The Managing Director, Noah's Ark Communications Limited, Mr. Lanre Adisa, whose agency emerged the first creative agency in Nigeria to be recognised by Cannes Lions recently, took Raheem Akingbolu through the values that have catapulted his company and the need for local agencies to always strive towards international standards. Excerpts:
Impact of Technology I have said this severally in a few public fora that the advent of the computer unfortunately for our industry is a disservice. And if we look at it carefully, there is nothing wrong with technology but many people in this part of the world tend to abuse its usefulness. We must be in control of the tools; the tools must not control us.
For instance, it's demeaning for creative people in our industry to believe that they can move or copy images easily. It must be about craft, not copying and pasting and I believe that was what helped Noah's Ark to attract the Cannes Lions Award. The idea must come first; we must not just be copying something somewhere and pasting. I think what technology was meant to do was to finish what a human has done. In order words, it garnishes the work of creativity.
Rating the LAIF Award One, I think the stakeholders in the advertising industry deserves some credit to have started and sustain the Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival (LAIF) in the first place. Don't forget the objective is to inspire the industry for us to do better; an objective a few agencies have been able to stand by. However, the industry is still not growing at the pace that we expected, considering the outcome of the last award.
It was sad that six gold awards were all that were won on the night. I think it calls for concern and I expect that we find a way of getting ourselves together; set higher goals for ourselves so that come next year, we will have a better showing at the LAIF award. This notwithstanding, we need to keep LAIF going and improve on whatever thing we are doing. Most especially, we have to work in other to compete with international standard even though we are talking to Nigeria audience because the same Nigeria audience will log onto cable TV, satellite TV and see what is obtainable at the outside world and get excited.
Qualifier for Noah's Ark Awards I will start from where I ended my response to the last question which bordered on the need for players in our industry to always produce creative works that would be of international standard. For someone like me, from day one when we started the career at the SO & U Saatchi & Saatchi, we were made to understand that we were part of a global network and should always try to match what we did with what others from other part of the world on the same network did.
Based on the quality of jobs that were coming out from the network, we were inspired to be outstanding anywhere we find ourselves. Coming from that background, I always see any creative work that comes my way as a material meant for international competition. The thing with our industry is that people don't seem to know that what we are doing should align with global standard. If you look at what is happening in recent times, compared to those days in either the US or the UK, the world has changed. Now we have strong markets in countries like India, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, and so on; there is no border as far as advertising is concerned. This is what drives us, we are not definitely saying that what we are doing is appealing to audience outside Nigeria, but we are saying that there is a universal language which should be the standard.
Therefore, we have to benchmark ourselves to the standard of all creative people all over the world. It must be such that it is inspired by our border line. Take for example, Prof. Wole Soyinka's work is always inspired by Nigeria experience, but anybody anywhere in the world that picks up his work will know that this is a thoroughbred writer. I want us to understand something; we can't say it is all about Nigeria. Yes, we write for Nigeria but it must be seen beyond the shore of this country.
Details of Cannes Recognition Cannes Lions awarded two Press Lions National Diploma awards in the Craft/illustration category to the agency for its works 'Sassy Woman' and 'Angry Man' both for Indomie 210 grammes. It was entered for the 60th international of creativity held in Cannes, France between June16 -22, 2013. We were happy because it came from the world's biggest annual awards show and festival for professionals in the creative communications industry.
Previous International Recognition Let us liken advertising to what happens in the football world, where some will say they would want to play in the Champion's league, while others would say they want to play in the premier league. As an Agency, when we started in 2008, we have our five years vision of becoming one of the best adverting Agencies among the league of best creative organisations in Africa. Reasons for that are simple; when you look at some parts of Africa for example, South Africa, Egypt, and even some part of Asia, you find out that their works are recognised beyond their countries and even by Cannes but none in West Africa. Before the recent recognition at Cannes Lions and the awards at LAIF, last year, our work was published by Luezer's Archive, a worldwide advertising archive that is globally regarded as the 'Bible' of advertising. The Archive is a bi-monthly publication that showcases the best of advertising from around the world. It was the first Adverting agency in West Africa to have attained that level. This is not just for us but for the industry, Nigeria, and West Africa at large, that is what drives us. Yes you can say it is done by Noah's Ark, but for us, the credit is for the industry.
Making an Appealing Campaign The work first and foremost must be unexpected, unexpected in the sense that any creative person that sees the work will say; wow! I wish I did this work. It is unexpected because it is also relevant about the work. So, there is unexpectedness and there is something about what the content will have to do with the audience you are talking to as well as the brand you are talking about. Anybody anywhere in the world will look at that picture and say we can see the idea and understand what the idea is all about. However, this depends on wherever you are, but it must be such that when anybody in the world of creativity looks at, would say this is a great work irrespective of Country.
Background Linkages The truth of the matter is I am a creative person and I will always be a creative person. Beyond this market, when you look at the big agencies in the world, you discover that the pioneers of such agencies are creative persons. Therefore, I suppose there is a link between who I am and what I am doing now or what our agency is doing.
Cannes Awards and Cultural Differences I disagree completely with the belief in some quarters that Nigerians haven't won Cannes Awards because of cultural differences, where proponents of such belief think that the jurors often find it tough to interpret our work. Like I said at the beginning, the problem with the communication industry is that as a creative person anywhere in the world, there are basic principles that guide your work and such principles have to do with innovative ideas that are fresh, unexpected, and exceptional.
They must be works that have not been executed. Truth is if we say we are peculiar and don't do peculiar things then something will be missing. India is like Nigeria, in terms of number of people and in fact ten times more than Nigeria. And in terms of languages, they are far more than what we have but in terms of competition they are also far ahead of us; they are globally reckoned with in the industry. We talk about Brazil, why has Brazil become more visual with their communications? This is dependent on their ability to communicate to an audience that cannot read or write through the use of visuals. So, Nigeria can only cling to that level when we reposition ourselves for change in such a way that we can communicate to our larger audience that cannot read or write by our own experience.
Feeling on 2013 Life Award Like I said, we should commend stakeholders for sustainability but the result had shown that we still have a lot to do. As an agency, we feel grateful that we have again set a very high standard for ourselves going by the performance at this year's life award. It was a good outing for Noah's Ark because after Insight communication that came first on the log, you have Noah's Ark, followed by X3M idea and DDB.
Expectations for Next Five Years It is very simple, like I said when we started, we had a vision, it is not a boastful vision, and the vision is that we want to be successful in all ramifications in the advertising industry. We want to be the hub of creativity in West Africa so that Nigeria will be mentioned in the continent report. For us, it is not for Noah's Ark, but for the industry and the country at large.
Affiliation No! We are independent. If I must be sincere, what affiliation is all about in Nigeria today isn't inspiring at all. I don't know what I stand to benefit aside from the fact that you get one rusty account and all that. And as far as this business is concerned today I don't think one needs any affiliation network to excel. However, it may change tomorrow; we can become a hub of creativity so that agencies from other parts of the world would want to come to us.