Advertising Agencies Should Be More Professional In Dealings – Innocent Oboh


Mr. Innocent Oboh is the President of Dijo Group of Companies based in Lagos. He is one of Nigeria’s finest marketing communication experts with deep knowledge in brand building. In this interview with, Mr. Oboh spoke about the importance of creativity and professionalism in the business of advertising and other relevant issues. Excerpts… 

Advertising Agencies Should Be More Professional In Dealings – Mr. Innocent Oboh, President, Dijo
Mr. Innocent Oboh, President, Dijo

How would you rate professionalism in the Nigerian advertising agencies?

I will talk about professionalism from two different perspectives. Firstly, professionalism within individual practitioners, secondly, professionalism within advertising agencies.  I must confess that creativity here keeps growing and that is the truth. We are becoming more creative, people are more creative and professionalism is deepening. Creativity is a wholesome thing, it is not just artwork, it is an entire process that starts with understanding what the issues are and proffering a creative solution that will address and identify the need that will grow a brand. That is creativity from advertising space point of view.

It is not creativity as per fashion or artiste. But what you get these days when you see beautiful campaigns outside and begin to wonder, what is this guy trying to say? You listen to radio and wonder that, what are they trying to say? The admittance into our creative space is too porous. I know what it took some of us to become creative people. We went into a proper process and we were properly trained. We understand how to think because thinking is a process. We were taught how to relay our thoughts and we were also taught strategy, artworks, events and whatever tool of marketing you may want to use to bring your thoughts to life.

But today, you don’t have that level of creativity anymore. When you come to professionalism even from an agency stand point, there is a lot of undercutting which in my days as a client, I frowned against it. I started as a journalist before I became an agency guy, later moved to the client side. As an industry, we should have standards that we operate from. The standard could mean, this is rate for something, no  agency should undercut it simply because that agency wants billing. Because the clients are taking advantage of this and at the end of the day, it is the creative guys that will suffer it. If we get our professionalism right in the thinking process and job process, agency as corporate bodies should be more professional in dealings; it will be a much better place for all of us.

The last part for me when it comes to professionalism is about agency guy which suppose to be a consultant to the client. An agency guy is more like a back end. But what do we have today? I remember in the days before I joined advertising and even when I joined advertising, an advertising guy is seeing like an extra brain. I remember sitting in meetings where you have your account director talking to a managing director and the managing director is taking notes, I saw all of that happened. What has happened today? The agency guys are being tutored by the client, which is not suppose to be.

A thorough bred professional should know much about that subject and the solutions ahead of the client because that is why the client needs you. If you come with superior knowledge as a consultant, what you will get all the time is the client taking note and for us at Dijo Communications that is what we do all the time. We always want to be a step ahead of client all the time. So that when we are talking to you we are proffering solutions.

What is your general assessment of the Nigerian Marketing Communication industry?

For me the industry is over segmented. There is no shared value. The segmentation is almost led to the collapse of the entire industry. The over segmentation has led to non-professionals coming into the industry. When we joined advertising, we were taught a 360 degree approach. As an ad man I needed to know how to build my media plan and all of that. That is why you are a consultant and you are certified to do this. But what you have today is over segmentation and the result is, you have an ad man who says is a media practitioner but he doesn’t know any role that media plays in experiential marketing.

You have an ad man who says he is a digital person and he doesn’t even understand concept development. So, campaigns are becoming weaker and unprofessional. There is no full integration which further takes away the consultant feel of the ad man from the marketing communications people. Because the client will say no, I did all this myself just go and execute. Is it to negotiate canopy, I will negotiate myself, just come and sit there and supervise the event. This is what is happening in the industry because it is over segmented and the client seems to know more than you which is not suppose to be the case. So, the industry is over segmented, we need to move into shared value. Share value is where an organization can proffer all solutions through one solution to client.

I know it was hot to do independent. But in the clime we are today, can we survive the way we are in twenty years? I doubt seriously, because what we are going to have is that clients are going to recruit this independence in their offices to deliver on their objectives. They will just employ a strategist, media manager, digital manager, event manager, outdoor manager and production manager that will shoot commercials for them, that becomes problem, they don’t need you anymore. The leaders of the industry need to think about it. What is the mode of entry into the industry? What certification do you need to get into the industry? Who should the client do business with? What kind of certification should client be looking out for?

