Coffin -Consistency Will Grow the Animation Industry in Nigeria

In this interview with Ugo Aliogo, the Vice President, Head of Commercial and Business Development, Tuner France, Africa and Israel, Guillaume Coffin, speaks on the company’s partnership with TMA to further diversify and allow clients to access advertising solutions on the Nigeria WarnerMedia channels. Excerpts



What is the focus of the partnership with Trending Media Africa and what are you bringing onboard?

Trending Media Africa is our representative to sell the advertisements on our channels such as Boomerang, Cartoon Network and TNT. These channels are currently distributed on DStv and GOtv platforms in Nigeria. This gives us plan for income for high or mainstream household who are being reached. We have received good feedback from the advertising agencies on TMA’s work in the region and that is why we have entered this partnership. We have decided that this partnership will not be necessarily limited to Nigeria. But will focus first on Nigeria as our main priority. Our goal is to work together, then if it works well, we will focus on other countries. But for now this partnership’s objective is Nigeria.

What are the key opportunities you have identified that you are eager to begin with this Nigeria market, instead of others such as South Africa, Egypt and others?

The potential we have identified in Nigeria is that the country is a high growth country. There is continuous increase in population growth which is very strategic for businesses and we are optimistic that the economy will grow in line with the population. WarnerMedia is a company that wants to invest in a market for the long-term; this will build our position and result in a return on our investment. We will also make sure that our brands resonate with the local market for the long term. Those are the opportunities we identify in Nigeria. As for the advertising opportunities; we are hopeful it will provide new businesses for us, we are leveraging on our partnership with Trending Media Africa to advise us on which brands or sector we will make our priorities. Their advise will help us to understand the market, the investment opportunities and which sectors or brands to make as our priorities. But because we have great channels addressing differently types of households with high and low income, we really need to target industries like banking, automotive, retail, and the food and beverages sectors, so we hope to target a lot of sectors. But, these decisions will be based on TNA’s expertise in the market.

What measures have you put in place to address some of the challenges that you might face?

Today, we have our channels, such as Cartoon Network, Boomerang and TNT that are distributed across the continent of Africa. We will do more if we are able to generate revenues from Nigeria. What we are looking to do is to invest the money we get into more local productions. We have already produced our first show in Nigeria, Pop Up Party, and we have seen really great results. We also launched an initiative called Cartoon Network CN Lab two years ago where we scouted creative talents in Africa, and one of the winners of that contest was a Nigerian whose animated short has just been aired on Cartoon Network across Africa. This is the initiative we want to build for the longterm. We want to find talents across the continent, including Nigeria, and hopefully sustain the local production industry in Nigeria. We also hope to sustain our rating because we are not philanthropic and we are doing this because we think that it is good for the business as well. In terms of establishing our brand, we think that because we have such great brands, what we need to do is to make sure that they resonate even more with the local audiences. We have seen tremendous results in terms of ratings so far, but we think we can go even beyond that if we invest in local talents remembering that we are not going to be fully local channel because that is not our mission. But what we are going to do is to balance a mix of international content with local content which is a potential that resonates with local audiences. We have seen on our channel in the past things such as Tom and Jerry and Superman, and other great movies that are internationally renowned, but it is always good when you have a bit of international and local storytelling and talent. Our mission is to scout local talents with the resources to produce high quality shows that will travel back on our channels and other places in the world. Cartoon Network is present in the US and Latin America, and Asia; if only we can find talents that have good story telling, and opportunities to grab those shows and make them travel globally. Therefore, this is how we approach the longterm goal for Nigeria.

Talking about the issue of content. Can you make a comparison between our content in Nigeria and Latin America especially in terms of production and quality?

I think when you talk about content; it depends on who you are working with because there are a range of producers. Of course, some of the producers of Latin America will be of lower quality, while some others will be higher quality. We see the same globally, so what we want to do is to be able to scout for the best people. We also aim to complement the local skills that are already available. We are also considering training some skilled individuals that we would bring from other continents to share their skills with local talents. So in some cases, it will be post production, in other instances, it will be writing technique. But it will really depend on which production house we work with. It maybe that one production house will have specific skills, and we might be lacking some other skills, but it will not be the same for every production house. So we will need to adapt to the skills of those production houses. In general we hope we can bring some of our expertise and experience to ensure that people are trained locally so that in the long term, we don’t have to bring international people to complement the writing and local tool. This is how we think the partnership can be sustained for the longterm. This is also because of the economy, the more revenues the advertisers bring in, the more we are able to invest. This is will also accelerate the increase of skills in the local market as well.

