Govt must adopt marketing communication strategies to educate the governed —Bunmi Oke, Chief Executive Officer Ladybird
In this interview, former president Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and Chief Executive Officer of the newly-founded Ladybird Advertising Agency, Mrs. Bunmi Oke, talks about her forays in the nation’s integrated marketing communications industry, the present state of the industry and what government must do to let the people understand its policies and actions.
How would you describe your experience in Nigeria’s advertising industry in terms of growth and opportunities?
I will boldly say it has been very exciting as well as challenging. You know the industry is also very dynamic and always evolving like every other business in the face of changing needs, client expectations, trends and technology. Advertising is a very competitive industry, especially from the perspective of more informed consumers and clients. Today, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and some clients who believe in do-it-yourself (‘DIY’) services using the social media platforms, the digital world and technology, are also changing the creative agency landscape. Multinationals are equally building more ‘in-house capabilities’, hence the need for agencies to develop the expertise, plan strategies and original creative concepts which clients cannot obtain within, if they are to remain value-adding partners. We all know that the digital space is evolving faster than expected, with today’s innovation becoming obsolete the next day; agency which must cater for the needs of such client must be abreast of such changes and be ready to deploy at the go.
You have spent years in the industry, especially 141 Worldwide, with your former agency, and made tremendous impact. Now you are on your own, do you still feel the same passion, or what has changed?
I have been in the marketing communications industry in one way or the other since 1986. I have been a distinguished female Fellow of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) since 2009. What has kept me going for over 30 years and made me relevant in the industry is my sincere desires, passion, and genuine interest in brand- building, developing marketing communications and training people to attain their professional goals. The need to keep re-inventing self is at the heart of growth and relevance. I keep re-inventing myself and working with the ‘winning teams’. Marketing communications business, while it is challenging, is also a very exciting and thrilling endeavor, I must confess. So, the passion has always been there, but this time it is being deployed to fulfill a more personal touch to marketing communications business. Let me also tell you that bringing up other women in advertising to the corporate suits (C’-suites) is very dear to my heart, hence, my participation in women in business (WIMBIZ). My interest in women advancement is pushed further through my participation in Women in Politics Committee (WIMPOL), which I currently Chair, amongst other interests.
What informed the setting up of Ladybird Advertising and what are the core values and philosophies?
Ladybird Limited is a divinely inspired marketing communications agency, which has a feminine proposition. Just like ‘mother nature’, Ladybird is an agency that ‘nurtures’ brands and businesses to great success because of the way we care for our clients and brands. With detailed knowledge and creative expertise, we give the ‘ feminine touch.’ We ‘nurture like nature’. Just like the Ladybird Insect that is the farmer’s only useful bug, we aim to be our clients’ one and only most indispensable advertising and marketing resource. We are bold, vibrant and contemporary, as our brand colours reflect.
How would you assess government past and present policies as it affects the marketing communications industry?
Let me admit that the current government have very interesting reforms and policies in areas like anti-corruption, ease of doing business in Nigeria, and in the agricultural sector to mention a few. But these reforms are known only to a few elites and industry leaders; very few of the multiplier effects of such policies are understood by majority of the populace because government does not effectively communicate and use full-fledged 360 degree marketing communications strategies and plans to educate the governed. Government should use professional like us to do the job at all levels of governance, as done in advanced countries, for effective communication, and to achieve the desired change. Information via news alone cannot do the job of ‘communicating for change’. Multinationals do this to sell their goods and services across Nigeria, and are successful. So, why is government not tapping into this wisdom at all levels of government?
As a woman in business, how would you review the present government’s three years in office, especially relating to women issues?
As I noted earlier, the government under President Mohammadu Buhari has done well in terms of policy reforms, however government’s scorecard on women issues, especially in governance, can be a lot more balanced if government addresses the current and serious gender imbalance in the governance of our country. You know women represent over 50 per cent of our population and as such there is more room for their inclusion in governance more than what we have now. Just as we have the youths’ concerns on ‘Not too young to run Bill, and the June 12th Democracy Day, all amended now, top level government appointments for qualified and distinguished women technocrats and professionals
can still be done in 2018 to get the 35 per cent representation as recommended as far back as the Beijing Conference in 2002.
Do you think there is the need for government to understand how marketing communications works such that will engender fruitful interface and continuous engagement between government and agencies?
Definitely yes! As explained earlier, Marketing Communications, Public Relations, Activations, Media Agencies all require diverse advertising and communications skill sets which only professionals can perform and deliver. Even in the current efforts to build brand Nigeria, which again has now been left to happenstance, rather than having a bonafide communications and marketing- mix committee comprising of certified APCON practitioners to do the job well, inauguration of APCON Council remains a knotty issue.
As a practitioner and key stakeholder, what do you think can be done to get government toe the line of professionalism and industry standards, especially concerning the failure to inaugurate the board of Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON) in the past three years?
I will just appeal that government should kindly do the needful. The Ministry of Information and Culture, should list three qualified Female Fellows of APCON and three qualified Male Fellows of APCON and submit to the Presidency to choose a Chairman of Council, so that the Council can get back on track! Perhaps CHANGE should start from here, and we will like to see the change in the advertising industry as well.
Are there still issues with firms establishing in-house agencies as against using registered advertising agencies?
The issues here can only be addressed by the inauguration of the Governing Council of APCON, the apex regulatory body for Advertising practitioners in Nigeria.
The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) recently rolled out guideline on how to make digital advertising friendly and safer for consumers. What are the implications for marketing communications?
Any developing nation that is progressive, reviews laws and regulations periodically. WFA simply did its job and compliance will only allow all to know more about the management in the digital space and make all players responsible, No society or business group can operate effectively without addressing its responsibilities. I think it is a good development as long as WFA and other such regulatory bodies are dynamic and on their toes.
The International Advertising Association (IAA) Nigerian chapter was inaugurated in Lagos recently with the bottom line being that Nigerian practitioners will be more integrated into the global scheme of things, what are your views?
The world is a global village and it is great news for Nigeria to play on the global map positively in any way, be it sports, be it Nollywood or be it Advertising. With the active presence of the IAA in Nigeria, marketing communication practitioners will now have a platform to develop and contribute to the global advertising space with much more ease and to learn via conferences, dialogue and exchange of cultural communication idea.