In Nigeria today, the experiential marketing industry, just like many other businesses and other subsectors of the integrated marketing communications (IMC) industry is striving to recover from various economic challenges. However, only a few innovative agencies have mastered the art of disruption that can accelerate their return to the path of profitability.
From all antecedents, experiential marketing is about bringing people together, because human beings by nature are made to interact and relate. In the same vein, the experiential industry feeds on physical interaction. But the arrival of COVID conveyed the most uncomfortable disruption that the industry never anticipated.
When COVID was gradually easing and as the industry was trying to wake up, what “greeted” everyone was the ‘End Sars’ protest. It compounded issues for the industry. Even when the protest ended after some months, COVID still lingered, sometimes changing forms and variance.
However in the last few months this year, people’s level of interaction has improved. The experiential industry is also trying to revive itself at this stage. The only difference between then and now is that the strategy has changed. Right now, we are doing more targeted activations unlike before when you have the mass activation going on.”
Respected experiential player, Agboola Kehinde, who is Head of Client Service at Oracle Experience recently, in an interview captured in a popular industry platform online, dissected the impact of the disruptions of the last one or two years on his company. His words, “Just like any other company, the impact has been very intense and it’s because we live in an environment that is not very clear in terms of policies. The biggest challenge is not even COVID, it’s how the government had been able to communicate the COVID situation. In January, we were going to do a very massive project, 3 days to the programme, the government came back to say we cannot go ahead, having made plans, worked with people across the country to make the event happen, we were going to have a hybrid event and two days to the time, they again announced the cancellation of that event.
Kehinde also spoke of the impact of growing insecurity in different parts on experiential marketing. His words, “Also, another key problem for us apart from irregularities in government policies’, is insecurity here and there e.g the IPOB crisis in the east which actually set us back for about 3 weeks after we planned an event in that area.”
Kehinde explained further in that interview that the agency is deploying innovative ways to help its clients engage with their customers in this uncertain time by organizing series of smaller events or concerts, among others innovative within the COVID guidelines and other recent policies.
It is obvious in the present battle to unlock the gains after the lockdown that there is no one- size- fits- all idea. The focus for all players should be on new ideation, strategy, and execution. This will throw up new ways of doing things. The sector really needs to look at the whole value chain itself and see how best to address each area independently and innovatively. That is one key way players can develop bespoke ideas for different brands.”
In the last year, we have seen agencies identifying and sharpening their competencies in events and promotional marketing, retail marketing, trade enhancement, digital, social, sponsorship marketing, employee engagement, public event, content marketing, guerrilla marketing, and more.
With immersive and inventive technology, many agencies have brought to life extraordinary ideas that have created emotional connections, fuelled conversations, and delivered business results, even as consolidation grows with the economy opening up after the lockdown.
EXPLOITS GUIDED BY EXMAN
It is these positive developments among experiential players that speaks volumes about the tenacity and doggedness of the young sectoral group, the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), which has readily become a pacesetter due to the great leadership it has enjoyed, and the legacies successive administrations have left behind.
It operates actively within the integrated marketing communications (IMC) landscape in the country, where you have players such as AAAN, ADVAN, NIPR, OAAN among others and it is also a member of the Heads of Advertising Sectoral Group (HASG).
As we all know, experiential marketing is the aspect of marketing communications that focuses on consumers and brand experience. It can also encompass a variety of other marketing strategies from individual sampling to large-scale guerrilla marketing.
To bring the association together and protect its interest, EXMAN was set up in 2013 as a sectoral trade body for forward-looking experiential marketing communications agencies in Nigeria. The aim was to protect, promote and regulate the activities of certified players within the experiential marketing industry
EXMAN’S ROUTE TO SUCCESS
EXMAN inaugurated its pioneer executives on the 3rd of July 2013 to pilot the affairs of the association after completing its registration in line with statutory laws of the land.
The maiden EXMAN exco was led by Kayode Olagesin, CEO, TownCriers, as President. The emergence of the association was vital given the growing trend for advertisers globally and in Nigeria to adopt experiential marketing for brand projection and to drive volume.
Throwing more light on the reason for setting up the association, a year after the inauguration, during the new executive visit to Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Olagesin said “Unlike other sectors of the advertising industry, our sector is not properly organised. That was why we decided to organise ourselves into a professional body with the purpose of building standards within the sector and help the larger IMC industry to grow and also to strengthen ourselves by being each other brother’s keeper.”
