We are passionate about digital- Zubby Emodi, Head of RDM Nigeria

In less than 2 years after it set up shop in Nigeria, Ringier Digital Marketing (RDM) has been able to distinguish itself as a creative powerhouse in the highly competitive digital marketing industry in Nigeria.
The instant success of the agency has been made possible by a well knitted team of passionate and creative young minds led by Zubby Emodi.
In an interview with MARKETING EDGE, Emodi, who is a UK-trained software, internet and branding specialist, shares the distinguishing factors that have made RDM a leader in the industry.

Are we in the digital age, and if we are, how far have we gone in it?

We are definitely in the digital age in Nigeria. Most especially in terms of digital consumption. I’ll give you some figures in terms of active internet users in Nigeria. Out of 190 million population we have 97.2million active internet users, about 15million of which are on social media. We also have 154.3million mobile connections with about 82 percent of internet share being on mobile. That to me says a lot in terms of mobile penetration in Nigeria and data and access to the internet. This informed Ringier’s decision to come up with RDM and setting up shop in Nigeria.
So in terms of consumption we are there, but in terms of marketing, understanding the power of digital and knowing that, that is where the majority of the consumers are, and that is where to target them, we are not there yet. But I am very sure that in a very short amount of time we’ll get there.

You spoke about increase in internet penetration and mobile connection, how can brand owners take advantage of that to grow their brands?

This is a good news for a brand owner because it kind of levels the playing field. For instance it is very much easier for smaller brands to compete with the big ones, because they are now able to advertise and communicate their wares and brand strength to the right target audience as oppose spending millions on traditional forms of advertising such as billboards, TV, radio and press. With a relatively small budget, they can do a creative video, make that video go viral and in a space of few days, millions of people know about the brand and patronage goes up. We have been able to do that for a lot of our clients. So that is something that can benefit brand owners, especially small brands.

RDM have been around in the Nigerian market for a couple of years, what is that unique trait that stands RDM out among others digital marketing agencies?

I will say one of the advantages for us is having very rich parents. Ringier have been players in the offline publications space for about 200 years. It took advantage of its expertise in marketing and publication to set up in Nigeria. Starting with Pulse.ng which is about five years old and leveraging on the success of Pulse.ng, it now set up RDM – Ringier Digital Marketing. Off the recognition of our 200 year old parents, we have built up a very good team, which is another reasons why we have been so successful in a very short time. The people that we have here are very passionate about digital, website development, applications development and even those that are passionate about sales. That passion, for me, is number one, followed closely by expertise – because passion eventually leads to expertise. Passionate and experienced individuals are the ones leading our various departments. Those are some of our strong point.

How have you been able to help brands deliver growth using this digital marketing expertise?

We have been able to take brands from relative obscurity to giving them a top of mind awareness in their target market. For instance because we are one of the first Google certified partners. Our certification by Google is an evidence we know what we are doing. Because of the value we deliver, we have been able to retain accounts such as Jack Daniels, from the inception of our agency; we have SAB Miller, which is the biggest beer manufacturer in the world. We also have some small scale businesses as clients. We pay a lot of attention to the SMEs, same way we do the big corporations. I think keeping that balance between the big and small companies has helped us a lot.

Can you mention some of the exciting campaigns you have done?

One of the recent ones we’ve done was for One.org – an African charity set up by U2’s Bono’s – called Make Naija Stronger. It was geared toward getting 100,000 Nigerians to sign a petition urging the Nigerian government to invest funds towards health for marginalised Nigerians – especially girls and women – to prevent risky diseases leading to maternal mortality. We were involved in the entire digital and creative campaign from the creative conception, to the script writing to the video production and then the awareness. We developed the script, shot it (with help from our sister company – Pulse TV), did some research an found a victim (the family of the late Ngozi Udebu), got the right cast (Waje), and then commenced the campaign. At the end, it elicited the reaction that we expected – till date 166,000 people have signed the petition. It is quite an emotional video. I don’t know many people that watched that video without crying. So, it pretty much did the trick.

Another exciting campaign we did quite recently was for the One Lagos Brand Launch in Lagos. One Lagos is an initiative by the Lagos State Government to drive the State’s economy using Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sports for excellence.
We created full awareness for their brand during the 3-day launch event. This involved development of their app, pre-launch posts on their social media channels, creation of compelling graphics and article posts on Pulse.ng, as well as live tweets and photography of the spectacular star-studded event, all geared towards engaging the Lagos populace on this fantastic 3-year event.
Likewise, we also deliver this experience and expertise to SMEs. In the case of Phone Trader, they came to us with a direct objective – to grow their revenue through increased sales. Their 2-week campaign with us led to their online store getting completely sold out of phones. With our company’s minimum spend they were able to record about 70 percent growth. The campaign reached about 200,000 people, with over 380,000 impressions and about 6,000 clicks.

