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...
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