Ashaolu: Innovation, Technology Game Changers for Advertising Industry

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Mr. Lanre Ashaolu is the MD/CEO of Four Pulley Limited, an outdoor advertising agency in Nigeria. In this interview, he speaks on how the agency is leveraging technology to take outdoor advertising to new pedestals. Bennett Oghifo provides the excerpts:

What is your assessment of the Out of Home (OOH) advertising industry in Nigeria?
Well, the industry is a subset of marketing communications industry in general. It doesn’t exist in isolation. It offers a means of exposure of a brand’s information to their target audience. It exists alongside other platforms of exposure like electronic, print and digital. The OOH industry in Nigeria is an interesting industry in the sense that despite the encroachment of digital media replacing the role of traditional media, the outdoor is the only arm of traditional media that is going to witness the test of time and can co-exist with the digital media through the fusion of digital out of home advertising. It is an existing industry that is here to stay and we it be here for a very long time.

What would you say are the challenges of the OOH industry in Nigeria?
The challenges are multifaceted. We look at it from the regulatory aspect, from the buying power of the advertisers, and from the level of options that advertisers are faced with in terms of how they want to expose their message to the public. It’s a keenly contested and highly competitive industry. Over 50% of advertising expenditure is made in Lagos and every single operator would like to have their presence in Lagos because of the competitive and attractive nature. This could be a positive challenge because if competition is keen and fierce, innovation will stand out. On the regulatory part, there is the issue of firm regulation. Sometimes, it could be extremely high. In that case, there is need for a continuous dialogue between the regulators and operators so that there could be a common ground. We(operators and regulators) are using the same ecosystem and the purpose of our existence is to complement each other.

How can these challenges be addressed?
Like I mentioned earlier, continuous dialogue and innovation would go a long way to address the problems. I would always implore operators and practitioners to be on top of their game in terms of innovation of services and offering to the public because gone are the days of you just thinking you can establish an outdoor platform somewhere and expect brands to jump on it. It doesn’t work that way anymore. So, Innovation through the introduction of technology to actually be able to deliver accurate information to your clients. For example, a lot of people always ask, how do we measure the effectiveness of our campaign? How do we verify that this is the actual number of people that gets to see our advertisement? For a very long time, there was no accurate or scientific way of addressing that that. We worked with a lot of qualitative data and assumptions. However, in recent times, innovation is bringing technology to be able to give accurate insight on the number of people that actually see a message. That’s value and it is a way to improving on the quality of service in the industry.

Tell us about Four Pulley Limited
Four Pulley Limited, known as FPL Media is a creative OOH agency where innovation is at the forefront of all we do. Our major promise is to deliver return on investment to our clients. We intend to deliver to develop innovative platforms in strategic locations that connect audiences to their brand and vice-versa so that whatever we are offering both the advertisers and audience is value for money. We are here to contribute to the growth and development of the industry. We are here for a long time because the management of the company has a lot of experience on the client side of the industry before transitioning to the agency aspect. We have seen both sides of the divide and we know the questions that advertisers and brand managers want to ask and get answers to. We are not new in the industry. We have been in the industry operating both on the agency and consulting side. Now that we are in the OOH space, we want to be able to deliver the best value for our client.

How will you assess your performance viz-a-viz the challenges in the industry?
The challenges are not immune to us. They are general challenges that everybody faces. Like I mentioned earlier, we like to bring about innovation and I believe that for every challenge it’s a question of what you have in your process that can improve your situation. We are looking forward to improving on the status quo. We don’t want to do business the way everybody does it. We don’t want to be part of the statistics. We want to bring value addition and innovation to our offering.

The buzz word in town is “New Normal”. How have you coped in this new normal that has been placed on us as a result of Covid-19?
The new normal or the pandemic took everybody by surprise because I am sure when every company was going into 2020 with their plans from the last quarter of last year, nobody anticipated a situation or phenomenon like this pandemic. The first few months had to get everybody back to the drawing board. We developed a strategy to survive the situation going forward. Where there is over reliance on one medium of advertising, the need to diversify service offering has to come into place. For us, the way forward is for us to diversify our portfolio as much as possible so that if one aspect of the portfolio experiences a down time, others can stay afloat and augment the business.

What comparative advantages does FPL media has over other outdoor advertising agencies?
We have a strong passion to leverage on technology to improve return on investment for advertisers and audience in general. Other means of advertising like electronic, print to a large degree have a predictable and acceptable matrix for measuring the impact of advertising on such platform. The outdoor has just simply been relying on estimates and based on the physical traffic we see in the environment. We are investing a lot on technology, artificial intelligence to be able to deliver accurate feedback in terms of how effective advertising campaigns work on our platforms. I believe that is where the whole industry should look forward to go to so that the industry can be better respected. This will help the operators to deliver more premium services to their clients.

Do you have any target as to where you want to be placed in the industry in the near distant future?
We are not in a hurry to be placed on any particular pedestal. We just want to do what is right, what is professional. We just want to add value and I think the industry will reward us for our dedication and contribution.

Can we know a little more about your background?
I have a degree in Economics from Covenant University, also an alumnus of London School of Economics and School of Media and Communications, Pan Atlantic University. I am a member of APCON and I continuously look for ways to evolve and improve myself. If you ask me this same question tomorrow, I must have added another feather to my cap. In terms of the professional side, I have been privileged to work across different sectors of the economy. I have worked in the advertising, manufacturing and telecoms sectors. Now, I am here in the OOH space. My cross-functional experience gives me an overview of how the economy responds and what we need to do in terms of offering value to clients. I love history and research a lot. I also love sports.
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