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‘For global recognition, advertising efforts must reflect Nigeria’s cultural worldview’

Mr. Steve Babaeko

Mr. Steve Babaeko

For creative works from Nigeria to make the needed impact globally, the Nigerian story and cultural worldview must be embedded in commercial narratives. This was the advice of Chief Executive Officer of X3M Ideas, Mr. Steve Babaeko who was part of the jury of the New York Advertising Festival held recently.

He said getting the invitation was an exciting experience for him, as it was a fantastic and eye-opening event for him. Babaeko said getting the cultural narrative right has become imperative if marketing communication efforts coming out of Nigeria would compete and come out tops at international awards.

Although some stakeholders had canvassed this position in the past, it was yet to gain currency. Babaeko, however, explained that both the agencies and their clients had become more conscious of that direction. He stated that once both parties agree that that is the best way to go then things would begin to look in the right direction.

He noted, “Everybody is scared that cultures die, and how do human beings sustain cultures if you look at the hundreds and thousands of years that humans have been in existence? The most potent way of sustaining culture is through the oral tradition – it’s in your music, poetry and today advertising is part of the communication landscape – it’s in your advertising.

“For us to be able to sustain our culture and make sure that the generation coming after us is still able to see and refer to them, we must include that in our narratives. So, once across channels, across boards between the client and the agency we see that that is the surest way to go then we get there faster”.

Since clients play a critical role in going in that direction, how could the clients buy into changing the narratives, the boss of X3M Ideas admitted that it would not be an easy task.

“If you look at advertising, coming up with the idea is 50 per cent of the job, selling it to the client is the other 50 per cent. The onus is on you as an agency to sell the idea. You must stand up for your idea, fight for it until the client says, ‘shut up your dirty mouth, I am your client’ then you let it go and find something else.

“The truth is that if you believe in the idea the onus is on you to stand up for it and sell it. For example, when we did the Francis Odega ‘Gerrara here’ for Etisalat, which is as local as it can get and it took us a bit of selling. We sold the idea before we wrote it. The client has bought the idea before we sat down to write the script. Agencies need to do more of that kind of vigorous pitch to clients because having an idea is like having a baby. You have to care and nurture the baby; it is the same thing with ideas.

“Generate the ideas, take it to the client, sell it, make sure you nurture the process and the production is fantastic just the way it was conceived and making sure the environment is right. Your job never stops until the final execution”.

Babaeko, however, put a caveat that winning awards as far as creativity goes is just one aspect of the whole agenda, because the creative is also needed to sell the client’s brand.

He added, “The father of advertising, David Ogilvy says, ‘If it’s not selling, it isn’t creative.’ So, while you are battling to win awards, do not forget the goose that lays the golden eggs. You must move the hand of the needle for the brands in your custody.

“Secondly, our society is evolving. If you listen to the music of the past like Ayinla Omowura, to paraphrase one of his songs, ‘If a woman is beautiful and does not have good character, I can’t marry her but if a woman is beautiful and also has good character, I can spend N1,000 to marry her. In that song, he captured the snippet of a moment in time, when that song was recorded.

“He captured the fact that N1,000 was of so much value back then. It’s like taking about using N10,000,000 to marry such a wife today. In music it is done decently. Because the society keeps evolving, generations after us will always find something in our cultural environment that will trigger creativity. There will always be something.”

While commenting on the difference between New York Advertising Festival and Cannes Advertising Festival, he said while Cannes is almost like the World Cup of Advertising using football parlance, New York is a major advertising event on the advertising calendar globally but that it does not necessarily involve everybody. He stated further said that Cannes is where everybody in advertising gathers, the Mecca of advertising.

He promised to share the ideas gained in participating in the award with colleagues at home including reflecting in organizing Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF), an advertising rewarding system in Nigeria.

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Mr. Steve BabaekoX3M Ideas


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