Global Creative Contests: whither Nigeria IMC professionals?

Like the FIFA World Cup, Cannes Lions is the turf of champions; attracting thousands of entries from agencies around the world, but only a few of those agencies get to make it to the final shortlist. The cosmic buzz that usually characterise Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has come and gone. The imaginative audacity that shot the 2019 prestigious event to a fever pitch is gradually turning to smoldering memories of the show’s impeccable organisational prowess. The long list of fantastic campaigns and creative marketing communications that defined the event will, no doubt, form seminal archival materials.

Traditionally, Cannes winners list is usually dominated by creatives from the United States and Europe, but in the last decade, the winners table has been more diversified. Agencies from Asia and Latin America are now making a case for themselves by pulling off massive wins, even in highly competitive categories.

Except for South Africa, which has had some decent showing in the past by winning a number of Lions, other African agencies seem to have been reduced to perennial cheerleaders and spectators at the annual awards show.

This development has become a major source of worry for Nigerian creatives, some of whom are increasingly frustrated by the inability of Nigeria to make the nomination list let alone win a medal. This year, the winless streak has continued as no agency was able to make any of the Cannes Lion category shortlist. Not even the big agencies like DDB Lagos, X3M Ideas, Insight Publicis or Noah’s Ark have succeeded in flying the country’s flag on the elusive list.

Buttressing the foregoing assertion, Lanre Adisa of Noah’s Ark, whose agency has been tipped as the Nigerian creative agency that is most likely to break the Cannes Lions ‘jinx’ based on its consistent spectacular performances in other international awards, stated that the country’s failure at Cannes is an embarrassment. He stressed that the advertising industry needed to borrow a leaf from its counterpart in Nollywood and the local music industry, by leveraging on Nigeria’s rich and diverse culture to tell the brand story.

Interestingly, Airtel’s Life campaign,  which was done to drive the brand’s data offering went on to win Gold at the 2017 Epica awards as well as helping the agency win the elusive Africa’s agency of the year awards at the 2018 African Cristal awards.

Buoyed by Noah’s Ark’s success in telling the brand story through the lenses of culture, ‘telling the African story’ is now the latest IMC buzzword. There has been a groundswell in culture-incline advertising, too.

Steve Babaeko of X3M recently expressed optimism that Nigeria would soon win its first Cannes medal. He, however, cited some challenges confronting the industry.

“Cannes Lions is a very expensive award to enter from this part of the world because you pay in Euros, mind you, we earn in Naira. The purchasing power of the Naira is low, and this has already put Nigerian agencies in disadvantaged position,” he said.

With 2019 Cannes having wounded down, the attention of Nigerian creatives is now focused on other international award shows such as the New York Festival, Epica and Loeries, all of which comes up at different times in the year. But there are no high hopes for a Nigerian winner at these events. The disappointment at the recently held African Cristal awards still rings loud across the country, and not many people expect that NY Festival, Loeries and Epica will offer any pleasant outcome for the country.


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