As a judge, I see my role as a way of giving back to the global industry -Maurice Ugwonoh

NYF’s powerhouse Grand Jury represents the most diverse brain trust of prominent advertising creatives from 50 countries around the globe. This esteemed peer-nominated panel provides a 360-degree creative view of the advertising world today and play an important role in selecting the World’s Best Advertising. NYF’s Grand Juryjudge entries from over 100 countries worldwide and determine which creative campaigns move on to the medal round.

C. Ugwonoh is an accomplished Creative Director at Noah’s Ark Communications, an affiliate of the Dentsu Aegis Network in Lagos, Nigeria. Starting his career as a copywriter, for over a decade he has worked with some of Nigeria’s brightest Advertising and Brand Experience agencies. Throughout his career, Maurice has developed campaigns for Nigeria’s apex brands while turning less stately brands into formidable market leaders. His work has been honored at both notable local and multiple international awards competitions includingEpica, African Cristal and Loeries Festival Awards.

Maurice started his career as a copywriter and over a decade, worked with some of Nigeria’s brightest Advertising and Brand Experience agencies. This creative safari exposed Maurice to developing campaigns for Nigeria’s apex brands while turning less stately brands into formidable market leaders, thus acquiring the opportunity of winning notable local and multiple international awards spanning Epica, African Cristal and Loeries Festival Awards.

New York Festivals: Why judge…and how do you find the time?

Maurice Ugwonoh: Accepting the offer to become a Judge in any creative festival is like being summoned for Jury duty. And it doesn’t get any bigger than being called to Judge at the 2018 NYF. For me, this is a privilege. While creating amazing work may be its own reward, it is an astonishing experience to have the honor of evaluating the global creative community’s finest works. I don’t walk in thinking … “hey, look at me…I’m a judge at the NYF”. It’s all about the works first, second and all the way. I understand that each work is a masterpiece in its own right, however the level of idea, craft relevance, impact and judging criteria helps separate the best.

As a judge, I see my role as a way of giving back to the global industry and bringing all my years of experience to bear in recognizing exceptional work and giving it the chance to be seen by the world as a piece of inspiration. And how do I find time for this? Well…honestly, I don’t find time, I make time. Once I accept to be a Judge at any festival, I make the deliberate effort to carve out time in my busy schedule to accommodate such obligation. This may require that I put in extra time after work, sacrifice weekends or simply take a short leave of absence to attend to the role. It depends on the scale of the festival really.

New York Festivals: What cultural/social changes do you think will influence this year’s work?

Maurice Ugwonoh: From bringing niche culture to the mainstream to making pop culture such personal experience, advertising is definitely the dais upon which the world spins. My top two social & cultural trends that I believe will influence the advertising world are, Rise of the Vocal Woman as seen in the explosion of women coming out to speak truth to power and the Boomaisance.  From Hollywood heavyweights such as Harvey Weinstein’s, Kevin Spacey and Steven Siegel to Media powerhouses like Charlie Rose, Russell Simmons, Bill O’Reilly, Sports Icons like Sepp Blater, Political titans like Al Franken, Roy Moore and even President Donald Trump, no doubt, this will have a power shift in the way men/women dynamics is leverage by top brands intending to be honest, responsible and real. Oh, I just got a buzz on my mobile news app a second ago that a CNN producer just got fired over claims of inappropriate sexual behavior. I tell you, it’s happening per-hour across the world.

I also figure that there will be what Culture Vulture calls The Boomaissance. The phenomenon is simple.Getting older is becoming cooler and this according to Culture Vulture means Boomers are becoming more relevant for brands. According to the trend report platform, “The music festival Desert Trip premiered in 2016 featuring music icons like the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan. The year also marked a graying of the fashion and beauty industries with older models being featured in New York Fashion Week and gray becoming one of the hottest hair color trends. Brands and advertising will use this to reposition their place in consumer criteria list of favorites.

New York Festivals: What was the hardest ad you ever had to create and why?

Maurice Ugwonoh: The hardest ad I have ever created also has the distinct place of being one of my most memorable ads till date. This was for the TV ad “LOST” from Noah’s Ark Advertising for AirtelNigeria’s “Data is Life” campaign in 2016. The Nigerian mobile telecommunications market is chiefly characterized by four major competitors.  These are MTN, the biggest telco company in terms of subscriber base and coverage, Glo the first indigenous Nigerian Telco company, Etisalat the newest entrant and considered the most youthful and Airtel, which for the most part was in dire challenge of self-differentiation.

In 2016, all three telcos except Airtelintroduced 4G LTE into the Nigerian market. Airtel remained on 3G. While MTN, Glo andEtisalat promoted their 4G respectively onthe category convention of price and speed, Airtelknew that to curb certain loss of it’s subscribers, it had to establish a clear, differentiated andsuperior narrative of its 3G technology. So, we decided to get raw insights from the horses’mouth. We spoke to Millennials and digital natives and asked them what “Data” the world’s fuel for internet access means to them. The insights retrieved were astounding. Many compared Data to Air, to life and most said they would be “lost” without data. This was how the campaign theme: “Data is Life” was created. Between myself and my head copywriterBaruch Apata, over 60 TV scripts were written.

However, the first script I wrote “LOST” became one of two TVCs produced to become two of Nigeria’s most iconic TV ads till date. The ad became such a sensation that it helped deliver over 1.5 million new mobile data subscribers for Airtel under three months in a period where category growth for data subscription was shrinking. In spite of its 3G proposition, Airtel quickly became Nigeria’s fastest growing mobile data telco network. Winning notable awards both locally and internationally. Lost only recently won Gold in the 2017 EPICA awards in Berlin and became Nigeria’s only international advertising award for the year and also Nigeria’s first ever-international Gold for a TV ad.

Lost went ahead to become one of 19 other TV ads lauded by the ADweek with the headline “20 of the world’s funniest ads you might have missed this year”. Working for over 4 months to deliver that campaign with my ECD BolajiAlausa, Account Planner Fred Akinmuyisitan, Jumoke.

Akinyele our account manager and BaruchApata wasperilous. Butat the end, it paid off in Gold.

New York Festivals: In 3 words or less, what do you think about 6 second commercials?

Maurice Ugwonoh:“Make It Count”. That’s what I think about 6 seconds commercials.

New York Festivals: What movie or book best depicts the theme of your life?

Maurice Ugwonoh: I love fiction. Science fiction. History fiction. Fantasy. Mythical. I believe we all strive for Epic Moments and the imaginative world give us a canvas to live such greatness. These are the movies and books that move me, and I like to see my life chronicled as.

Apocalyto produced by Mel Gibson is one of those types of movies. But ahead of that, are books written by Wilbur Smith. River God is probably my best ever book. Followed by Monsoon, Blue Horizon, Warlock, Desert God and so on. There’s an ancient grace of wisdom with which Wilbur Smith writes his books which are all pretty much nestled in the continent of Africa. It will be spectacular to have any of his books adapted for film.

New York Festivals: Favorite travel destination?

Maurice Ugwonoh: For now, any other African country is magical for me. I’ve been to a few, Tanzania, Kenya, andSouth Africa, Morocco. Would love to visit more for the love of experiencing the wild and untamed. It’s my escapist way of tapping into a world of cultural creativity where for most part I’m a native genius. The mix of the primal and the sophisticated, the country and the cosmopolitan awes me greatly in such beautiful way that I believe you can never find anywhere else. Next year, it will be Seychelles, Mauritius and hopefully Madagascar for me.


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