Jimi Awosika: Internet has revolutionised advertising, says Jimi Awosika, MD, Insight Communications

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By NETA NWOSU and OMODELE ADIGUN

It is a stand-out fact that advertising business in Nigeria has carved out a niche for itself in global marketing communication. This is apart from nicking a fair share of the global revolution in product branding – cum – marketing. How did this transformation come out?

Mr. Jimi Awosika, the managing director of Insight Communications Ltd. attributes it partly to the Internet wonder.

According to him, this digital blitz has triggered a sort of communication explosion in the advertising millieu.

Hear him: “Hitherto, advertisers talked to consumers, but these days, the most substantial part of the audience we seek is very active on the Internet, especially on social media. We actually have consumers talking with advertisers, back-and-forth, even seeking out content. And more importantly, they get involved in the conversation about the brand. Feedback is real time. Thanks to the Internet!”

In this interview, he states how the advertising industry is deepening its root in marketing process and what he foresees as outlook for the industry in the next 10 years, among others. Excerpts:

My worry over appointment of communications professional to public offices

Let me use this medium to correct that assumption, as that wasn’t what I said. I think it was sometime last year in Ibadan, I was speaking about the government not actually involving ad(vertising)men, who are in professional advertising, to market some of its policies. That was my exact statement.

How insight communications was cnoceived

Is it correct that there were three major founding directors?                                                                                      The whole idea behind Insight was to bring about specialization in advertising; back then that didn’t exist. The thinking back then was that ad men should be a lot more knowledgeable about marketing issues, unfortunately this lack of specialization caused a lack of focus and expertise. This is what then led Mr Biodun Shobanjo to form the agency –Insight Communications Ltd.It all started sometime in 1978. Firstly, he spoke to a few people in the immediate environment. He spoke to me, thereafter, he spoke to a group: Richard Ibe, late Johnson Adebayo, Sesan Ogunro and Yemi Amogbe. Also, of course, he spoke to his friends, Mr. Goddy Amadi, and Mr Ayo Idowu. That was the birth of insight communication.From day one, when the company opened shop on January 2nd, 1980, 17 people were on board as part of the new company. But the initial core team were the six of us: Mr. Shobanjo, Johnson Adebayo, Richard Ibe, Sesan Ogunro, Yemi Amogbe and myself. Richard Ibe was the Art Director, Sesan Ogunro was the Copywriter, I was in charge of Account Management, Yemi Amogbe was Finance Controller and Johnson was in charge of Production. Of course, the pioneer Managing Director was Mr.Shobanjo.

Insight Communications key success factors

Actually over the last 25 years, we have been Nigeria’s biggest advertising agency. Our key success factors? Number one: our people.Over the years we have consistently kept our focus on finding and hiring the best people, having them trained properly and motivated to produce the best advertising. Our business is a business of time. In our profession it’s all about dealing with two things: fame and fortune. Fame and fortune for your client’s brand; it’s simple, if your clients brands are successful, then you are successful.So it can be said that the success of Insight is directly linked to the success of its clients.“Insighters” make brand success possible, that’s what we do. And as Managing Director, it is my duty to build a winning team and also ensure that team members are motivated and empowered to produce outstandingly bright ideas so that by working with the clients to succeed, they will in turn create goodwill for the agency, and this attracts patronage. That’s what is responsible for the success of insight.

Current trends in advertising industry

Well, in the past, the practice wasn’t that sophisticated. It wasn’t fully directed at producing measurable results. It was all about advertising, to a large extent: advertising for advertising sake.This isn’t to say that we didn’t have top professionals then. We did have some professionals and outstanding people. But their true potential and the potential of the industry were yet to be truly harnessed. Secondly, in the past, the business of ensuring that advertising was built on some sound strategy was lacking. Emphasis was instead placed on just getting the job done. But today advertising in Nigeria is focused on strategy. What that means is that a lot of the advertising you see today is thought through and directed at producing measurable results. Indeed, the impact can be felt.The structures of agencies and function have also changed over the years leaving most agencies to be truly creative. With advertising agencies not bogged down with buying media, more agencies have now cleared the path for in-depth creative thinking. After all this is what agencies should do.

Can you say advertising is working?

The role of Advertising is to create awareness, to create an image for a brand, to create activities for a brand; these are the things that advertising can do. Basically, if a person is not aware of a brand, he or she is not likely to seek it out. If he or she doesn’t seek out a brand, he/she is definitely not going to buy it. But most importantly, advertising builds a relationship between consumers and brands. This leads to brand love, a situation where the brand is beloved by the consumer. There is no stronger relationship in a brands world than this.

How internet has affected advertising

Today, the most substantial part of the audience we seek is very active on the Internet especially on social media. If that’s where they are, then that’s where advertisers need to be; to engage them in conversation and other activities that naturally appeal to them. And just like it’s impact on the rest of the world, the impact of the Internet on advertising is huge. A huge and positive impact that has affected brand conversations, taking it from a one-way thing to an interaction. Hitherto, “advertisers” talked to “consumers”, but these days, we actually have “consumers” talking with “advertisers”, back-and-forth, even seeking out content. And more importantly, they get involved in the conversation about the brand. Feedback is real time. Thanks to the Internet.

Assessment of 40th Anniversary of advertising in Nigeria.  

