Creative agencies have now moved beyond just advertising to facilitating value creation for the client’s business – Tunde Shobanjo

Tunde Shobanjo is the Head of Business/Chief Operating Officer, Leo Burnett Lagos, one of Nigeria’s fastest growing agencies based in Africa’s most vibrant city, Lagos.  He is a high-performance leader with more than 15 years in the service industry and a passion for defining, developing and executing a business vision, ensuring that all people and processes are in place to support the strategy and deliver results.

An accomplished, productive professional with broad marketing, client relationship management, business and brand development, research and marketing experience, as well as knowledge of shopper marketing, digital communications and the ability to develop and maintain mutually beneficial internal and external relationships.

He speaks extensively about the agency and the industry, both now and in the future, in this interview with MARKETING EDGE. Excerpts.

 How is your company coping in this pandemic period?

 One thing holds for us – People come first; therefore, our agency shut down two weeks before mandatory shutdowns for our employees’ safety. Being digital natives made the transition less complicated for us to adapt to a new work-from-home reality. It also allowed us to get a jump on the work from home transition, so as the rest of the world made the switch, we were already settled and ready to help our clients as they went through their transitions.

 How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the Creative Advertising profession and business in Nigeria?

 COVID-19 is changing consumer behaviour – and, therefore, advertising. We have come to see that wherever consumer behaviour has shifted, advertising spend has also adjusted in response. As confinement measures were introduced worldwide, things such as out-of-home and cinema advertising shrank almost instantly; print advertising also fell. It simply makes little sense for advertisers to spend on media with no audience.

Before the pandemic era, Advertising was already based on performance, as clients were continually tracking marketing efforts against performance objectives. A year after working through the pandemic era, benchmarks have become even more ROI based. Creative agencies are forced to think beyond just advertising to facilitating value creation for the client’s business – from start to finish. Close attention to understanding the client’s pain points present massive opportunities to create, deliver and capture value. Agencies that fail to adapt and offer more value risk going out of business in the long run.

How would you describe the new normal in Creative Advertising practice in Nigeria?

Adaptability and evolving skills are two things that currently describe the new normal in our practice. For some agencies, what the rest of the world have termed the “new normal” already existed before COVID. People worked remotely; however, since COVID, more agencies have become adaptable, growing in leaps. Media consumptions have improved, especially on mobile.

However, the “new normal” has created some behavioural shifts. One thing we can probably all agree on is that the media industry may never be the same, and we’re experiencing a sea of change both in how content is produced and consumed – and intelligent advertisers are stepping up and adjusting to the quickly evolving times.

The new normal in the Creative Advertising practice demands self-direction and a thirst for making big decisions quickly. Digital capabilities have to be a watchword for all practitioners. There is also a need for empathy as people’s lives have been turned upside down – not just consumers but employers. Younger employees are sitting at home working on client briefs, talking on zoom calls and dealing with the pressures that come with it.

There’s a new onus on collaboration between creatives around the world. Virtual collaboration has become very crucial in these times. As everything around continues to evolve, the best that agencies and brands can do is adapt and cater to the emerging trends while maintaining a solid connection with clients and consumers.

How does your company’s philosophy of HUMANKIND impact its performance in this pandemic period?

HumanKind™ is more than just a philosophy. It’s our DNA. It’s not just about customers or consumers; we start with people and their behaviour. And we use all our intelligence, design thinking, digital innovation, and people experience capabilities to shape that thinking into behaviour and business-changing solutions.

At Leo Burnett Lagos, we believe that creativity is the most powerful business today – and the pandemic further validated this thinking. In an increasingly commoditized world, creativity is the most significant competitive advantage for our clients and their brands. Our ability to use the HumanKind™ playbook to mind map our creative thinking process into crafting original, disruptive, transformative ideas is rooted in a deep understanding of human behaviour. This proprietary tool challenges old thinking by framing key issues to help us solve. It’s what we bring to every business problems. We started life as an advertising agency, but we’ve completely transformed our business. We embrace technology as a critical enabler of creativity. We’re continuously innovating to build new services and capabilities to deliver unique solutions for our clients, especially in these difficult times.

