Government needs to improve on information management to successfully fight COVID-19 —Lanre Adisa, Group CEO, Noah’s Ark
The Group Chief Executive Officer of Noah’s Ark, Mr. Lanre Adisa, in this interview with Akin Adewakun, acknowledges the various efforts of federal and state governments at fighting COVID-19, but cautions on the need to improve on information management to enable them effectively prosecute the war against the pandemic. Excerpts
With COVID-19 threatening humanity and businesses, across the globe, what do you think the nation’s integrated marketing communication, especially the creative industry, should be doing at this time?
This is a time that is beyond anyone’s imagination, both on the side of the client and the industry, that is the marketing communications industry. So nobody has a ready-made answer for a time like this. But, be that as it may, decisions are being taken, based on happenings as they occur. It’s a time that will force on us belt-tightening. Businesses are almost in a coma, in most instances, because there are little or no activities going on around the world, not just in Nigeria. So decisions are being taken by most multinationals and local businesses, as they may suit their conditions. Things are very tough for everybody, both the clients and the agencies. So, it’s a time that calls for partnership more than anything else. When things are like this, resources are almost non-existent, so whatever it is that is available, we need to make the most of it. So taking the best of opportunities for the brands in our care, and looking out for what is best for the brands, right now, remain our best option. Budgets are being cut here and there, and when budgets are cut, that means you have to re-order your priority. It means you have to justify every spend. So clients are looking for agencies that would show such level of commitment and empathy and professionalism.
Some say that one of the likely fallouts of the pandemic, will be a downward review of marketing budgets, since many businesses are presently on hold. Do you think an ailing industry, such as the nation’s IMC, has the required shock absorber for this?
The issue is not even about post COVID-19. It’s about what is being done now. As we speak right now, a lot of businesses are taking decisions, about their trades and other things. The fact remains that every business will like to stay on, whichever way. So they will be looking for different tactics and strategies that can help them survive this period, and the thing would apply to agencies as well. Agencies would have to take decisions as well. The most important thing is staying on. And how do you ensure that you stay on at a time like this? It’s like you are in the middle of a storm, and you are the captain of that ship, your most important option is being able to still that storm and going through it with the crew. Definitely it will leave a very big impact on our industry, depending on the portfolio that you handle. Some will be badly badly affected. Some may not recover from it, unfortunately. Some will recover from it but will be in not so good shape, so to say. You can shake it up, and it may be bounce back at some point. Some may probably be lucky, and not affected, depending on who they are working for, and what they have in their portfolio.
Many believe that post-Covid-19 will bring with it a lot of changes, that it’s no longer going to be business, as usual. What are those things that you envisaged might change in the industry?
Well there is a whole lot of talk about things, not being the same again and all that. It’s good to say that. But I think the reality of this is that man by nature, adapt to some certain changes, but the fact remains that man will always go back to some old habits. So, I don’t want to say we’ll see a drastic change in the way we’ve always behaved, or the way we’ve always done things, and that applies to consumers, as well. But certain things have been forced on us and those things would have to stay with us, and we’ll incorporate them as well into our ways of doing things. But one particular thing that we’ll be forced to live with is the power of digital, be it in the way we interact with out team, as we speak, or the way we do things, across all industries, even journalism. There will still be some elements of social distancing after a while, till sometime in the future. As regards communication, one area of our industry that has not really enjoyed prominence is the digital. Digital will become more popular, going forward. Even for those who never embrace it before, they will embrace it more. So I think that is something that will at the end of the day, bound to be part of us. Certain things will also change in terms of communication, in terms of how we relate with people. But, I think we’ll still have our old lives back, to a large extent.
You are a strong advocate of using communication to actually tell the Nigerian story. Is there anything here (COVID-19 –related communications) that can be used to tell the Nigerian story?
The thing is that stories are reflections of the people. And if you look at it very well, you’ll see that there is still the Nigerian reaction to what is going on around the world. We have a huge sense of humour. That’s one thing about us as a people, and the implication is that, one way or the other, these things will reflect in the communication that will come out of our experiences. Even Nigerians in the diaspora are worried, the way Nigerians at home are taking the issue of COVID-19. We take things not too seriously. And, sometimes that can be a good thing, really, because if you allow the impact of the pandemic to get at you, you might have a whole lot people who will be depressed. Things are tough, there are cases of insecurity in different parts of the city where we live, apart from the country, people have little disposable income. Those things are enough to stretch you. But if you look at the way Nigerians interact in terms of the contents they share or create, you’ll get a sense of optimism, a sense of resilience. And, these are things that actually make us as a people. This is part of the story, as you’ll see in other parts of the world as well. We are living through this particular time in history, and I’m sure by the time we come back to revisit what we have gone through, there will be a lot of amazing things to say. So that story is still part of us, and I think we’ll tell that story the Nigerian way.
How would you rate government’s communication, regarding COVID-19, since many believe governments, especially at the centre, have not done enough enlightenment campaigns concerning the pandemic?
Some people do know that COVID-19 is real. But if we do a segmentation of those who know, and those who don’t know enough, or who don’t know at all, you’ll see that those who know are those who are enlightened enough to follow the news and happenings around the world, and they probably act on what they know. But sadly, there are even people in the urban areas, those down the lower rungs of the economic ladder who don’t believe it’s real, if anything, they will tell you it is a rich man’s case. Definitely, that is coming from inadequate information. Now that people are locked down , I’m not too sure whether the relevant government agencies are going about with their vehicles to speak directly to people on what is going on and what they need to do to protect themselves. I think we need to get to that level, where you are not just relying on the newspapers, the television and other regular channels of information dissemination. Relying only on traditional media might not be enough. We need to find a way, either through that or through community leaders, in those places, to engage with them, especially on the concept of social distancing, to let them know the importance of doing what they are being asked to do. A lot of people do not have a proper understanding of the situation, that is why you’ll see some people take Ogogoro, because they want to use it to cure COVID 19.
I think we have a challenge with information management in Nigeria, so to speak. For instance, despite the daily briefings, people can still get confused in terms of who is speaking, and who is to believe. I think there are things we can do better, regarding information management, going forward.
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