AAAN hosts Steve Babaeko in virtual chat

The Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), in conjunction with Lagos Advertisement Ideas festival (LAIF) recently organised a webinar and hosted Steve Babaeko, the CEO of X3M Ideas and the newly elected President of AAAN. Lanre Adisa, the CEO of Noah’s Ark Communications anchored the virtual session, which had as its theme “Setting a Creative Agenda”. The conversation was to appraise the situation in the marketing communications industry and set agenda for the newly elected executive of the association.

In his opening remarks, Babaeko went memory lane to trace his involvement in the industry’s establishments like Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and AAAN.

“When I was at Prima Garnet, I started getting the opportunity to help AAAN develop creative content. Prior to that period, I wasn’t comfortable with certain things and had some issues with AAAN at the time. It got to a point that I realised I couldn’t just stand outside and complain. Maybe all I needed to do was to get involved. Later, I got registered by APCON. This was when I started taking things about APCON and AAAN seriously.”

On the assessment of advertising agencies in Nigeria and why Nigerian agencies aren’t competing favourably with other global agencies, especially during global awards like the Cannes Lions Festival, Babaeko was of the view that agencies are faced with a lot of local problems that haven’t been solved and there is need to solve this “local problem” before thinking of competing globally.

“Collaboration is key and the need for agencies to come together to promote the survival of the industry is important, said Babaeko in response to Adisa’s view on the Gunn report which rated West African agencies very low when compared with other agencies from other sub-regions in Africa.

“The industry is beset with so many problems of struggling to pay salaries, etc that we must first and foremost survive as a business and this can only be enhanced by collaboration. We are competing badly that we have forgotten to collaborate and at the end of the day the country and not the agencies are going to be called when these global awards are given,” Babaeko added.

The present state of the industry was on the front burner and both discussants agreed there was still a lot of ground to be covered. Babaeko, however, believes the industry hasn’t done badly considering the challenges and the environment it operates in. He believes there is room for improvement in the way things are done in the industry. “It’s better to be late than to never show up,” he said.

Adisa, on his part, was of the opinion that even the big ad agencies are struggling to compete against emerging brands. He gave graphic details of the position of big agencies like Omnicon, WPP and big brands like Facebook, Amazon and Google through a global report. The big agencies were nowhere near these brands (Facebook et al).

“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. Sometimes we want to knock ourselves for not doing enough because of the resilient Nigerian spirit but we must also take cognizance of the challenges of the environment we operate in.”

Adisa quoted James Murphy, Chairman UK Advertising Association, as saying: “Even the biggest agencies are like SMEs in the real world”. Both discussants were of the opinion that mergers and acquisition of emerging brands would be the magic wand the agencies need to survive such competition.

Both the anchor and the guest recognised the contribution of the generation of Biodun Shobanjo, Steve Omojafor, Udeme Ufot and the likes in pushing the industry to where it is. They were of the opinion that they (Biodun Shobanjo et al) achieved so much because they did quite a lot by collaboration. Babaeko was of the view that there was an urgent need for the present generation to equip and train the coming generation to take over in order to strengthen the industry.

There is no gainsaying the role of government in an industry whose operation is strictly guided by a regulatory agency – APCON and the AAAN boss was of the view that a lot still needed to be done to get government support for the activities of the association. In setting agenda for the AAAN under his leadership, Babaeko listed among other areas, the need to give the association a louder voice in the polity, improve women participation in the industry and ensure stronger collaboration among the agencies. In all, it was a very rewarding session that addressed many salient issues concerning the industry.


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