Re-engineering brands that have problem is our core value, says Fadoju
Chief Odun Fadoju, is the MD/CEO FCB DP Partnership, a Lagos based leading advertising agency. He is an experienced marketing communication practitioner with almost 30 years experience. He takes DANIEL ANAZIA on a journey through his professional life.
Did find advertising or it found you?
Let me say that I got into advertising by accident and not by design. In 1989, I left University of Ife as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy where I lectured year one students in the department a course titled ‘Introduction to Logic & History of Western Philosophy. I wanted a more challenging career and so I relocated to Lagos. Same year I read an advertisement by PAL Advertising Limited asking for application for the post of a visualizer. As part of the requirements for this position, they said the applicant must be logical, highly creative and brilliant. When I saw the advert and the requirements, I laughed with confidence because I knew I had what it takes to get the job. So, I went to the agency in Yaba and the MD, Mr. Ayo Owoborode, who is currently Principal Consultant Servewell Limited and immediate past chairman, Board of Trustees of Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), did not bother to look at my credentials but just called the Creative Director to give me a test.
The man gave me a pencil, eraser and paper and asked me to draw some images. It was so funny to me that I asked the man what he wanted me to do with pencil and eraser as an expert in logic. He then that asked for my CV, and when I gave it to him, he looked at it and started laughing and said despite my university education I did not know what a visualizer was. He then said they were looking for an artist and not an expert in logic. I was embarrassed, but the MD (Mr. Owoborode) looked at my credentials and said, ‘hey young man I need you here and I will give you a trial.’ He employed me as a management trainee and gave me the juiciest account in the agency — First Bank Plc — to manage with him. So, I started brilliantly well with a good account to manage, and that was the beginning of my journey into advertising.
So, it was Mr. Ayo Owoborode, who gave me the breakthrough into advertising and he remains my mentor till date. I had since worked in many agencies including Kilburn Advertising, Bluebell, Rocke-Forte, and so many other agencies but the last was Sunrise DMB & B, where I left as the Managing Director in 2003 to team up with others to set up DP Partnership, which today is known as FCB DP Partnership, and we have been in existence for 16 years with ups and down but we have come out strong and remained strong. We changed from DP Partnership to FCB DP Partnership following our affiliation to the global brand giant in advertising, Foote, Cone and Belding (FCB).
As an affiliate of FCB network in Nigeria, we are fully subscribed to FCB’s 6.5 seconds philosophy. Also, we have access to FCB pool of resources and proprietary tools. This translates that if an advert is created and it did not get the audience’s attention or get them provoked in less than 6.5 seconds then the advert isn’t there yet. That is the standard for FCB and for us as an agency. So, all ads created, especially radio and TVC are and must be tested against this policy. Check all our commercials and you are going to see that they followed the 6.5 seconds philosophy. We test our copies against this principle and any shortcoming is remedied. The most recent creative strategy and philosophy from FCB Global call ‘The Never Finished Scale’ is the new propriety we are currently using in the agency. As an agency, we recognize that it’s not about size; we are painstakingly alert to filter through the lines and concepts.
It was alleged that you lobbied for your company’s affiliation with FCB. How true is this?
That is a fallacy. Let me set the record straight. We went to Cape Town, South Africa for a shoot sometime ago, while we were having some discussions with the production house we were dealing with, someone walked in and one of the guys said that is Philip, the Managing Director of FCB Africa. We exchange pleasantries and casually told him we were looking for affiliation but he said no, no, no, we have a Nigerian affiliate, which I affirmed I know and asked if he has any one he could link us up with but he said they were not interested. We finished with our production and came to Nigeria. Two months after, I got a call from South Africa and the caller said his name is Philip and I said who is Philip, as I couldn’t reconcile the name; I had forgotten about him. He then refreshed my memory on how and where we met.
We got talking and he asked if I was still interested in the affiliation, which I said yes. He then said I should send a letter of invitation to come to Nigeria. He came visiting us and saw our office. Then, we were at a two-bedroom office. He was marveled at the size of our office and the quality of jobs we had done and doing at the time. He said he is interested working with us as we are like ‘a raw gold that needs to be polished’. I didn’t write any letter or made any presentation, they came on their own to us. Three weeks later, he sent another letter and said the FCB senior team members and some FCB clientele are willing to meet with us; we should send a letter of invitation to them.
