Stephen Onaivi: mediaReach Will Continue to Create Game-Changing Narratives in Nigerian Media Industry

Stephen Onaivi: mediaReach Will Continue to Create Game-Changing Narratives in Nigerian Media Industry

Managing Director, mediaReach OMD, Mr. Stephen Oluwatoyin Onaivi, in this interview with Festus Akanbi, reminisces over the company’s pioneering efforts in the media industry and sets the agenda for prospects of the company as a big player in the media industry

MediaReachOMD recently marked its 25th anniversary, and it provided the company with the opportunity to review its operations and its milestones over the years. Can you talk about those achievements?

To be honest, I think the organisation has done well in the past 25 years. When the organisation started 25 years ago, one of the key things that it did as a game changer was to set up a scientific approach to media planning in Nigeria. So, the company was a collaborator in ensuring that we have the scientific data to make sure that we understand the consumer better to make the right media decisions. 

This led to the the introduction of platforms like mediastar and zplan that helped shape the decision-making process. What does that do for brands? Or what does that do for businesses? It enhanced accountability and it also enhanced transparency in the way you do media. So you can say so many people are watching this channel and based on that you are buying. That’s basically one of the key game-changers that people see. 

Secondly, mediaReachOMD is predominantly a training ground. This is a food for thought for me, a lot of people say mediaReachOMD is the school of media planning in Nigeria because when you go through mediaReachOMD, you will come out well-grounded. I’m not surprised that when you look at the industry, there is a footprint of mediaReachOMD talent in most of the organisations within our industry. 

Beyond media, some talents have gone across sectors to make impacts in what they do, across the industry locally and globally. I think that a couple of ex-omders who have gone abroad are standing tall is a testimony of what mediaReachOMD has been able to achieve.

When you think about thought leadership initiatives within the industry, mediaReachOMD is at the forefront as well and facts such as the consistent publication of mediafacts book for over 20 years are there to buttress this. In all of these, it is worthy to note that 25 years of innovation is a key success fact and we will work towards sustaining this as we look forward.

Let’s shift attention to your products. You had an event recently and you launched a product, do you want to talk about that?

You will agree with me that the world is constantly evolving. If you fail to innovate, you will definitely be out of business. We have worked tirelessly to ensure that agility and innovation are at the core of what we do. Hence we have leveraged our 25 years of experience matched with the current hunger to deliver incremental value to our client to introduce the OMD Consumer Intelligence platform to help deliver our promise of Better Decisions Faster so we can get real actional insights for incremental business results. 

The platform has about 2800 panelists across key cities in Nigeria and it is in partnership with Geopoll, our selected research partner for this project. This is over two years of work and investment to ensure this platform is well-tested to deliver the expected outcome.

With this, our clients and stakeholders are even more equipped to leverage the platform to make better decisions with actionable insights for incremental business results.

Having come this far, what will be your dream for the next 25 years?

If there’s anything that drives us, it is the ability to innovate and be agile. The next 25 years look very promising to us. We’ve got massive hope in making sure that we’re continually creating opportunities for game-changing narratives in the industry. We are even more poised to make sure that the clients that we service, get better value. The future media model is a key consideration for us and the agency.

What can you describe the strength of mediaReach OMD?

Our people, Our Clients and Our Media Partners are our core pillars of strength and we will continually do the best we can to ensure the sustainability of our stakeholders. Our global network is also one of our strongest pillars of success.

To what extent has the mediaReach paid its price for the exodus of young and enterprising Nigerians in what is popularly called the Japa syndrome?

It has affected the industry, it has affected the country and to be honest. As an agency, we have built a very strong grooming culture to ensure that opportunities are available for all to grow within the organisation. Hence, we have been able to cushion the impact of the japa syndrome and ensure that our clients do not feel the impact on the quality of work that we deliver.

So how do you close the gap created by the loss of good hands in the industry?

