marketing, in recent times.

She had described storytelling as a strategic tool that enables marketers
engage their consumers in a fragmented media world where consumers are looking for different experiences and delivery.

Also, the Vice President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) who is also the Chairman, Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF), Mr. Steve Babaeko, had empasised the need for advertising agencies to begin telling the African stories through their creative works.

“It is very important and I think we have come to that stage of our lives when we should tell our own story as Africans. I’m happy that some brands are already taking up the challenge. I recently read it somewhere that the telecom companies seem to be showing the way forward when it comes to telling authentic Nigerian stories.

“In a few of their ads, it is easy for you to conclude that this is us; this is Nigeria or Africa. These are different from the ads that are though Nigerian but look and sound foreign,” he had explained.

Meanwhile, for their incessant practice of shooting television commercials and other advertising campaigns in foreign countries, Nigerian banks, telecommunications companies and other multinationals have been accused of frustrating efforts by stakeholders in the advertising industry to promote local content.

Last year, the Minister for Information & Culture, Lai Mohammed, had announced that government was going to ban the production of Nigerian movies, music videos and television commercials outside the country.

In separate interviews, experts, who spoke to THISDAY, have argued that highest percentage of what was accruing to ad spending in Nigeria go to foreign hands. They carpeted companies and creative agencies that still go to South Africa, United Kingdom, US and other countries to produce advertising material that can be handled locally.

A former President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (IPAN), Femi Odugbemi, expressed concern over the way creative agencies and their clients ignore local talents and move ahead to produce TVC in abroad. He pointed out that Nigeria has craft and technical requirement needed to produce TVC locally.

“The problem of shooting TVC abroad is killing Nigeria economy because our creative agencies and their clients, mostly multinationals go to abroad for the production of what can be offered locally and pay in foreign currencies to foreign vendors. My question is this, ‘Why do we think it make sense to build the economy of another country through their creative industry and leave our own? Again, how many of these brands being overseen by foreign Marketing Director have become global brands?”

While calling on those promoting this trend to reverse, Odugbemi, pointed out that if Nigeria Music, Nollywood can go global, then advertising produced locally can also get global acceptability. He also faulted the idea of incorporating foreign contents that are not connected with the local market into campaigns that will be run in Nigeria.

“It is absurd when we infuse a foreign music that has no local relevance into a TVC that is meant for Nigeria. If you find yourself in a foreign land, you should be able to understand the culture of the people the moment you watch their ad but unfortunately that cannot be said of Nigeria as our banks, telco brands and other multinationals still go to abroad to import content,” he said.

Also speaking on the issue, the Chief Executive Officer of HS Group, Taye Ige, opined that Nigeria loses millions in naira and other currencies daily to production, technical crew, hospitality and other logistics when commercials are shot abroad.

“Perhaps we are not proud of what we have but I’m confident that there are equipments and adequate technology support locally to produce commercials that are meant for our market. By going abroad, we are losing a lot in the area of logistics and other production requirements. Since Nigerians pay for the consumption of these products, they must be allowed and encouraged to participate in their production,” Ige said.