What are the current strategies being deployed by your company to drive its revenue streams and growth? How impactful have the strategies been?

One of the key strategies we have applied to accelerate business growth is to specialize by identifying key industries and focusing on core service offerings. Also, clearly understanding our clients’ business and issues allows us to engage with far more clarity and create more impact and growth opportunities. At Leo Burnett Lagos, we think ahead of the clients’ vision and make conscious efforts to focus on the long-term brand building when creating solutions.

We believe every company has a story to tell. When your agency can genuinely understand your client’s business story, you can engage their audience with far more clarity, impact and opportunity. This is the kind of thinking that has led to the recorded positive trajectory.  This is the kind of thinking that has led to the recorded positive trajectory.

What is your assessment and forecast for the Creative Advertising industry in 2021?

Predicting the future can feel particularly daunting after the year we just had. Our business changed dramatically in 2020, and clients will want partners who are accountable for their business. Being personally invested in the client’s success is an art that advertising professionals have come to take for granted.

As consumers embraced digital channels at an unprecedented scale and expected consistent brand messaging across the board, the ability to reach audiences across traditional and digital media has become paramount to every ad agency. The pandemic has expedited the ‘do or die’ need to create a compelling 360 degrees of consumer experience.

Clients will be increasingly looking for consolidation of their marketing spending with fewer partners – for cohesive messaging and better efficiency. For companies like Leo Burnett Lagos that have capabilities from long term brand-building and traditional advertising to digital and experience, 2021 will be full of opportunities. We are focused, therefore, to work closely with our clients, partner them in their digital transformation journey and, in the process, open up many new revenue streams for ourselves.

How well is your agency supporting your clients through this period?

With the pandemic still around and the economic outlook in Nigeria gloomy, we owe our clients the responsibility to help them find creative solutions to the problems they face. Beyond being agile to react to ever-changing competitive environments, we must stay conscious of the broader trends taking place as the pandemic influences the way consumers behave by ensuring our engagement activities are relevant.

We have also supported our clients through content re-imagination. For us, it was about what content we could help clients refresh, reuse, re-purpose or re-imagine?

We have also realized the priceless value and importance of partnerships. Overall, collaborating effectively, with trust and respect, has been the foundation for success.

How is the agency currently positioned?

We’re currently positioned as a boutique agency, differentiating us from the traditional full service agencies – we’re focusing on niche clients, offering specialized services to suit their specific needs.

We’re constantly leveraging “Humankind” – our DNA and platform for Consumer Marketing, Strategy, Experience Design and Implementation which are our key levers for differentiation.

Has the advent of the new normal affected your positioning?

Absolutely. The new reality has inspired us to become more adaptable, focused, future thinking,and data driven leveraging technology and data to deliver optimum, and informed solutions to our clients.

As a company, how do you hope to up the ante in your operations and deliverables this year?

Recruiting the best talents, evolving our ways of working, and leveraging our “glocal” competencies to deliver real measurable value to our clients’ businesses. We are well aware that Clients are going to need big ideas that truly integrate their communications and distill their brand purpose, and we are not afraid to be bullish and make a compelling case for communications deeply influenced by the brand’s ultimate customers’ needs in the ‘new normal’. It’s not going to be a time to be timid for us.

 What are the unique selling points of Leo Burnett?

Our founder was an extraordinary leader. Leo Burnett founded the company in the middle of the Depression, when every media pundit was betting against him. But he succeeded magnificently, challenging the artifice of Madison Avenue with his insightful, warm and very human style of advertising. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most creative people of the 20th century. His imprint on culture and business was profound, and his values, beliefs and ambitions are hardwired in our agency.

The HumanKind™, philosophy which guides our company today, is a direct manifestation of Leo Burnett’s view of people and ideas.

We’re famous for our culture. People often tell us how warm, open and humble Burnetters are.  But it’s our ability to combine that “down-to-earth-ness” with incredible ambition, a deep sense of purpose, genuine respect for each other, constructive risk-taking, and an openness to continuously change and innovate that we believe sets us apart.



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