Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Design/advertising/branding in Naija

Its high time that advertising, branding and design in Nigeria are critiqued for what they are at present: extremely low in quality, with no demonstrable creativity at work.

Take this example, that appeared in yesterday's Punch. We might wonder

1. Why the heading, 'with modernity comes convenience' has been positioned above an old pot. Clearly, this pot is neither modern nor convenient. So, either the copy should better match the image, or the image should change. Or something.

Of course, as all good copywriters (and newspaper headline writers know), the headline copy does not have to repeat/replicate the meaning of the image - in fact, most great ads do the opposite. Headline copy should ask questions of the image, in a way that opens up the opportunity to sell whatever product or service is on offer.

In the case of this advert, if we had to stick with the same (badly positioned) image of the old pot, we might want to get the copy to probe the image in a way that metaphorically supports the suggestion of the target customer moving towards Supercard. Examples (rough and ready admittedly) of alternative headline copy might be:

Every age has its modern conveniences
What do you do when tradition is no longer convenient?

etc. You get the drift - use the oldness of the pot to make a point about a better alternative being available..

2. How effective the body copy below the image is. At present, we have 'With innovations from SuperCard, a more comfortable life is now attainable. With us, you can manage identities better, study entirely from home, or where ever, buy fuel and pay transport fare with cards. It's the future and we're already here for you.'

Lets pass over two obvious problems with this - that the logo at the bottom of the page is 'Supercard', but the body copy refers to 'SuperCard'. And also, let's pass over the all-too-common Nigerian confusion of singular and plural (it should have been transport 'fares' not 'fare'). The more serious issue is that this body copy is the only opportunity to convey the benefits to the target market. Do we get a clear sense of what these benefits are from this clunky, clumsy copy? What does it mean to 'manage identities better'? How does this card allow you to study 'entirely' from home?

A much better approach would have been:
a) An intro sentence that reworks the line about a more comfortable life now being attainable. This opening sentence should ideally also refer back to the headline copy and main image. Something along the lines of, 'We know that always having to carry cash can be a hassle, and a security risk...' might do the trick.

b) Then there should be a bulleted list of the four or five key benefits of Supercard, written in the most explicit, self-explanatory English. For example, one benefit could be written:

Buy fuel from all leading forecourts*
(the * would have a note at the bottom listing the petrol suppliers in small print). We might have to think about what word to use as an alternative to forecourts in the local context - filling stations, gas stations, retailers etc. This might need to be backed up by a focus group or two.

3. Why the only follow-up opportunity to find out more is the website. Many Nigerians struggle to get internet access, and would prefer a telephone number, or an address to visit, rather than simply a website. Not listing either of these lends credence to the suspicion that this company does not have much ballast and may not even have a business address. Or, it might be that the company has a business address (in somewhere reputable like Ikoyi or VI) but has omitted to make good use of this prestige value.

All of the above are basic issues which a few seconds of thought would have resolved. Hiring a decent art director and copywriter would have made a huge difference, and provided much better value for money in terms of customer interest and customer acquisition.

I plan to conduct a few more critiques of Nigerian adverts in the next week or so. Maybe the lazy and uncreative ad agencies will wake up and realise they are living in the wrong century, and their clients will start to demand a better service. As it is, Nigerian adverts on the whole assume that their readers are stupid, one rung of consciousness above cows grazing in a field looking for the next patch of grass to munch...


Uzezi 12:31 pm  

u did ur home work on this.
though most copies here lack creativity, there are some that are good.

nethertheless, i agree with you on some of their qualities and how their headlines at times have no relation to the text or image

onydchic 1:13 pm  

Great post. Branding in Nigeria has continued to defy my understanding. I see some really horrible ideas and wonder how the hell more than two people came together and thought, 'This is good, let's do it.'

Many people don't realise how much brand sells. GTB, has a lovely brand that shows through in all of their products, locations and services, and it draws customers in like flies. Many other companies, however, just assume, any 'ole thing will do.

Branding and design has always been an interest of mine. I think we need more professionals out there, and more people who are willing to spend more money to sell themselves.