Not long afterward, EXMAN developed a Code of Practice for its members to guide our operations and check misconduct. The association said the code is aimed at reducing problems of fake brand activations and roadshows by firms.
Basically, according to the association, its vision is “To be the respected force for the growth of Nigeria’s brands through meaningful experiences” while its mission is “To protect, promote and regulate the strategic interest of Certified players within the Nigerian experiential Industry”
Remarkably, Kayode Olagesin’s leadership embarked on the formation of a Code of Conduct, training programmes, and boost the relationship with APCON and ADVAN while other great men built on his legacy thereafter.
Dr. Rotimi Olaniyan took over from him and he did remarkably well. Some of the things Olaniyan and his team initiated are the launch of the Certified Brand Ambassadors’ Programme, Training and Capacity Building, EXMAN Awards among others.
In 2017, Kehinde Salami, who previously was the association’s General Secretary, took over from him. Salami and his executives built on the foundation established by the previous excos. They were also able to introduce new initiatives such as the ‘somewhere in Naija portal’ which celebrates activities of the member agencies around the country and the significant accomplishment of negotiating and finalising a group financing arrangement for interested EXMAN members with Stanbic IBTC bank. Thereafter, the association elected Tade Adekunle led administration from 2019 to 2021.
This year, EXMAN elected new executives that will take charge of the affairs for the next two years (2021-2023). Veteran marketing professional and Managing Director of Connect Marketing Services, Tunji Adeyinka as President will lead EXMAN.
He was elected unopposed alongside other four marketing professionals by members of the association as the new executives at the AGM held Wednesday 14th July 2021.
Other members of the executive elected are Tolulope Medebem, Vice President (MD, Aster Integrated Marketing); Owolabi Mustapha, General Secretary (MD, Maxx Connection); Shola Antwi, Financial Secretary (Chief Operating Officer, DivergentMS) and Orunkoyi Adeniyi, Publicity Secretary (Project General, Panache Communications).
THE GIANT STRIDES EVEN IN LOCKDOWN
The Tade Adekunle administration came almost at a time the world was battling to confront the deadly virus, COVID-19, and its impact on the economy but despite all the challenges, the executives were able to weather the storm and take the association to a greater height.
Abiodun Oshinibosi as Vice President; Rotimi Rhodes as General Secretary and Bola Oyebade as Financial Secretary are other members of this executive team,
Interestingly, APCON officially recognized EXMAN as a sectoral body in the nation’s advertising business under the reign of the administration.
Speaking at the EXMAN Awards 2021 recently, APCON Registrar, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo said the association is now legal bidding and vowed to continue to work and support the association in all ramifications.
Commenting on the recognition, Adekunle said this is a good development that will galvanize EXMAN into adding more value to the integrated marketing communications industry in the country.
The association also embarked on a lot of training, advocacies for its members and also launched the Brand Experience Summit, which is regarded as the first on the continent.
On other milestones of the administration, Adekunle said, “When we took over the affairs of the association, we set out some goals, lofty ideas that we shared with our team, in the area of training, advocacy, networking and even pushing for advocacy in the area of APCON amidst other things. We started some training, we started well in my opinion because we did something on tax issues that has been disturbing our members, we brought in some tax consultants from key companies and they were able to break it down for us, and how to go about it for our industry.
“The last 16 months have been very challenging but we can still count on some things. For instance, our advocacy with APCON yielded results and is getting stronger, we play a key role with the regulatory body APCON right now and also serving in some of their key committees. As a member of HASG, we took part in drafting the industry position on the APCON law review by the National Assembly and were physically present in Abuja during the public hearing.
“Last year, the brand experience summit which is our initiative to strengthen discussion in the field of experiential marketing looked beyond Nigeria. The Brand Experience summit is the first of its kind in Africa, they have that kind of event in America but you know that the first to start it in Africa will then set the pace, which is what we did. This event would have taken place in 2020 and some speakers were already committed from South Africa, London, UAE, Kenya, and of course majority would have come from Nigeria, for a physical event that perhaps would have seen above 1,000 participants, but COVID-19 started and continue to bit harder and it couldn’t see the light of the day. But to the glory of God, that event took place this year; July 14th and 15th, and it was a hybrid event in which we had over 300 participants, and 44 speakers (4 plenary sessions and 40 break-out sessions over 2 days).”