Advertising is all about razzmatazz; if you are meeting a global heavyweight agency or company you must do all you can to win their account. After an hour of presentation, the team asked that we give them the room to review our presentations and take a decision. We went outside and waited at the reception. While there I was somewhat ruffled in my spirit because before me was an opportunity that either make or break me but I kept my cool and my team didn’t know what was going on with me. 45 minutes later, Philip came out to meet with us and suddenly he stretched his hand and said congratulations, the team has agreed to work with us; I couldn’t believe it. That was how we got the affiliation and the beginning of breakthrough. I don’t know Philip from Adam, God brought and used him to my advantage.
I’m saying this because there have been insinuations that Fadoju went to South Africa to lobby for FCB affiliation. Some said we sent letters to discredit and blackmail some agencies to loss their affiliation with the group. This is truth and nothing but the truth of how we got our affiliation. The Honeywell Bam Bam La La banger was seen all over the world, and that also helped with affiliation. After that Unimer Group Morocco, owners of their Titus and Sardines brands knocked on our doors through Ekulo International Ltd in Lagos. The brand has been in the Nigeria market for more than a decade and they have not done any campaign. That period was our highpoint of success, and suddenly there was a nosedive in 2016. It was that terrible that in a single year we lost seven accounts not because we are not good but due to the in-house philosophy of the clients. If it were to be some agency, they would have shut down. We didn’t sack any of our staff except for a few persons that left on their own volition. What we did was come together, re-strategise and cut down on our salaries.
Your company have existed for 16 years, definitely there must have been ups and down during the period. What were the challenges and how did you pull through them?
Like I earlier said, we came into existence as an entity 16 years ago, 2003 to be precise. When we started we were just three staff with no single account. I had just left Sunrise DMB&B as Managing Director. God being on our side, I was the Account Director for P&G brands like Always Sanitary Pad, Vicks Lemon Plus and Vicks Blue. I told the Brand Managers at P &G that I was about to start my own agency and they gave me all I needed to support me. We started with Procter and Gamble (P&G) account and they supported us immensely. For the first six months the company was the major account we worked on. From there we started getting other accounts like Tiger Food Limited, Swift Network Ltd. We were the first agency that worked and launched the Swift Network into the market. With the God’s grace, we break even within the period of six months. But the opportunity that launched us then as DP Partnership did not come until Honeywell Flour Mills Plc keenly contested pitch for its brand — Superfine Flour, Honeywell Semolina and Honeywell WheatMeal accounts.
Of the four agencies that contested for the accounts, we emerged winner based on our superior strategic and creative interpretation of the briefs. Our creative works for Semolina was very outstanding, and the management was very impressed with it. We were first given the Semolina account. When the brand was introduced into the market, customers and dealers were not ready to accept the brand because the dominating brand then had taken over the market. We launched an aggressive campaign in December of the year with interactive market support. The campaign became the talk of town and within six months Honeywell Semolina became a household brand. The then Marketing Director, Mr. Benson Evbuowman of Honeywell Flour Mills Pl. was very supportive to our agency. He was very open minded and we worked as a team for over 10 years on the account, Today, Honeywell Semolina is the leader within the category leader having push back the dominant leader to No 2.
Our success with Semolina paved way for to be given other brands like WheatMeal, Pasta, and Noodles. We recorded a similar feat with Honeywell WheatMeal and today it is also the category leader. Our creative with Honeywell Noodles Bam Bam lala was a banger and rewarding, both for us agency and our client. We took over the brand from as a distant No. 8 to No.2 slot within six months of the campaign lunch, challenging the market leader. The management of Honeywell Flour Mills Plc. gave us our agency an award as the key provider of the year in 2012. The only agency in the history of the Honeywell Flour Mills Plc. to be given such an award. These feats made us the agency to reckon with and performance gave the leeway into other businesses, while it has also gotten us referrals and sometimes invitation based on campaigns for other clients. Re-engineering brands that have problem is our core value. We have done it for about two, three brands and there have been positive results.
We have just re-engineered the Delta Soap brand, which was launched on Monday, October 22, 2018. The feedback has been massive since the released of theme song tagged ‘stay fresh’. To achieve the feat, we didn’t do the normal thing we do; we went out to get the best producer, sound, artiste, and studio. It was titled stay fresh because we believe everybody, particularly young women want to stay and look fresh, attractive and fired up always. The re-engineering is wholistic because it cut across the size of the soap, the ingredients used and the cover pack. Just like what we did with Honeywell Noodles Bam bam lala, Titus; with the new campaign, we have taken Delta soap from where it was to a new position in the market, which the management of Orange Drugs Limited, makers of the soap has commended us for a job well done. They have sent us a brief to start working on the TVC production. We believe in making statements with our creative through the brands that we handle.
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