What is your view on skill development and bringing onboard local players?

What I can say is that when we produced local shows in the past, we decided to create a balance with the skillsets we had. We brought some people from Europe who are good at post production, so that the local skills will be perfect and in some cases, it will come different. We also focused on making sure that the speed of the narration and storytelling was good enough in order to increase audience attention. You must ensure that you meet the needs of the audience. In some cases, you have good ingenious individuals who you don’t have to instruct on what to do from the beginning of the production. What is important to keep in mind is that our channels are relevant and relates well with the local audience. What we have seen in the recent shows we have produced out of Africa for the Cartoon Network CN Lab is that they have given us the highest ratings we have in Cartoon Network. This is something that is important in the development of our channels in the longterm and that is why we want to do it, because it really connects with the local people, it gives stories that they can relate to and also help them discover the channel that they don’t know already because word of mouth will drive people to know even more about our channel. Cartoon Network is very much known as well as TNT, our American blockbuster channel. But some younger people may not know it; they may discover it through those local initiatives. We want to be able to balance those local initiatives with the great content that we already have and produced for international purposes. For instance, Tom and Jerry, they don’t have any nationality, they are not Americans, they are just cartoon characters that can relate to everybody globally. In some cases we will need storytelling from Africa for kids in the US and Europe, that is how we want to approach it. So far we are impressed because our ratings are really strong and this edge allows us to go a step further and invest in local production  to complement  our line-up of shows for our channels.

What is your view on the animation industry in Nigeria? Also, how can we improve our storytelling culture to meet international standards?

The storytelling culture is not something that is related to a country in particular, but sometimes it is focused on the talent. Some people are able to get the attention of people they talk to; they have to make sure that people get interested. We know that Nigeria’s culture is filled with people that have charisma to attract audiences either with music or writings. This gives us a great amount of hope that we can find the right talents. In terms of the technical skills of the animation industry, we feel we will be able to support the local talents and organisations with initiatives. For instance, there are schools that are built to helps people to understand that they can make a career from these creative jobs. What we have seen in Africa sometimes is that people are focused on building entertainment businesses, but it is not properly structured. We need to ensure that there is a change of mindset in the way people view animations, such as people thinking that animation is just for children. But it is not for children. Animations can be for kids and adults. Actually, we have a great number of adult viewers on Cartoon Network. There are also adults that watch with their children because they enjoy it and it is fun for them, they understand the humour and it is good for them. I think this is what will enable local production to grow because if there are only a few people that really think that they can make a job out of it, it may not create the opportunity. But if more people are thinking of it as a career, then there will be increased investment in that space and this is what is seen in that space. A project might be relevant for us and another may be relevant for our competitors. There is need for consistency in order to allow the animation industry in Nigeria to grow.

What measures have been put in place to strengthen the partnership?

Well, this is our first year together and strengthening the partnership means that we need to work together. We have to make sure we combine the expertise of TMA in line with what advertisers are looking for and the programming we have. We have the best productions houses and channels in the world, alongside with our sister companies such as HBO and Warner Bros. We are leaders in DStv and GOtv in portfolio channels in terms of ratings for both kids and adults. So we hope that combining those skills together will convince brands and advertisers to come onboard on our channels because it will be good for their products. Our channels will help them increase sales and they will be associated with great entertainment brands. Of course we need to get started, and that is what we are doing now. The question about strengthening the partnership, the response to that is after six months, we can review our activities and understand what to do going forward.

How will the partnership benefit the media industry in Nigeria? 

The partnership will present an opportunity for advertisers to advertise their products. We have channels that are able to reach a huge number of audiences ranging from high to mainstream income households.  Therefore we have wide range of opportunities for them. So that is what we want to bring to the table, alongside great brands and franchises that you may not find anywhere else. If advertisers want to advertise on those shows on our channels, they may have to come onboard with us because they will not find it on any other channels. This will create more dynamics in the market.

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