Our generation should not be averse to merger and acquisition —Lanre Adisa, CEO, Noah’s Ark

Chief Executive Officer, Noah’s Ark, Mr Lanre Adisa, in this interview with Akin Adewakun, bares his mind on issues trending in the industry and the reasons for the relocation of the creative agency to a new place at Ikeja GRA.

Why I ventured into advertising

My personal story is that our generation must do something. The generation before us has done very well,  the Shobanjos of this world. And if there is anything at all that dragged me to the complex world of running an agency, it’s just the fact that I needed to make a generational statement, with the hope of inspiring other people. And, eight years down the line, it is beginning to happen, and it’s been a very modest story for me and the entire group. It’s just that the dream was bigger than where we started then and it’s even bigger than where we are today.  We believe that the  journey continues for us and I can assure you that our dream is beyond where we are now. We will like to play on the bigger stage, and, most importantly, represent Nigerian advertising, because we believe perfectly in that. Noah’s Ark is an evolving business, an evolving group for us. So whatever we do, we like to put in our very best, and see that we represent our industry and the nation in the best possible way.


The Alicia Virgin acquisition

Let me put things in perspective, we had registered Noah’s Ark, we were set to go and Alicia Virgin was an opportunity of some sort. It might not sound sensible. At the point of starting Noah’s Ark, it was an idea, but what Alicia Virgin did for me was to actually make that dream a reality. Truth be told, Noah’s Ark started on a shoestring budget. There was no money anywhere, there was no account, there was no finance, there was nothing. It was just an idea. Before we acquired Alicia Virgin then, the owner had died, and it was obvious that it was on its way down. The acquisition did two things for me: there was an office space and the agency was a member of the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria (AAAN). So, when we took it on, within six months, it made us a member of AAAN. So I didn’t have to start from my living room. It made me believe this was possible. We inherited two or three people, two of them are still with us till date. It wasn’t that we needed them to start. It was an opportunity and we took it.


Mergers among agencies

It’s a good idea, but every business will determine what is good for it. I think what needs to change for us, as a country, especially as an industry, is that  this- is- my- own syndrome. We don’t always want to let go, even when it’s obvious that it is not working. But the fact remains that if it is not working, it’s not working. In case of Alicia Virgins, it was going to fold up anyway, and we saw the opportunities. For any merger or acquisition to work, you need to see what the interests are. Are there aligned interest? If I’m going to start an agency, what do I stand to gain? Are they bringing in some business to me? Are they bringing in some talents to me? For instance, one of the things that led to the turn-around of Grey London, sometimes early 2000 or thereabout, was the fact that, Grey London was interested in a particular Creative Director called Tim Elliot, and what it did was to buy up Elliot’s small agency, because they needed Tim Elliot. And this worked because Elliot  turned around the output of the agency.  I think it might get to that level here. May be the generation that has gone, it’s been so difficult for them to let go, perhaps our generation should start thinking in that respect. We should not be averse to it.


Poor outing of Nigerian agencies at 2016 Cannes Lions

For me, of course we would like to win at Cannes Lions, it didn’t happen this time, but the thing is that, we will never relent. If you recall, we were the first Nigerian agency to get the national diploma from Cannes, a few years ago. For us it was like a little opening in that door, and we keep pushing. We can also put it on record that this year, we remain the only Nigerian agency that did register for Cannes this year. And that would surprise you, and a lot of Nigerian agencies went there with a retinue of seven to ten people. We believe it is possible. Even if it doesn’t work now, we won’t give up, we will keep pushing, that I can assure you, it may take some time, but I know it will happen.


Noah’s Ark expansion at a time marketing communications industry is shrinking

There are businesses that are still growing. There is really no magic to it. At a time like this, clients will keep demanding, and it doesn’t make serious clients to stop spending. But they may begin to ask questions: why am I spending this? Where am I spending it? Whom am I spending it with? It’s about how much value, you, as an agency, can deliver.  So if there is anything, all the years of  believing in creative output is making sense today. I think client is looking for who is the best partner I can have at a time like this. Yes it is tough, but business must go on.


The nation’s IMC industry in the next two quarters

As you can see the economy is more demanding and more challenging now. Clients are groaning, and there is no way that will not affect us as well. But we are hoping that if the government finally gets to do the necessary things such as pumping money into the economy, that will go a long way in catalysing the economy. But we may not see the results as quickly as possible. In a third quarter like this, I think the year is gone. We can only hope that whatever they are able to achieve this year can be built on next year. Look at the last AAAN AGM, a couple of agencies were delisted. This is not good for the industry.