Constant training is key. I had mentioned that mediaReachOMD talents in most organisations within our industry. That means we have a very strong culture of training. The OMD Academy is a good example and we have strong talents to take up key roles and responsibilities within a very short period of time. 

You became the managing director/chief executive of the company early this year. Can you take us through your journey in life?

Growing up, I have been very active and passionate in what I do. I studied philosophy and Masters in Public and International Affairs from the University of Lagos. I’m an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, I am a member of ARCON and also a member of the Advertising Association of Ghana. I am homegrown as this is my first corporate job post-school. I joined mediaReachOMD in 2008 and have been seconded to our office in Ghana twice. First, as a planning lead and second as the Managing Director of mediaReachOMD Ghana between 2018 and 2023. 

My current role as Managing Director of mediaReachOMD Nigeria took effect on 1st January 2024.

How will you describe the relationship between mediaReach and its media partners like newspapers, television, and other media platforms?

Our media partners are key stakeholders. We have a very strong relationship with our media partners as they form a set of key stakeholders to deliver value to our clients. 

How are you adjusting to the current economic challenges and the attendant rise in the cost of business?

I say that Nigeria is going through a phase and I positively believe that we will get out of this phase and we can see a lot of positive opportunities in the country despite the ongoing pressures. We all know that the business ecosystem has been challenged. This has also affected our industry. However, the more the challenge the more agile we have to be to ensure we are offering solutions that will deliver incremental business results- that is why the OMD Consumer Intelligence platform is key to our success. The platform is another step of forward-thinking to a better understanding of the consumer for business decision-making. It means you can now get actionable insights to optimise your investment, no matter how pressured this might be, for maximum return on investment.

What’s mediaReach’s answer to the changing dynamics in the media especially with the growing popularity of social media?

In simple terms, we follow the consumer. We try to understand the consumer better and make recommendations based on consumer needs for the benefit of our client. The point is no matter the situation, you need to understand clearly how the consumer is behaving for you to be able to make the decisions.

Many newspapers and magazines are facing hard times these days because the flow of adverts is being determined by consumers who now prefer other channels. Do you see newspapers in business in years to come?

 Like every other business, innovation drives success. The consumer is always at the heart of every successful brand. The more you understand your target audience and leverage that understanding to drive innovation, the better you can be. I believe that newspapers and magazines can only remain relevant if they reinvent themselves. Today, TV is on the go unlike before. Nothing stops newspapers and magazines from reinventing themselves leveraging the understanding of the consumer. This is why the OMD Consumer Intelligence platform is key to this understanding.

How far has the issue of debt payment been resolved in the industry?

There have been a lot of efforts by stakeholders like AISOP and ARCON in this regard. There has been a lot of awareness regarding this and I think we all need to continually drive the support for industry stakeholders to ensure that this issue of debt payment fully becomes a thing of the past. It is very key to the growth of our industry.

How would you rate the regulators in the advertising industry vis a vis the current reality of the economy?

The job of the regulators as backed by law is to ensure we sanitise and improve our industry to be in line with global standards. We all need to work together and support regulators for the good of the industry. The truth about our industry is that we need to ensure that there is constant innovation, sanity, integrity, and professionalism. These are hallmarks that OMD stands for and regulators are currently doing the best they can to ensure that these expectations are met within the current economic circumstances. The key is constant engagement to ensure that all stakeholders are fully involved in any reform and I am sure the regulators are constantly doing that.

 What is the message you have for your clients as you celebrate your 25th anniversary?

Thank you. Thank you to the country for giving us an environment to run a business. Thank you to our clients because if our clients don’t believe in us, we won’t be celebrating 25 years. Thank you to -my colleagues, ex-staff and current staff because they were part of the narrative. A special appreciation to them. Thank you to our leadership and our global team for all their governance and support. Thank you to all our media partners (over 1000 – former and current) for your support. Cheers to the next 25 years of mediaReachOMD.

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