Latching on the successful outing of the agency at the just concluded LAIF Awards, Taiwo Agboola, Chief Operating Officer, 7even Interactive shares his views on the Nigerian advertising awards and how the agency plans to reach a bigger milestone in the coming year.
How are you able to move from 9th position in the last edition of LAIF to 4th position this year just three years in business?
Basically, it is hard work and passion; that’s the way I see it. We have a team of young and committed professional in the agency. They are passionate about what they do. What we have done is to show what we can offer in the marketing communications industry and more important in building brands.
Recalled that last year we were rated 8 or 9 position, we sat down and asked ourselves “is that the level we want to play?” Obviously, we said no. We need to push ourselves to move along with the bigger boys. The result is where we find ourselves now. However, we are not there yet. I told my team that it is not enough, to be happy is to be first. The question, for me, is next year what happens? I don’t want to have an agency that performs this year and next year we are not found among the big players. We want to be at the top of the ladder by next year.
Question: What are the works that won you the award?
I will mention a couple of works for some of our clients. Uber won considerably in silver and bronze in the radio category. The digital campaign for Mainone also won bronze. The work that won gold for us was a social responsibility campaign that we developed internally called the Frixion campaign, an anti-rape campaign. The truth of the matter is that if you open the metro pages of newspapers on daily basis you would read so many stories about rape cases. It has been prevalent. We felt there was a need to sensitize the community in which we operate and the country at large on the evils of rape by advising people to seek consent first before sexual relations. The idea behind that campaign was that we created a fictional brand called Frixion. We used images of celebrities, musicians and actors without their consent as brand ambassadors for the Frixion brand. Your guess is as good as mine when you just wake up and see your image in newspapers or online depicting you as a brand ambassador for some fictitious brand. People started writing to us; even lawyers also did. We apologized to them and told them that the idea behind the campaign was for a good cause as we want people to realize that you can’t have any sexual relationship without the other party’s consent. The good thing is that most of the people we used were very happy about it at the end.
That particular campaign also won us a bronze at the Loeries, making us the only agency in West Africa this year to be awarded any medal at the Loeries. So, those are the works that won us awards
With these awards, you are now in a competitive environment; how are you preparing for competition?
Competition, for us, is opium; it is what drives us. The truth is whatever industry you play in, if there is no competition, you would be lethargic. That means there is no way your creative output is not going to drop because you are not benchmarking yourself against those perceived to be better. For us, competition is our dream; we tell people to bring it on anytime, we are ready.
If we don’t compete, how do we even measure ourselves? We are very ready to slug it out with whoever it is and we are sure that with the team in this building, we are ready to stand up to competition.
Where and how do you spot the talents that create these works especially as there is a dearth of creative hands?
The creative industry doesn’t depend on what someone studied in school. Most of the times, we look for talents who also reflect our DNA because you can also learn on the job. We are heavy on training and expanding. We look for someone who thinks the way we do as a very young agency, looking at the fun side of issues. So, once we know that you are someone that is very inquisitive, you are welcome on board.
Such a person must be passionate about the job because he/she can be called anytime to come to the office. The truth is that we live for the clients. If the client wants something done, it is our job to get it done. So, if you are not passionate about it, you won’t fit too well into this agency
As a young company, are you not intimidated when you pitch a business against more established and older players?
You can’t achieve except you dare. The truth is that if you are going to be looking at the people you are going to pitch against, you would not be in business because there are some who have been there for 10, 20, 30 years or even more. Aside, if you look at the top five agencies in the LAIF 2017 medal table only one agency is from the old school, which has been there for 30 years. There is a shift in thinking; we are not scared.
We are thoroughbred professionals, we are playful and we go there with the best of works. If for any reason the client decides not to work with us, we shake hands and we move on to the next one. We are not bordered whether there are any antics and we don’t even think of that. What we think about is we compete and we win. If we don’t win, we take lessons from it and we move on.
Most of the older agencies didn’t have an impact at the Awards, what does the future hold for 7even Interactive say in the next 10 years?
There is no disrespect to all those agencies. When you speak of some that have gone into oblivion, you also talk of those that have transcended and still exist. Insight Publicis is going stronger, and likewise DDB just as you mentioned. The business of advertising is dynamic. I think some of them failed to change with time or move with trends, hence, the fate they suffered. Contemporaries have changed over the time. The kids that just left school are now marketing managers and marketing directors. Do you think that a marketing director, who is 28 – 30 years old, will like to meet with the MD of an agency, who is almost 60 years? Even if they meet, do you think they will flow?
We need to keep reinventing ourselves. You don’t need to stay too long on a thing without reinventing yourself; other agencies will come up and outstrip you. When you travel for awards or training in other parts of the world, you see creative directors and managing directors in the age bracket of 28 – 30 and you begin to wonder what’s happening in my industry. The youthfulness and age of ideas also matter a lot in advertising.
Good LAIF is looking up, is the industry in any way getting close to the Cannes lions gold?
I think we are a step closer to getting there. The issue with Nigeria’s creative industry is that we don’t spend time refining our craft, yet we hope that people will understand what we say. This is a minus because we must act “glocal”as if our client is the guy abroad. We must stop thinking that we are looking at the local audience. We must make sure we stand at the highest level of international standard. We won Loeries because we looked at the new media and as well expanded even the most local of ideas. We will get there; we’ve gotten there on the Africa stages, Loeries. We hope that this coming year we will be the first agency to bring Cannes Lion to Nigeria.
There was a time we never even hear of agencies in Nigeria winning Crystal, Loeries or Epica, but things are fast changing. I know for a fact that an agency in Nigeria was shortlisted for an award in Cannes, though, it didn’t make the medals table. Innovation is the way forward. You have to be abreast with the changing trends in the world; it’s a new world order. You can’t just sit here and be complacent.
Can you tell us about the LAIF’s campaign that became ads-of-the-world’s choice?
When we were approached to create the communication for LAIF, we asked ourselves, “How do we see ourselves in the industry”. People sweat it out on the shop floor producing a single ad. Our people slave away like robots. It is same in 7even Interactive and other agencies. We were able to make this something fun, something light-hearted and something everyone will see and identify with. LAIF itself gives you a lot of materials and opportunity to explore. We are delighted a lot if people including international players like the work.
How has the material impacted the Brand?
If you were there at the awards or you have been following the communication prior to the event itself and after, you will see the difference. We set out to make a difference, the materials made a lot of difference and which is commended by all. I must give credit to LAIF’s board for this year’s LAIF Award; it was different. With the innovation witnessed in this edition, I believe a new standard has been established going forward.