The advertising industry today is more grounded in the whole marketing process. In the days of old, only a few clients actually engaged in advertising. These were the multinationals. In fact, only very few firms recognized the need for advertising then. Today the industry is well recognized and has produced some top creative minds that can hold their own anywhere in the world. Today, the advertising industry in Nigeria is grown, with old and new agencies alike in a healthy competition that only makes it even better.

Advertising industry next 10 years

Well, in terms of a trajectory, “up” is the only way it can go. However, it is going to be a lot more competitive, the field is also going to get a lot better and interesting. We are beginning to see the attempt by top global agencies to take a stake in most advertising agencies in Nigeria. This means Nigerian ad agencies will also be subjected to all the pressures and stress that globalised agencies face.I think it’s a good development that will lead to a bigger wealth of knowledge being shared between all agencies.

My responsibilities

My typical day starts at 8am in the morning; it runs to 8 or 9pm when I leave the office. I usually get involved with the business. Truth be told, Insight has taken a substantial part of my life, with no regrets though. Insight and the business of advertising is the only business I know so this is the only thing I get involved in.

How I unwind

Advertising is a very interesting business and constantly evolving. It challenges you everyday. And those challenges actually help me unwind because most times I have to think through the problems going home, ensuring that they are resolved. If you love what you do, then you unwind every time you do it. This is why my advice to people is ‘do what you enjoy doing. Advertising doesn’t feel like a job to me anymore. What would I be doing if I weren’t in advertising? Well, that’s not a thought that crosses my mind. For me, insight is not just an agency; it is an idea that I live for. Most of us are committed to always think about insight.

Thrills of my advertising career

What I enjoy the most actually is creating solutions. Taking time to understand what to choose, and ensuring that those issues are properly taken care of; identifying solutions for my clients and ensuring that those solutions, when we come up with them, are properly articulated to the clients. And those solutions then are brought to life in creating and producing adverts for television, newspapers, radio etc. And, of course when the results show. That actually, for me is the satisfaction. So for me, it is not all about the money. It is what you consider as responsibility. It’s a truly good feeling.

Ever handled a marketing campaign that failed

Well, I think that is a difficult question. But even at that, when campaigns are not well received, it gives us the opportunity to go in and rectify whatever the shortcomings might be. And that is the beauty of partnerships, because if you have long-tenured clients, there are enough checks and balances within the whole process to ensure that most adverts that get out of the agency will be successful. So what is failure to me, failure is really not trying to build a brand at all.

Why some campaigns fail

Communication is put together to address what the consumers truly want in the brand. So if the communication is not properly addressing that, it will fail. We should shift focus to the consumers; understand their motivations because that’s what will determine whether the consumers will react in one particular way or another. So that is the major issue, really understanding the consumer. And secondly, ensuring that proper communication is put together to address what the consumers truly want.If the heart of the message fails, then the heart of the consumer won’t be touched. When a campaign touches the consumer, when you get the “eureka” moment, that’s the moment of brilliance, those are the moments that have kept me doing what I do for over 30 years.

 Why people call me Baale           

Well, that has nothing to do with advertising. The name came about probably as a consequence of the way I relate with people. The name was actually given to me by my grandmother-in-law. One day, a friend of mine went with me to visit her. When we got to her house. Everybody was like, “Oh! Brother Jimi is here! Brother Jimi is here!” So the woman looked at me and said, “This man, you are Baale Oko Ilu.” Eventually, that friend of mine spread the story to my other friends. Of course, you know the way it is in Nigeria. Most people, who couldn’t call me by my first name, maybe because I’m their senior, now decide to call me “Baale Oko Ilu”. Today a lot of people just call me “Baale”.

Mr. Biodun Shobayo as a star Icon in advertising world.                                

I don’t think they are wrong. The truth is I don’t think there is anyone in the last 40 years that has positively impacted advertising than Mr Shobanjo.When you talk about the core philosophy behind Insight Communication, you will actually realize that the whole idea is built around the man; he is not given to mediocrity, he is an all-in-all person.

Mr Shobanjo is a top creative; in respect to creative thinking, in respect to business management, in respect to people development, he is truly rounded. Just take a look around and you will see how he has impacted the business of advertising in Nigeria. About a third of Chief Executives of big advertising companies in Nigeria have roots or relations with Insight. And many are never shy to say it.

Working with somebody like Mr. Biodun Shobanjo

I have been with him now for 35, going to 36years. So I really don’t know what it is like to work with any other person. If anybody has influenced me, even more than my parents, because I lost my parents very early in life, it’s Mr Shobanjo. So I always say to people “if there is any defect in me, blame it on Mr Shobanjo or my wife”.When it comes to working with him, as I said earlier, he is an all-in-all kind of person. If you want to do business with Mr Shobanjo, you better be good at it. He places value on integrity, intelligence, and people who focus on doing things well. Over and above that, he is a stickler for excellence. So working with him actually has brought out the best in me. I tell anybody who cares to listen, even though most people think I shouldn’t always say it, I say, “look, I am proud to be a Shobanjo boy”. So if you call me “Shobanjo’s boy” I won’t have any personal grudge with that. I don’t think, as I said earlier, anyone has influenced me the way he has.

My greatest achievements in advertising so far 

My greatest achievement, I think is simply that I have helped midwife an agency that has changed the face of advertising in Nigeria; and that I seriously did with all sense of responsibility. What people say about me doesn’t really bother me, because I do my job as an ad man, good or bad, you decide.

 

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