Sinmisola Hughes-Obisesan: An amazon in the creative galaxy

Like they say, it’s a man’s world. And when you look around, you’ll find out its actually true. But there are some women out there who have refused to be limited or intimidated by the masculinity of the workplace or any of the other well-known prejudices that hurt women’s legitimate aspirations. They deliberately seize the moment and change the narrative to suit their aspirations.

One of them is Sinmisola Hughes-Obisesan of Insight Publicis. At first sight, she looks every inch like the girl next door; she is tall, beautiful and elegant. Even when she speaks, it’s in hush tones and you will need to strain your ears to get what she is saying. That’s how harmless she looks, but when left alone with only her laptop for company, she is a creative beast; imagining all sorts of out-of-this-world possibilities, and making seemingly difficult task look like a piece of cake.

Sinmisola loves to toy with ideas and in some of those playful moments she has produced great works that have defined her career and made her a force of nature in an apparently male dominated creative universe. Yet, it’s not like she has played her way to the top, in actual fact she has worked really hard and produced works that have astounded many and become a reference point in the advertising industry. One of such works is Pepsi LongThroat.

Pepsi LongThroat was a success by all means, because it didn’t just boost Pepsi’s brand awareness, it also drove volumes by at least 25 percent and nipped two highly coveted international awards for Insight Publicis; namely WARC and EPICA. The conceptualisation and extraordinary execution of the campaign using the social media and celebrity influencers, like Wizkid, Shay shey and Tiwa Savage is one that dumbfounded her colleagues. Little wonder it has become a case study even within the academia.

Indeed the road to Pepesi LongThroat’s success was a long winding and bumpy one, requiring several sleepless nights. In an interview with MARKETING EDGE Sinmisola recalled some of the challenges she and her team had to overcome to ensure that things went as planned. “The main thing was perception; we wanted to make sure the concept was understood by everybody. Because people use LongThroat in a derogative term. We had to make sure we landed the idea positively.

“We slept here several nights; there was a lot to do, especially when we were breaking the campaign. We had to develop a lot of support materials to go with it. Then we had our celebrities. The initial groundbreaking idea was something that seemed organic. It was like an everyday conversation that Wizkid was having with his fans on social media and nobody saw that it was actually the beginning of a huge campaign,” she said.

The campaign actually caused a storm on social media. “This is the first campaign in Nigeria that has broken the internet. A lot of people participated not even knowing that it was actually part of a campaign. It was something that went viral naturally. We were trending over the Premier League. We were number one trend for literally two months. The fact that nobody knew that a brand was behind it was actually ground breaking. ”

Pepsi LongThroat didn’t just put the spotlight on her; it essentially landed her the plum job of Creative Director at Insight Publicis. That indeed is no mean feat, considering she is the first female creative director in Insight’s 36 year history, and she was stepping into a big shoe left behind by Chima Okenimpke, Insight Publicis’ former Executive Creative Director who is now Group Executive Creative Director at Publicis West and Central Africa.

Nobody doubt Simisola’s capacity to deliver, because in the past six years she has played the role of an understudy to Mr. Okemimpke and co-created some of the wonderful works that have come to define Insight, nationally and internationally. As a matter of fact Pepsi LongThroat is actually not her first big creative outing, her resume is a catalogue of several great works.

Indeed, her elevation as Creative Director has come at an opportune time. Firstly, it fell within the period of Troyka’s (Insight’s holding Company) alignment with Publicis, obviously an epochal moment in Nigeria marketing communications history, with tremendous opportunity for growth and international exposure. And secondly it is part of a symbolic change in leadership that saw the emergence of Feyi Olubodun, Insight’s former General Manager/ Chief Operating Officer emerge as the first non-founder CEO of the leading agency.

At his media unveiling last year, Mr. Olubodun said his vision was to make Insight a truly global agency. His strategy for making that happen is to make Insight competitive on the global scene by positioning the agency to consistently win major international awards and global accounts. The agency has already started on that path by winning the Epica and WARC. It also won an international account when it triumphed over several global agencies to win the PepsiCo creative business, which puts Insight in charge of PepsiCo’s marketing communication efforts in 14 African markets.

Simisola is actually a part of the crack team Mr. Olubodun assembled as soon as he was named successor to Jimi Awosika, the legendary former CEO of Insight. Other members of the new management team are Wole Ogundare, Account Management Director, Adebimpe Oloyede who is in charge of the Project Management department and Stanislaus Martins, Head of Digital.

Therefore, it’s a time like no other at Insight and on Simisola’s shoulder rests a big chunk of the responsibility to fulfill the global vision. Yet, she is already proving her mettle. The PepsiCo campaign is now in full swing and has been launched in a number of markets including Ethiopia. The Nigerian roll-out has been slated for a future date. The agency is also excitedly looking forward to a glorious performance at Loeries and it is equally confident of turning things around for Nigeria at Cannes.

So no doubt, Simisola has a lot on her plate, her shoulder may look too small for the challenge before her, and the work environment may look too masculine. But so far she has shown that it is not actually about the gender or the smallness of the shoulder, but actually it’s about the largeness of heart. And that is one area she is well endowed in.

By Joseph Ekeng


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