Mr Tunji Abioye is the Founder/CEO of Fuel Communications. Having spent sixteen years of his career at Rosabel Advertising Limited, he became the first non-founder Managing Director of the agency. He left Rosabel, March 2010 and in May 2010 established Fuel Communications Limited (a through-the-line brand communication agency with an uncanny ability to push ‘unpopular ideas’ that promotes growth for brands). In this interview with MARKETINGSPACE Crew, Mr Abioye speaks about Rosabelmemories and the strides at Fuel Communications. Excerpts…
Kindly tell us about yourself?
My name is Tunji Abioye, and I am today, the CEO of Fuel Communications Limited. I have spent about twenty years in marketing and marketing communications. Before the establishment of Fuel Communications, I worked at Rosabel Advertising, where I spent sixteen years of my life. I left Rosabel as Managing Director.
How would you assess the business of Marketing and Marketing Communication in Nigeria?
My assessment of the industry is that it has grown, and it is still growing. I say to people all the time that marketing and marketing communication is a practice that never leaves one bored. There are always new things to do and new ideas to explore. When I look at this segment of the Nigerian economy over the last twenty or thirty years, I can tell you that the segment is growing phenomenally. Marketing and marketing communications in Nigeria has been a major contributor to the growth of brands and companies. New brands that seek growth and enlargement, thus, know where to turn. I have been a part of this world for about twenty years, and I can tell you that the growth has been very exciting.
What prompted you into Advertising and Marketing Communication?
Even while I was at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, I could not say categorically that I was going to end up in marketing communication. It found its way into my list of options and crept to the very top of it finally. In my final year, as it is often the case, my friends and I talked about what we were going to do after school and advertising was not top on my list of considerations then. My primary focus was banking and FMCG environments. I had a few friends who had some friends in advertising, and that was how I got introduced into commercial communication. From there, it became one of my options. Shortly after the compulsory one year national service, I came to Lagos where I began the process of sending my curriculum vitae to prospective companies. I got invitations to interviews and tests. It was also about this time that Rosabel Advertising Limited began its management traineeship programme wherein bright fresh talents from universities were hired and trained in the business of helping brands talk with consumers. I was invited and I wrote tests, attended interviews and finally got hired.. Once I was given an opportunity at Rosabel, I took it and of course, the rest is history. I never looked back. I discovered my passion and inclination towards the intricate use of language, signals, logic and consumer insights to convince or persuade others to behave in a particular manner. It became a natural forte for me, and I have grown in it over the years.
Can you tell us some of your legacies you left behind at Rosabel Advertising Limited?
First and foremost, I would like to salute the wisdom of the founding fathers of Rosabel Advertising. I think most of us who joined at a point when Rosabel was blossoming had a fantastic opportunity to learn from the masters of the game. We gained a lot from advertising greats like Chief Akin Odunsi, Mr Tunde Adelaja, Sir Steve Omojafor, Dotun Adegbite, Bruno Osih, Sam Johnson, Ayo Oluwatosin, Tayo Sulaiman, Nkoli Ogbolu, Eshiett Ben Essien, etal. It was such an exceptional opportunity we had. We had the opportunity of riding on the shoulders of giants. We had great training, excellent exposure, and we had the chance to work with the best brands in the market. These opportunities helped me to develop soaring muscles as the eaglets. Beyond that, we also had the chance to learn from the business outside the shores of the country due to the international affiliations that Rosabel had. It was quite a take-off and an excellent opportunity. We also gave our best to the agency. In those days, we worked so passionately that we did not have a ‘sense’ of closing time. Once we resumed work, we were in until we were tired. We really enjoyed the engagement, breathing life into brands and helping them to grow. We had such a great team too. The experience at Rosabel was huge, and it soon gave us the edge to lead. By the Grace of God and with the trust that the owners of the business had in me, I became the first non-founder Managing Director of Rosabel.
I became Rosabel’s Managing Director when she turned thirty. It was a really defining moment for the company and me. We were able to execute a 30th anniversary celebration that was as huge as it was meaningful. We got the agency to be involved in a project to support the Down Syndrome Association of Nigeria. At that time, Agencies just wanted their celebrations to be elaborate and showy but with the 30th anniversary of Rosabel, we decided to identify with a cause that was as big as it was meaningful. We decided to support the spread of awareness for Down Syndrome. This decision was a very timely intervention because as at that time, Down Syndrome was quite unpopular in the country and consequently was garnering very little support. We threw our weight behind this cause and involved our clients and even our staff to commit resources to the cause. Today, when I see some of the things that are happening at Down Syndrome Association of Nigeria, I am happy because we were a part of it. I am also pleased that over the years, Rosabel is still up and running. The agency has passed through its challenges, but the business is still doing well. Colleagues that I left behind are still flying the flag.
Tell us the beginning of Fuel Communications?
Fuel Communications began about five years ago. It began as a little trigger by God in my spirit that it was time for me to move on to doing something else other than being an employee in a thriving top flight ad agency called Rosabel. This jerk happened in 2009. As at this time, I had spent sixteen years at Rosabel. I prayed about it and got some clarification about the company that was about to be born. It was going to be a sort of poster agency for ‘unpopular ideas’ both from the perspective of what we offer and then how we offer it. When we actually started in May 2010, it was a very lean takeoff. We started without any client. We got our first business with Chi Limited (who gave us our first break). Today, God has prospered our firm that sometimes I lose count of the brands in our basket. Our joy is often to work with brands that are adventurous and willing to go to places earlier uncharted and to do new things. Clients that will say ‘nothing is impossible’. The company is still growing and evolving. The journey has been as interesting and exciting as it is challenging. When it comes to talents-hiring, two things are important for us from the beginning : competence and character. Neither of the two criteria is negotiable.
Does Fuel Communication have any plans for foreign affiliations?
As a company, in our choice of partnerships, we pay deliberate attention to value alignment. We do not have any aversion to affiliation to international agency networks but we insist on value fit. As we speak, a few agencies are in talks with us but we have not reached any conclusion. We are still weighing our options to be sure that the partnerships are going to be mutually beneficial to all.
What are the benefits your agency has derived from AAAN being a member?
My response to this question is going to be in two folds. As an organisation, for our membership to be considered worthwhile, we expect that AAAN should naturally benefit us. AAAN provides an umbrella for agencies who are practising in Nigeria to have a collective voice and to provide value-aggregation for the advertising practice in Nigeria. For example, the only surviving creative awards in the industry, today, (LAIF Awards) is hosted by AAAN. Beyond that, AAAN had provided what I called a lobbying machinery for the industry with government in the past and is still well positioned to do same.
The other fold that I am going to talk about is that those of us that are agencies under AAAN also have a duty to the organisation. These obligations include paying dues promptly and participating in the things that are going on in the industry and of course, in AAAN. Agencies must collaborate and ensure that frontiers of the business are expanded. So, I look at it from two sides, what can we derive from AAAN and what can AAAN derive from us as members.