It was a rapturous moment at a classy event which had brought an A-class audience from the entire marketing communications industry together under one roof. The venue- Civic Centre, Lagos provided the right ambience for a rendezvous for world-class meeting of minds on an evening which had been both cool and calm. The award ceremony was coming as an icing on the cake to a national summit which preceded it. Several individuals, brands and corporate entities had been recognized, appreciated and celebrated for their outstanding performances in or contributions to a primus inter pares industry in the past year or decade or an entire lifetime as the case might be.

Then came the moment which, as it turned out, everybody, without prior consultation, had been waiting for: the moment to confer on Mr. Ted Mukoro the Advertising Icon of the Decade award by your darling magazine, MARKETING EDGE.  All the guests, whose number had long outstripped the projections of the organizers rose up in unison without any prompting. The ovation that greeted the announcement was deafening and the presentation was so ecstatic.

Perhaps no better person than Sir Steve Omojafor, OON could have handled the historic moment. For one, he is a professional protégé of Mr. Mukoro, popularly and amiably called Uncle Ted, and had both worked and related with him in the past 40+ years. Thus, Sir Steve, the septuagenarian veteran in the Nigerian integrated marketing communications industry could not but go down memory lane at such an opportune moment. And he did so in a manner that moved the audience almost to Cloud Seven!

Hear him, “The day was November 1, 1974, after my interview at Lintas which took about three months … I was handed over to a man called Ted Mukoro… Ted Mukoro is one of the greatest copy writers that this industry ever produced; he wrote in the English language and he wrote in Pidgin. I think the Pidgin aspect of him is the sweetest. Every brand that we had in those days had a Ted Mukoro mark on it… From that time in the 1970s till date, we look up to Ted. Ted, I am proud of you; I am happy to be your son, your student and someone you trained to be what I am today”.

By this time, the roof of the Civic Centre on the highbrow Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos almost came down! And sitting down calmly and quietly to savour the exhilarating moment was Mr. Ted Mukoro who by then was just four months short of 88 years and who at that age walked into and out of the venue on the first floor of a building all by himself.

Uncle Ted is many things rolled up in one – a teacher, an internationally acclaimed, multi award winning sound, stage and screen artist; a playwright, a patriot and a true leader. Most important to us in the integrated marketing communications community, he is both a titanic icon and an iconic titan.

Born in Warri, Delta State, in 1928, Ted Mukoro was a pioneer staff of the first television station in Africa, the WNTV/WNBS, having joined the station just a year after it was launched; he was part of the longest running serial on Nigerian television, The Village Headmaster, and even wrote the script for the first two episodes. His foray into advertising has availed the industry the highly impactful services and gargantuan contributions of a creative genius.

Mr. Mukoro of the STAR Shine Shine Bobo and GUINESS STOUT Black Thing Gooood o (rendered in native Calabar accent) fame among many others has inspired and nurtured the careers of a vast majority of Nigeria’s leading advertising gurus. His career spans almost five decades with a huge body of work that remains a benchmark for industry and for country. And at 88, he is still tirelessly contributing his brilliance to the industry and the larger society, consulting for different agencies and organizations with his contributions cutting across a wide range of disciplines and interests.

Instructively, of the myriad of brands that he was privileged to handle, STAR and Guinness Stout obviously hold a special attraction to Uncle Ted and still leave him with fond memories. In fact, in a press chat with MARKETING EDGE, he declared the two brands as being an unusual distinction for him. And, while relieving some of his memorable experiences in the world of advertising, particularly copy writing, in an interview with another medium, he recalled the “Enjoy the brighter life…STAR” commercial which he went to record in London with relish. The copy, he reminisced came with “a fantastic fantasy of imagination” whereby a STAR beer drinker watching his television, drinking his STAR beer, and enjoying the commercial saying in a soliloquy, “good for you dear” and suddenly thrusting his hand bearing the glass cup filled with STAR beer forward ostensibly to toast with the vocalist (in the commercial), and suddenly his hand burst through the screen of the TV and he clinks glasses with the vocalist”!

According to him, when the commercial was played to the Felix Ohiwerei-led team at Nigerian Breweries, he (Ohiwerei) exultantly declared, “This is everything we want to say about STAR beer!”

Unknown to many of his admirers across the globe, Uncle Ted had, earlier in life, dreamt to become a catholic priest and he actually enrolled in a seminary! By some twist in fate which might have been providential, the road to the catholic priesthood was shut against him and the road to STARdom in integrated marketing communications generally and advertising, in particular, was opened also providentially to Ted.

