A special tribute to advertising guru, Ted Mukoro

Theodore Austin Mukoro (aka Uncle Ted) passed on quietly in the morning of March 7, 2018 at age 89. It is a great loss for our country and our creative industry. Uncle Ted was a veteran star actor and film producer. He was a writer and a voice-over artiste. He was also a composer of music, a radio On-Air-Personality back in the days.

He went on to play the original Village Headmaster at NTA drama series I grew up watching every Thursday night in the late 1970s. 

Luckily for me, I would personally encounter him years later when I worked in the creative department of Lintas Advertising in Ikoyi. Uncle Ted was the Creative Director, the heart and soul of the agency. Oh Lintas was packed full of larger-than-life characters, who have gone on to be leaders in various spheres: from Chris Doghudje, to Eskor Mfon, Dele Adetiba, Ron Mgbatogu, Yori Folarin, Stevie Laoye, Tony Ogunlana, Sir Steve Omojafor, Lolu Akinwunmi and many others.

But Ted Mukoro was the ‘mood’ of everyday agency life. His creativity was spontaneous, sustained, spirited and fun. He connected the brand message to the consumer by mining deep the cultural reserves of the Nigerian mind. The classic commercials he wrote are unforgettable and effective – “Weke weke weke VONO” “Black thing good Oooo” for Guinness “Shine shine Bobo” for Star beer and many others. He was a quintessential advertising man and loved building brands. 

But Uncle Ted was also a wonderful caring father. When I joined Lintas in 1987, Uncle Ted’s office was right next to Chairman Sylvester Moemeke’s up on the top floor of 202 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. We, the small boys, who just began our careers, were kept somewhere on the lower floors and very much down the food chain. But I can’t recall a single week in which Uncle Ted did not wander into our office to tell his Warri anecdotes, make us all laugh deliriously and teach us something useful about the creativity process. Uncle Ted never just entered a room; he blew into it. And whenever he left, there was always more laughter.

Of course, as with most creative people, Uncle Ted was a bagful of contradictions. He chain-smoked and drank hard liquor to some inhuman degree. His coffee was drunk cold. He loved a lewd jokes and his laughter would ring throughout the building out into the quiet streets of Falomo, Ikoyi. But he never missed morning mass at his church in Maryland, Ikeja. He was up to speed on every tenet of the Catholic faith and was almost ordained a Priest!! I almost got whiplashed the day he let us young ones into his past calling in the seminary. 

In the succeeding couple of decades since I left Lintas, Uncle Ted has remained a presence. Sometimes he would call out of the blues just to chat. Sometimes, I would meet him at an event and his memory of times and events and names just never waned. He would ask about so many of my previous colleagues such that I am forced to check up on them and their welfare. Ted Mukoro was a force for good with my generation of creatives, who passed through his tutelage. He showed us by example that it was possible to be creative, intelligent, widely read and widely connected, and still be human, humble and heart-warming. 

May his beautiful soul rest in peace! 

• Odugbemi is manages DVWORX Studios and ZURI 24 MEDIA

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Ted Mukoro

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