How were you able to ascertain that it was indeed your digital campaign that drove the growth? Because there have been a of arguments that the claims by digital agencies with regards to the success of their campaigns are sometime unverifiable?

It’s a lot easier for e-commerce companies. Or companies that we do the entire end-to-end implementation of their campaigns. In such cases, we could create an e-commerce website for them and embed tracking pixels to their sites. That way, visitors can be tracked from the moment they view the ad and click on it, to the eventual purchase of the product. We are able to fully track that, especially when we have an end to end control of that particular process.
This is one of the things that sets us apart at Ringier; we have 3 verticals that we tend to create companies around: One is marketing, which is RDM; two is the content, which is Pulse; the third is e-commerce which is Dealdey. For example, if we are not able to create an e-commerce page to monitor users’ journey from the ad to eventually purchasing an item on the website, we could then lead them to their own e-commerce page on Dealdey. So from an ad we can link to Dealdey and from Dealdey’s robust analytics, we can track the customer. We can see how many people viewed the page, how many people clicked and how many people then followed on to the website. And from Dealdey’s end, we can see how many people made a purchase.

How were you able to track the growth of Phonetrader?

With regards to Phone Trader, they had analytics on their backend so they were able to track and informed us about the success of the campaign we ran for them.

Does the fact that you are a Swiss company, operating in the Nigeria market, give you any added advantage? Even in the area of technology?
We gain the most advantage in the fact that our parent company is a big player in the global media industry. We are in about 15 countries. So some multinationals already know about us from other markets. So when they come into Nigeria, we are their first point of call. So I think that is the advantage we get. And of course , we are funded in Swiss Francs… and you know how the exchange rate is going. So in terms of bang for the buck, their investment goes a long way, now more than ever.

That being said, though Ringier AG is our parent company, a lot of the marketing strategies that we implement come from our leaders and department heads here. So it’s not as though we get a blueprint from Switzerland to implement. That works for us financially, but in terms of implementing digital marketing in Nigeria, what works in Switzerland wouldn’t work in Nigeria. Marketing strategies need to be localised for campaigns to make any kind of impact in Nigeria.
In the area of technology and infrastructure, we try to use the best off-the-shelf tools and technologies that we can get our hands on. We also adopt the technologies based on the demands of the local market. For instance, our dev team in Switzerland use JIRA and SAP, but here we’ve found that Trello and Basecamp work better for us. I think that is based on the structure of our team and how we implement projects. One particular project can be worked on by as many as 10 people. Depending on how complex or simple it is, we’ll then choose what platform to put on. For instance, we can put it up on Basecamp, then we can all collaborate and monitor the project. We’ll assign tasks and deadlines to different people. For analytics, Google ads, Facebook ads and all the other platforms each have their own powerful backend analytics which our online marketers are extremely proficient with. That is what we work with.

Pulse, on the other hand, have a huge technology benefit with their blogging platform. It’s a proprietary platform that does all sort of cool stuff like A/B testing to help test different versions of their articles, and the ones with the better performance automatically get put up, and the ones that doesn’t are dropped. There’s also some robust analytics, and lean coding to make sure that the site stays up even during heavy traffic. This is quite important for them because they get millions of views a day.

Being a Swiss agency, how did you quickly settle into the market and begin recording growth?
We pretty much built our ideologies and how we go ahead to implement digital from a completely Nigerian perspective. A lot of the much higher level budgeting decisions are made in Switzerland. But how things are actually implemented, the way we run campaigns, what people do in their department is essentially from the people working here. A lot of us started from our own individual businesses or from other digital marketing companies. In my case, I had my own business, when I was still in UK making websites and mobile apps. When I came back to Nigeria, I was still doing that here for about five years before joining RDM. So it is that understanding of the Nigerian market from a practitioner’s perspective, that has inspired us to come up with the approaches that have helped us in our campaigns.

I am sure the decision to set up Pulse.ng, an online news media platform was deliberate, so how has it helped in the growth of RDM?

Pulse have been in existence in Nigeria before RDM and they got to where they are today because of the wealth of very knowledgeable and talented journalists and videographers on the Pulse TV team. So people who used to visit the website or watch the videos then eventually started hearing that Pulse has a sister company that could very much do for their brands, what was done for Pulse, in terms of building the website and creating awareness. And Pulse, with their strong outreach capabilities, also going out to speak to those people about RDM. Some of them came to our office and discovered RDM is truly here and that it is one company with Pulse. So if they start up a campaign with Pulse, they could equally follow up with RDM. So Pulse in terms of placement of ads could reach millions of viewers, but clients that need a more tailored made and strategic campaign approach can then come over to RDM.


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