Uncle Ted was one of the first 10 people to appear on television in Nigeria – WNTV/WNBS; he was the first Village Headmaster (1968-1972) in the very popular series now rested; he is an ace broadcaster, an advertising guru and an immensely talented actor. He joined Lintas on the 6th of March, 1964, retired as creative director of Lintas, was once creative director at Insight and is presently the Chairman of Lintas.

Altogether, he has had a distinguished career in Broadcasting, Advertising, Theatre and Film; he featured in such films as Dinner with the Devil, Mutual Inheritance, amongst many others, and worked on OMO, a detergent not a soap; Guinness Stout and STAR lager beer, Gulder Vono, Vitafoam, amongst a myriad of other brands. He was the originator and creator of several brands’ great ad copies. Even at 88, Uncle Ted’s power of recall is amazing; and he pays an uncanning attention to ascents.

Uncle Ted combined brilliance with versatility to distinguish himself in his career. Consider this submission of his on the building of the STAR brand, “From the beginning when this advertising began, the beer brand has always revolved around the theme of STARDOM. We had a cartoon character called the SAMMY SPARKLE. At that time, it could be the only man of distinction, a lawyer, a doctor or an army general or whatever it is. So, stardom means the drinkers of STAR beer are stars. The beer itself is a champion beer, so it is a star in its own STARDOM. All of this is because research after research has shown that the STAR drinker believes he has the quality of brightness which makes him bright, always in a brighter mood”.

On Gulder, he submitted, “Many years ago we introduced Gulder beer as ‘Gulder the stronger flavoured beer’. Great slogan but it was wrong. Do you know why it was wrong? The word ‘flavour’ was a sophisticated word, not understood perfectly in Nigeria. Not as clear-cut as taste. When you say ‘the stronger tasting beer’ nobody has any doubt about that in Nigeria. But when you say ‘the stronger flavoured beer’, the question is ‘what is the flavour?’ it is not precise enough”.

Even today, sitting down with Uncle Ted on any issue relating to his profession or the industry will end up like a tutorial class under a talented professor. The educational immersion that would take place would be both impacting and inspiring. For instance, in explaining a point during an interview with our medium recently, he had this to say, “The heart of the creative industry is, of course, the language of communication, the very means of persuading of the target consumer. English, the principal language is, unlike in Britain, USA, etc where it is the mother tongue, needed the support of Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, etc to be truly idiomatic and therefore more penetrative, more convincing and more persuasive communication (in our clime). So the function of creating a truly successful and persuasive communication in Nigeria has been a totally different kind of experience”.

He continued, “Some of the so-called easy-as-ABC radio commercials written for Nigeria in England assumed, for example, that the use of only the primary colours of red, blue, green, yellow, brown, black, purple, etc would certainly be easy to communicate.

“As I explained to LINTAS copywriters in London way back then, most Nigerian languages had only three colours viz red, black and white. All the colours were grouped together as ododo (flowers), picturesquely a bunch of assorted colours.

“Only Hausa, for example, has a name shudl (n) for blue, BLUE OMO is SHUDI ‘n’ OMO, SHUDI being a derivation from Arabic. How can English man understand that? We have learnt to communicate idiomatically to our Nigerian target audiences; the using of idiom in the wider sense of the peculiarity of the culture, way of life, and of life’s experience to communicate with our primary target audience. You do not, for example, whet the appetite of muslims with pork, however deliciously prepared”.

Arguably, had he been allowed to tread the path to catholic priesthood, he could perhaps have risen to such a lofty and revered height of a Cardinal. But then, it is both soothing and satisfying that in his eventual career, our one and only Uncle Ted rose to become a professional pontiff of some sorts.

PATHFINDER celebrates this timeless titan and icon of all times. He has selflessly beaten a path which so many have followed and has shined the light through which so many have found their way.

Perhaps the column should close with the same prayer by which Sir Steve closed his comments and presentation to Uncle Ted at the award ceremony referred to earlier in this piece: “May we all live to your age and may we at your age remain bright and strong just as you are”.

PS: This article was first published in the PATHFINDER Column (by AMOS OLADELE) of MARKETING EDGE, Issue 52, NOV/DEC 2016. It is reproduced, here, as a tribute to the Nigerian advertising legend, Ted Mukoro, who transited on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 90.



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