And very importantly, should the client in the first place be having in-house agency? Because we are so porous, we are not speaking with one voice, we are suppose to be under one strong formidable group, not APCON now, a group that should speak on our behalf as an entire industry because APCON is government. We need an umbrella body, just like the clients have ADVAN, irrespective of your industry you are a member of ADVAN once you can advertise. We need an umbrella association that will speak for us because we have gotten AAAN, EXMAN, MIPAN, OAAN and others. There should be an umbrella body that will comprise all these have mentioned.

If there is one formidable force to speak, while we still keep our sub associations, we will remain powerful. If you ask me today, I will tell you the industry is over segmented, the mode of entry is too weak. The entire thing is being done by everybody. Everybody carrying laptop is saying, he is a media buyer. There must be a regulation for mode of entry, not just everybody can wake up and say, I want to do outdoor or other areas of marketing communication. But I feel that shared value is the future.

There is this believe that advertising is dying in Nigeria, what is your take on this assertion?

Advertising cannot die. It can only deep, but it cannot die. Why? Advertising in the current form in terms of advertising agencies will need to move into the shared value mode to remain relevant. But if we keep on operating the way we are today as extreme independence some sectors might go into extinction because the client can deliver your service. Let us take journalism for example, for you to be a journalist you have to go to school to study mass communication or journalism to have a certificate to work in media houses but today, with my phone, I am a journalist. If anything happens in Sango-Ota, you will hear it first from phone journalist before Channel TV tells us. So, journalism as we were trained in school is changing.

So, that is also applied to advertising. Today, boys can sit on their laptops and create concepts and post it online. The new thing that is happening now is that, clients are also beginning to look out for these young boys who can create concepts for them. They have a strategist in-house who gives the strategy. You have one young boy sitting in France or Sokoto who is quite good they send him the brief. Under 24 hours the guy turns in exciting concepts, that is where problem comes in. How do you integrate this guy in and control him? Because is taking your share of business. Guess what? The guy cannot build mega campaigns, but because we have thought clients the segregation.

A few months back I was speaking at EXMAN conference and I said, today, you have decorator calling themselves activation agencies. Yes, they take activation briefs. Not too long ago, I experienced a music production agency executing brand activation. These are the guys that are taking your business. So, coming back home to advertising, in its real meaning will not die but the way it is being exhibited in Nigeria could die very soon because brands must continue to advertise. Brands will continue to be in the face of consumers. But how do advertising practitioners remain relevant in this changing face? This is what we need to sit down and begin to ask ourselves. How do we come together to think through this? How do we raise the fence to control the mode of entry? How do we also showcase ourselves as true consultant as we are supposed to be?

What do you think can be done to raise the bar of advertising practice in Nigeria?

We should have a proper academy. We need to be certified. Before you even do marketing not even advertising now, you need to be certified. You cannot do law without being certified. You cannot do engineering without being certified because no organization will employ you without certification. Are we saying that our field is a charlatan field that anybody can come in, no? We are very sound intellectuals. Our game is the game of psychology because we take the consumer on a journey to make him buy a product even if he doesn’t need it.

We create the needs. For me, that is a big mind game. We need to be certified. We need an academy where every ad man needs to go through before you can be called ad man. This should be the industry standard. Even from the client side, they should also insist that agency personnel must be certified. For example, if you want to hire a legal firm, you ask the lead Barrister to present the dossiers of his lawyers. Can’t we do that? Don’t you think this is relevant to our own industry too? Once there is certification, once the bar is raised and there is an academy that you go through, I tell you, not everybody can come in, even the clients will respect us and they will not pay us peanuts anymore.

Can you tell us the success story of your agency since it was established?

One of our big success stories is the way we built Hero Lager. How we were able to help our client to steal the East from beer leaders of Eastern market. We created a concept that Igbo man is a proud man. He is a man, proud of his heritage. We created a message that addressed that need and Hero was created. Hero has been a huge success. For me, I will say, it’s a Guinness Book of Record success. A brand that grew and sold the highest volume of litres in this country; the Igbo embraced it because is talking into their hearts. That is a good example of success story for us. For us at Dijo Communications, all our brands are success stories, I must say. All the brands we have worked on since inception are success stories even for the group.