We understand activation like the back of our hands- Kayode Olagesin, MD, Towncriers

Kayode Olagesin, MD Towncriers Limited
Kayode Olagesin, MD Towncriers Limited

Mr. Kayode Olagesin is the Managing Director/CEO of Towncriers Limited, one of Nigeria’s leading experiential marketing agencies. In this interview with Ayobami Lukman Ishau, he speaks about the benefits and importance of experiential marketing over other tools of communication. Excerpts…

 Kindly tell us your journey into experiential marketing?        

I started my advertising and marketing communications career in Insight Communications in 1989. I moved from Insight to SO&U Limited as a Senior Executive in 1991. I was in SO&U until 1995. I left there as an Account Director to pick up a job at Cosse Limited that was just starting operation then with my former boss at Insight Mr. Funmi Onabolu as head events. My journey into experiential marketing actually started effectively with that appointment into Cosse in December 1995.

If you look at the origin of experiential marketing as it is known in Nigeria today, that company played a very key role within that space. We worked on British American Tobacco projects such as the Golden World of Benson & Hedges radio programme. And of course, Golden and Tones initiative which include the road show, we played a key role in its implementation and execution. And again, Nigerian Breweries Star Wheel of Fortune which was the first of its kind TV game show that was an in-bar activation that travelled around Nigeria going into relaxation spots taking TV content out of the bar. That was the first of its kind in Nigeria.

I don’t think anything of that nature has been done till date. The project of that magnitude that featured big Nigerian stars around the country. We also have Star Mega Jam, Star Trek, Star Quest, these are projects that we were part of and initiated. If we begin to look at most of the biggest concerts and events in Nigeria from late 90s to the turn of the century, we played a very big role in that area. I have been very luck having the opportunity to work on some of those projects which broaden my knowledge. If we begin to talk about experiential marketing in Nigeria today, which of course, you must mention Cosse, you must mention Towncriers and I think somewhere along the line you will mention Kayode Olagesin.

How would you assess the business of experiential marketing in Nigeria?

I think we have seen some fundamental shift in terms of the way things are been done. At one point in time, very big things were done in Nigeria like the one I mentioned earlier. The B&H concert which was heavy that has sixty to seventy thousand people in attendance. You will see people gathered, considering the intensity and the frenzy that builds up to those concerts.

The kind of things we were doing then really defer logic. When you have concert and you now have it back to back over three or four days having that kind of events in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. Think of the logistics behind it with an international act and the constraints in terms of the technical support. It was pretty difficult in those days to search all around the west coast and sometimes even outside looking towards Europe and South Africa to even source for equipment to be able to fulfil artistes riders. Today, it is easier because we have lots of people who have equipments that you can use to stage concerts.

We have a preponderance of very big projects but now the thinking has changed. Then we use to do one big stuff that brands will leverage. I just told my colleague to do a map out in Nigeria where we are involved in projects currently. We are only absent from three states right now which is Gombe, Yobe and Borno. And of course, we recognise that the only reason that is happening is because of the insurgency.

So, by the time we put all of those projects that we have in the map of Nigeria we are all over Nigeria. The clients and the kind of project that we do is just the shared size of the touch point that we need to cover and that stretches us in terms of logistics and personnel. So, you must have capacity to be able to do those kinds of project, do them well and deliver.

Since you started experiential marketing what are the challenges so far?

Do not forget that I was part of it at the inception. I had a break and I went back to mainstream advertising with Bates Cosse. I found some things that I couldn’t come in terms with during my period of absence. At a very early stage most of what we were doing clients normally provide the fund because the business is essentially cash and carry. We don’t enjoy that much credit, like you want to pay an international artiste or pay for equipments, venue, hotel or transportation.

Those are things that clients put some money down for you be able to get those things secured. So, it came as a shock to me to come back into that side of the industry and found out that not only clients won’t put advance down anymore they are actually insisting that agencies should go and finish the job before payment. And they are not expected to be paid in another thirty or sixty days as the case may be. It is crazy, it is not sustainable. When you begin to look at the challenges of assessing funds now and the reality is that the industry has become lots more constrained as a result of cash flow.

Our business seriously suffers from cash flow and any business without a cash flow is not a healthy business. Also, we have environmental factors to contend with like area boys, security issues when you plan concerts or outdoor events. All of these are issues that we need to contend with. That is the reality of where we are for now. The issue of finance that I talked about earlier, I think it is an industry issue that we need to sit down with our clients and discuss because personally I think it is something that is not sustainable.

How effective is experiential marketing over other marketing communication tools?

They all serve their purposes. Advertising will communicate with the mass media and as such you can reach lots of people at the same time and pass a message through pictures and words. You can actually influence people’s behaviour with advertising. So, when you have communication as a platform through which you can communicate with lots of people you can actually influence the behaviour consumers. With the advent of technology, you can get lots of assurance in terms of effective delivery and reach.

The reality of experiential marketing is that the thing you experience stays with you. Let me illustrate it this way. Imagine two guys chasing a girl, they are both from the same neighbourhood they are chasing this very beautiful girl. And one of them travels and goes out of town and every now and then he will write beautiful letters and send cards to this girl. And you have another person who is very much around who comes to visit her, who takes her out on walks, takes her out on dates, this guy is creating memories with that girl. No matter how much he prefers the other guy because that he is so far away. Sooner or later, the person that has been engaging her, making her smile on daily basis that is the person most likely she will end up with and that is the difference.

Your agency has handled several briefs for big clients in the country; can you tell us how you were able to achieve all of these?

The fact that we have well rounded marketing communication experience that cut across advertising and BTL. That means we have understanding of strategy and creativity from an agency perspective. In fact there are times that we actually developed some creative concepts that solved the problem for clients that their retained agencies could not solve because we have the competence internally.

This is not competence that we are going to buy, this is competence that has been with us through the years. That is our advantage and we are using that as strategy. We have the creative know-how and we also have the benefit of experience for being at this for many years.

So, we know Nigeria like the back of our hands. We have a very beautiful mix of people which means we are very comfortable in the most difficult market or places we find ourselves, so we blend in easily. Wherever you will find audience or consumers, I am sure Towncriers will be there to deliver engagement and experience to register our clients’ presence. So, experience is one, capability is another and we have the resources.