Air beneath my feet 1:22 pm  

"As it is, Nigerian adverts on the whole assume that their readers are stupid, one rung of consciousness above cows grazing in a field looking for the next patch of grass to munch"

I am afraid but for anyone who has read the Idiot by doetovsky, the above statement may very well be so. I completed it yesterday and came to the conclusion that there are a lot of people out there who may consider themselves intelligent but actually are less intelligent than doestovsky's characterisation of an idiot...Hence, about 99% of their readers may be so stupid indeed.

Naapali 1:57 pm  

Agree with your critique on this one. I could not help smiling at your last line;
"As it is, Nigerian adverts on the whole assume that their readers are stupid, one rung of consciousness above cows grazing in a field looking for the next patch of grass to munch..."

- I have always assumed that is the guiding principle ad agencies in the US follow.

me,  2:20 pm  

Watch it J! That last sentence was dangerous..........

Aronke,  5:13 pm  

To list a few:
1) Skye Bank's Hakuna Matata campaign. That's the best a 'world class' bank could do??? A bunch of people dancing on an obviously fake bridge?

2) UBA's special overdraft or something or the other advert. The guy gets home and his baby's crying because she's hungry and there's no food and her mother JUST SITS THERE WAITING FOR HUBBY TO GET HOME????? Sorry, no self respecting woman would wait until the last tin of milk is finished before replenishing and even if that happened, she wouldn't just sit at home waiting for her husband's return so she can tell him just what an inept mother she is!

3) Some malaria drug advert, i forget the name. Hubby comes home and finds child crying (again!). Wifey says the child has been cranky all day. Hubby says why the heck didn't you give her so-and-so malaria drug and proceeds to administer it himself. 2 seconds later, baby is alright.

I'm sorry, but aren't there a million and one reasons the baby could have been cranky, colic being one of them? How far with no hospital visits, no tests, just this self medication? What if it had been typhoid? Or any other damn frigging thing????

There are others, i'm sure. Will keep 'em coming as i watch/listen to them.

Aronke,  5:19 pm  

Oh! ANOTHER UBA advert. The one that says 'The mona lisa, more than just art' and blah blah blah. Apart from the fake ass waterfall, and the general blahness of the ad, i think 'the mona lisa, more than just a painting' would have been better

naijalines 5:26 pm  

'Hope they are listening or better still...Reading this.

oz omodudu 6:19 pm  

Be patient things are changing. Aside I just received a flyer at home advertising some newly put together index fund for Africa. Why did the flyer have elephants running in the forest on it. LOL

Waffarian 10:18 pm  

Thank you oh! I don complain tire, now its just plain comedy to me...

Anonymous,  12:38 am  

the english must have been confusing.
eg 'feeding the hand that bites the mouth' you know what i mean.....

Anonymous,  11:37 am  

even the GT Bank is the best of a bad bunch. It is what Btec students or 1st year entry graphic students will come up with here and they will happy with themselves as they should. But this is not worthy of a company that gets paid bucket load.

I am waiting to hear what you have to say next about the god forsaken Celtel Rebranding. It is so so dull. Sometimes, I wonder about Nigeria's visual culture. The way things are so disconnected from each other is mind blogging. The sophistication in their sartorial world is unmatched anywhere in Africa. and yet, when it comes to design - interior, industrial, commercial - it is so lacking. I just don't get it. Perhaps somebody should start a separate blog bring together some of the design gliches and let the designers see it for themselves. Glad you brought this advert to my attention again, cause when I first saw it, Ijust didn't get it.

Anonymous,  1:23 pm  

To Anonymous @ 11:37 AM
WRT Celtel's rebranding - it really wasn't down to their Nigerian operation; the rebranding was driven through Kuwait which is where their parent company are located. The same rebranding was carried out across their 14 African operations.

Anonymous,  1:51 pm  

I saw this yesterday and wondered if the "modernity" and "convenience" were typos... printer's devil stuff...
yet of course someone must have 'cleaned out' on this ad...
the illiterate creating the unreadable for the grossly unbothered...

