BRANDPERSONALITY: Going Abroad to Shoot Commercials, for Some Clients, it’s like a Holiday

Lanre adisaNoah’s Ark, a creative shop owned by young and
vibrant Lanre Adisa, former TBWA creative director
recently clocked five in the advertising business. The
Creative Czar told Afolabi Idowu how the agency has
fared in the past five years and also bore his mind on
other issues in the industry generally. Excerpts

How has it been 5 years on?
It has been challenging just like any start-up but those challenges paid off compared with the opportunities we had been given and what we have done with the opportunities and I think the 5 years has validated what we thought that there was a need for the industry to have an alternative from the old generation, first generation and all that. For the people of my generation who started their own careers in the 90s, by the time I started there was no agency from that era that I could point to that was doing it well and that was what put a mere creative person like me to say that I am going to go into this business world and make a different, so if after five years you look at it you will know that we are doing the something right.

Now let’s look at your industry, there appears to be a lot of creativity in the advertising sector no doubt, especially those of us who write and report, we see some advertising in print, we listen to some on radio and watch on television, some of these are nothing but jargon in terms of creativity, what do you think is responsible for this?
Look behind you, you see a lot of creativity (Art and Creative works exhibitions) though you can say it is not enough, I always tell people that Nigeria is blessed, there is a lot of talented people, a lot of young men who are very talented, that is why you find them going into music, into comedy, acting and to all sorts of things, so we do advertising very well like in other places too, I think what we have is lack of creativity and unwillingness on the part of people who have businesses to really invest on the reason why they are in business. The reason why we are in business is not just to make billings, make money, yes making money is legit but how do you make money? Why should client A come to agency B in the first place? So do we have enough people in those agencies to actually give a good direction, to actually have what drive the agency? But one of the things I find very ironical is the fact that we are into the business helping brands to grow, but how many agencies can you see as brands in their own right? But that is where it starts from. You should see yourself as a particular kind of brand and you should subscribe to a particular set of principles of creativity that would show you what to do. But unfortunately it has just a business for some people, they make money and they go home.

A lot of money goes out from Nigeria on capital flight for production of advertisements abroad particularly South Africa. Why do we continue to have this and what is Noah’s ark going to do about this?
It is a big problem but I think it something that has also resolved itself going forward and you can’t legislate in that regard but big budgets are also going for productions, a lot of clients are asking questions and I do know that a lot of productions are being done locally and the people in local industry have actually improved their acts but there are people who still want to go abroad for some clients. It’s like a holiday and they make money for going and they enjoy themselves and all that. In reality the guys don’t really add enough value. I have experienced a lot of possible scenarios where you have to do everything in South Africa, and wherever you do it I do know one of the things you face is that you start asking yourself that does that person look Nigerian? Did they speak like Nigerians? There is a way a Nigerian will be given a role and he or she can add something to it, ‘Mama Na Boy’ for instance, the music that was song in mama na boy thing came from a Nigerian actress and if I was shouting that in South Africa come on, it is not going to happen, I mean if you told anybody that the commercial was shot in Lagos in Lekki he or she will not believe it, he will think it was done there in Niger delta, of course, we used foreign directors or foreign DOP but it was our stories, so there are different scenarios, I mean I will prefer to shoot in Nigeria.
We don’t have enough directors locally let’s admit it, that can give you interpretation, there are few of them and there are not enough directors, we are not doing enough to raise directors that can actually think out of the box so to say, but that is work in progress but what we have done over time is when you bring people from outside directors ,DOPs, they have people, Nigerians who are assisting them and in the process this guys are learning something new and from that experience I know a lot of people have improved and have been doing well locally but I have abiding faith in what local industry can do, look at the local music video in the world, they do interesting work but it is our duty to annex all of this and you know ensure we have a great people, it’s in our interest to do our own thing but again you need the client that will believe in that as well and agency people, also some times the problem comes from the agency people because they want to have a holiday, so they go to South Africa or whatever and at times go as far as Brazil, China and whatever, so sometimes the client also insists, sometimes I have to wrestle with that when client says I am going to India or wherever because the cost is cheaper for me that I can find black people I can find whatever but I mean somebody suffers at the end of the day.
Now one of the things we’ve done as an agency is that we’ve set up a content production company called UNDERDOG which will also helps us to see how some of our own stuff is faring; you know sometimes the best person to even direct what we are doing is the writer. That happened in Egypt, the guy that writes a story also becomes the director, also directs the commercials, can’t we have that in Nigeria?

Why Creative Safari in the 5th year anniversary?
What is the agency called? NOAH’S ARK! Who are the people in the ARK ? Animals. Where did you find the animals? The Safari, So Safari is a journey and this is just like a first leg of that journey, five years is about the next five years journey. I do hope to make it an annual affair, to bring not just advertising people, but also people in creative business together to talk about the fate of the creative industry and find solutions to its challenges. As you can see today, we can share ideas, we can learn from one another, I can learn from the writers also I can learn from the comedians and we can improve from the entire creative business.
With the influx of advertisements on the internet and the invention of blogging, social media and others if we are to forecast what will you suggest will be the likely future of advertising or the creative industry in the nearest future?
It is not about forecast, I mean every medium will have a role. At one point, there was not television. At one point, there were only print ads and radio, just as you saw the internet and now you can now use radio for advertising also television came. In the same sense, internet has come, we use it for advertising, for what you want to do but it doesn’t kill the other media because other media also have their own strengths and they are still going strong depending on how you use them but our own is to find how to use those media in ways that brands can benefit from them and something else can still come after the internet, what it is I don’t know.

You talk about acts and arts now key both of them together, do you think they can be related to tourism and what did you think government can do in order to annex Nigeria arts cum culture?
The opportunity is that if we tell our stories, if we see ourselves in advertising ,there, we will be seeing things that will celebrate about us, some people may never know what we called Eyo masquerade festival in the first place but it is only when you find this being used for instance in 1990, when I was working in my first agency, MC and A, we had an ads for an airline, an American airline we are talking about Lagos -New York direct flight and we had a statue of liberty on one side and had the Eyo masquerade on the other side you know as a way of depicting some similarities between the two cities and we had the two cities merge into one another in one common water front and if there was consistency over time, people outside Nigeria will get to know that there is something called Eyo masquerade so from one way or the other, it helps tourism. You know the way Brazil has been able to sell the Samba today it is not about the festival but you find that also in their communication and everybody benefits at the end of the day!