The newly appointed Managing Director of Prima Garnet Africa, one of Nigeria’s leading advertising agencies, Yetunde Adeshina, speaks on the dynamics of the Advertising profession, her career and the challenges of her new assignment. Raheem Akingbolu provides the excerpts.
The Nigerian advertising industry functioned for over four years without a Council overseeing the industry regulator, APCON, how did this affect the industry?
This is a very sad development indeed. Look at it from this point of view; APCON was set up for a reason: the purpose of setting up APCON is defeated if it’s not allowed to function. The last APCON board put a new code of practice in place; it is yet to see the light of day after years of putting the code together to protect the business of advertising. I believe the industry is losing out a great deal.
But the business of advertising went on with no major disruptions. Does this suggest APCON is overrated in its impact?
Naturally the business of advertising will continue but in what context? APCON has a critical function – regulation. The purpose of regulation for me is two pronged – regulation of messaging and regulation of the practice. While you may have some level of self-regulation by some practitioners, a moribund APCON has created an atmosphere of sharp practices in the industry.
Advertising appears to always follow bandwagons and buzzwords. The current one is storytelling. Is storytelling this new and novel or is it a rehash of what has always been?
Advertising is a profession that thrives on trends, there has to be high level of currency all the time – no apologies about the buzz words. We all tell stories everyday but brands are much more compelling in story telling now. That’s why you see or hear more emotional ads today. More brands are stepping away from hard sell to emotive ads because these are the ads that tug at the heart and engage consumers better. Nike is a brand that has done this effectively from the Kaepernick ad to the Nike ads for women titled “dream crazier” narrated by Serena Williams. It is one of the most compelling ads I’ve seen about women`s struggles at work. And then just after the female World Cup win of the US team, Nike seized the moment again with an ad drumming up support for “equal pay” as was powerfully raised by Megan Rapinoe, the co-captain of the US women’s team. With brands being more relevant in the lives of consumers, storytelling is definitely working.
You have just been appointed the first CEO of Prima Garnet following the stepping aside of its founder. How does it feel stepping into the shoes of a man that bestrode the industry for those many years?
It has been something of mixed feelings really. I feel great because it’s a major milestone for me and I must add I that I have been humbled since the company made me its choice. A few other options could have been available both within and outside the company, but making the cut for a business-like Prima Garnet is something that is fulfilling and challenging as well. Sometimes I try to imagine how I will be able to adjust to the feeling of being the CEO here and stepping into the shoes of an industry icon like Lolu Akinwunmi. It is something that sometimes scares me as I doubt, I can really step into his shoes. They’re too big for me. Walking in my own shoes will be more comfortable I guess and that is why I think I’d just take my baby steps one day at a time.
The marketing communications industry looks like it is in a season of convergence. How prepared are you and of course the entire Nigerian industry for this?
Change is the only permanent thing in life and especially in this industry. You have to be on your toes and learn to change the car tyres while the car is in motion. I’ve always been an avid change agent and not unmindful of the changes in the industry, so I’m very much on top of the major changes technology especially has made. It’s the digital age where the internet and social media platforms have provided awesome channels and tools of communication. it’s about speed; it’s about relevance; it’s also about currency. Trending topics provide you great opportunities to jump into conversations and connect with the consumer real time. It’s the season of optimisations and conversations with the consumer rather than throwing advertising messages at them. For instance, when GOT (Game of Thrones) was trending, there were conversations and catch phrases trending from the series. This provided an opportunity for the Workers Day advertising campaigns that ran at the time. The consumer has become much more sophisticated, more discerning, it’s indeed a time that the consumer is king indeed. It’s a season of data when you have to mine to ensure you’re speaking to the right consumer at the time, in the right place and with the right type of messaging. Today’s consumer does not suffer fools gladly; you have to learn to carve an emotional space in his/her mind: you must connect and engage. So many changes really. On whether the industry is primed for the changes, I’d say yes, some agencies and a few clients are ready for this, but as a market we still have a long way to go.
What are the strategies you would be bring to drive Prima Garnet back to top three?
I honestly don’t know about the saturation of agencies in Nigeria. It’s more about the exigencies of the times in view of the changes that have taken place in the industry – the advent of the specialised agencies, including the digital agencies, the tech-enabled platforms, the changes in how we communicate, global trends, etc. There are so many individuals who even develop and run their ads, thanks to Instagram, Youtube, etc. Clearly the business model for ad agencies have to change to address these changes that we see. In terms of my strategy, I’m keeping it very close to myself; you don’t expose your battle plan.
How healthy is the agency you took over as MD?
We could be better but we’re good. I am sure you want me to boast about how many accounts we are currently managing. That is not our style. We are not a young agency that hypes any account we win, believing it’d turn client traffic in our favour. Our strength as an agency has always been to give everything to any business we are entrusted with by our clients, ensure that they are successful and then allow those successes to speak for us. We have a culture of not throwing our weight around. But like I said earlier, we are in good standing, even if, like every business, we want to be better.
It is believed in some quarters that the increasing influence of digital on advertising is a threat, what is your view?
It’s not a threat but where the world is headed and we’ll do well to position ourselves to remain relevant in the scheme of things. While there’s no doubt that ad spends are increasing on digital and dipping on traditional media, that change is inevitable. Don’t forget that advertising is a dynamic industry. We have well trained professionals in Nigeria capable of adapting to the changes that technology is bringing and adding our creative ingenuity to ensure we continue to lead with quality output for your clients and for the good of the market.
Your company faced significant challenges for a number of years following a protracted dispute with some of your former partners. To what extent have you been able to recover, especially in the light of rumours that you have picked up some strategically lucrative accounts?
Indeed, we went through a very rough patch but we’re recovering very nicely. Scripture says that though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.
Are there plans to alter the business strategy from what it used to be in the past?
As I said before it’s imperative for agencies to recalibrate for today’s realities, we have plans to do that in PGA. Strategy is not something you share in the open, except you are not intending to tell the truth. I have never seen any person sharing his or her trade secrets just for the sake of generating sound bites. I will not speak for other agencies, but at Prima Garnet, we are equipped and prepared to respond to any changes thrown at us by the very dynamics of the industry in which we operate and where we see opportunities to give value to our clients, our business and the larger industry, we are also equipped with all that it would take to lead the change.
You are working in a Group with another agency that recently changed brand identity from 141 Worldwide to Nitro 121. Are we expecting a brand refresher for Prima Garnet and how is your group structured in such a way as to manage possible competition between the two agencies?
Competition is a part of our lives. There’s no big deal. It’s what keeps us both on our toes. Prima Garnet Africa and Nitro 121 are like two siblings who are distinct individuals, with distinct personalities and lead unique lifestyles. Neither of them will give up living because of the other. On the brand refresh question, I would rather ask that the market should keep watching out for things as we unravel them.
How would you describe the first two quarters of 2019 and how has Prima Garnet fared?
It was a tough one considering that an election took place which stalled things in the first quarter of the year, the government is yet to appoint ministers, Foreign Direct Investments have dipped, and consumer confidence is still low. There are a few other indices, but we all hope that things will pick up in the last half of the year.