Anonymous,  2:43 pm  

to 1.51 grammatarian!! but totally agree with you.

Anonymous,  7:37 pm  

I saw that advert and I wondered what the clint who paid for it were thinking. I pray to God that they have sacked the agency responsible for the mess and they have asked for their money back for brand damage and confusion. I don't think they are only here. There is also another card company with chess board advert, chams switch or something. It is absolutely diabolical. I wonder if they all use the same agency. they better change them now.

jesse,  7:08 pm  

Hello guys, i was sent a link to this site only today by a protege of mine still cutting her teeth in one of Nigeria's top 4 marketing communication's firm.

I resigned after 8 years of unrewarded toil and Nazi-like exploitation by the owners of these agencies on one side, and the so-called clients on the other.

I have been trained by the best of Creative Directors and had worked under 6 different expat CDs and have been to the Leo Burnett University EMEA in London where i now live and at Gordon Cook's prestigious Vega School of Branding in South Africa.

Sorry i have to bog you down with some detail as i believe we have few practitioners who can compete anywhere in the world, but like everything Nigerian, are disrespected and thrown overboard. The problem of that industry started with the indigenisation decree of Obasanjo's regime. When the white boys ran out with their tails inbetween their legs, the people who took the mantle of leadership were the Client Service guys. The creative guys, being less business inclined passed up a glorious opportunity to help the Nigerian advertising industry. Just take a look at the agencies like Insight, DDB, STB McANN, ROSABELLEOBURNETT and TBWA, you'll find they are owned by these class of people.

So you see, the tilt was towards money, money, money. The creative staff were then made to become a tool in the attainment of that. The quest for the creativity part of the business was totally lost.
Every creative guy i know has one issue or the other with his job. So an average creative guy in Nigeria is hidden behind the scenes, made to work in sweatshops and given peanuts to live by.

Add that unsavoury situation to the problem of Çlients''and you have a totally messed up situation. Because we employ certificates in Nigeria, there's little room for putting the right people in the right position. The 'brand manager'or the 'marketing director'who has the budget and the big axe on the final creative material is mostly incompetent in judging creative materials, then they see agencies as second-class people to whom their whims and caprice must be dictated to, and they take to heart very cynically, the maxim 'he who pays the piper dictates the tune'. They won't even listen to you at presentations, they will sleep off, and they will ask for bribes and purposely bring in 2 or 3 agencies not for the competition but for the opportunity to be given bribes from a multi-source.....and then, they will tell you off and dictate their ideas. That's 95% of what you're condemned to watch on Naija TV, and because the Çlient Service led agency is after the money, anything goes. Only Lolu Akinwunmi of Prima Garnett and maybe Shobanjo of Insight has been able to tell one or two meddling clients off.

So sorry guys, as long as this scenario persists, as long as even the creative mind is relegated and caged, you will have to endure that kind of scenario for a long time to come. I say that as someone who's done presentations to the mightier of the mightiest in the land ranging from Tony Elumelu, President Obasanjo, Bunmi Oni, Expatriates........and for top Naija companies like Vodacom, Vmobile, UBA, PDP, Glo, Shell, Unilever....just to mention a few.

I put some of my work up on my blog for some of the brands you know, you might want to compare them to those you've seen around. I tell you 80% haven't seen the light of the day. I brought a 320 gig of hard drive to the UK full of stunning works that wasn't good enough for the average minds in my country.

please see my works on www.jesseworks.blogspot.com

Boosh 2:56 am  

Aronke, as the writer of the UBA Mona Lisa "more than just a bank" ad, I take great exception to your comment about it. The Mona Lisa is a painting and thus Art. The waterfall might have been slightly off but dont blame the writer. Every TV ad you see is the result of collaboration of a writer who is ususlly left to come up with concepts, as well as an Art Director who translates that into images, before they go to the producer/director. When someone somewhere drops the ball, the resulting ad doesnt measure up. Nigerian advertising will continue to be forgettable because clients send back concepts that are creative and they say the audience wont understand. Well, we struggle on...

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