Sometimes Pitch Is Just A Formality – Adetokunbo Modupe, Chairman – TPT International
Adetokunbo Modupe, Chairman – TPT International Ltd
Adetokunbo Modupe is undoubtedly passionate about his job. The Chairman of the award winning agency; TPT International, in this interview with Kehinde Olesin shares his views on pitch process, training and retraining of staff, success, challenges and many more…. Excerpts
Why are you into PR business?
Well, am in PR because that is where I found my passion, that is where I discovered myself and I love it, and that is where I make my living. Like I said, this is my passion and I don’t think I have ever had any regret being in the profession, so I will continue to be a PR man till I die. Even though I have interest in other businesses, Interest remains interest and passion remains passion. Public Relations is where my passion is.
Is TPT fulfilling what it’s established for and what has been your cutting edge over other PR shops?
Well, fulfilling its objectives I will say, we are in between, I cannot say that we have totally recorded 100 percent success vis a vis what we intended to achieve, but I will also say that success is not a destination, it is a journey. So far so good, we are making our impact in the industry and we are keeping the business alive and the passion is still there. What makes us different from other agencies is that we are a very creative agency, our approach is very creative and professional. We have an unconventional approach to the practice, and that has set us out as an innovative agency.
Recently one of your lucrative account; Diamond Bank, moved, any impact on your business?
Well, if you have a pet, it may not be a member of the family biologically, if anything happens to the pet, you will feel it and have a sense of loss, but in this industry account comes and goes. No agency manages one account for life. Client will have different reasons for working with agencies, but looking back, I am very proud of the job we did for Diamond Bank, knowing where they were before we took up that account and where we left them.
But there were indications they left on a sad note?
That is not correct. We had minimum expectations and the client also had their expectations. There was mutual dissatisfaction and at the end of our contract we both agree not to continue. Let me also correct that wrong impression that financial institutions are very juicy account, I don’t understand what you mean by ‘’juicy’’, but my interpretation will be that they are very lucrative and very rewarding. I have had the opportunity of working for many financial institutions from Old Oceanic Bank to Fin Bank, FCMB etc. During the consolidation in the banking sector maybe they were lucrative at that time, because they needed to do so many things within a short period to raise capital and have a quick fix approach to their perception projection. But banks are generally not PR agencies friendly because most of them pay lip service to corporate governance and prefer to buy media than have a sustainable perception management strategy. For them it has always been fire brigade approach which makes the engagement of PR agencies unattractive to them. If you look at the banking industry today, how many banks actually engage the service of PR agencies, out of the 25 banks. Why is it that banks don’t use the service of PR Agencies, they always want quick fix, they always want you to bend the rules, they always want you to get things done in a way that are not sustainable and they are very impatient too. Sustainable corporate reputation is not their goal. So, they find it difficult working with PR agencies because essentially PR does not work that way. What are the challenges that affect the operations of PR Agencies in Nigeria or personal ones that you have?
Well, just like every other business, we are affected by the situation in the country, we are affected by electricity problem, for instance here we are on generator from morning till night and that’s killing, even when you have electricity for few minutes, sometimes for thirty minutes, sometimes for one hour, you can’t use it because the current is bad. So you have to generate your own power, you have to fix so many things yourself, you spend many hours in the traffic, so it’s not peculiar to PR practice, but across all sectors. I think the level of appreciation of the value that we add to the bottom line is a major problem. If you don’t appreciate the value that PR add to your business, compensation will be very poor. So because of that, what PR agencies get paid is not commensurate with the value that they add to the businesses of their client.
Are you saying that you are collecting peanuts for your job?
I haven’t said so, that is why I said you have to compare it with the values we add to the business. If for instance a PR agency and a lawyer are engaged in a particular project, the lawyer writes an agreement and possibly spend a few weeks or few days on the job, he gets paid with millions of naira. A PR agency will probably work for the next one year to earn the same amount. So, if you consider that, you will know that what we get paid does not commensurate with the value that we add to the bottom line.
Whose fault is this? Is it the perception of the people or the PR body is not doing enough as far as awareness is concerned?
It is because the practice has not been raised to the level where people will confidently say no to inadequate compensation. We haven’t gotten to the point where practitioners can say if we don’t get paid this, we are not going to do business. For instance, if a brief is given to me, for some amount of money and I say I can’t take this, there are possibly 10 brief case consultants that are begging to be paid half of that to even do the job. Whether they do it well or not is another thing entirely, but because some of these clients are looking for quick-fix, they are okay. Whether they are able to sustain it, is another thing entirely, but the truth of the matter is that, regulations still need to get to a level where for instance if you are going for a pitch, there is certain standard that whoever wins that pitch must be willing to accept in terms of fee. It doesn’t matter if 5 agencies go for a pitch, one will definitely win, but whoever wins should be well paid. That is my position.
You have been in this business for quite a while, so what are the basic things needed to start a PR shop and how important is the PR service?
I am not going to advice anybody on how to start up a PR agency, what I can say is that follow your passion, if your passion is in this profession, you have to get yourself prepared, have a good education and have prerequisite experience before you start.
Can you just expatiate on the experience part?
If you know nothing about PR and you want to practice, I wish you the best of luck. You got to make sure that at least you have an experience in the practice; you can’t just jump out of school today and say you are starting up tomorrow morning. You need to be trained and have practical experience.
Does that mean you have to work with a PR firm first before you start up your own?
Certainly, it will help you to develop yourself and then learn on the trade, and learn from the experience you may garner in that organization before you branch out to start your own.
Pitch politics is expected in the industry, what are your views about the fees and the pitch process in general?
Some multinationals have a standard template to follow when it comes to pitching for accounts. From RFP to presentation, we have to know that when it comes to getting the business, it’s not so much about the templates; it’s about the people on the pitch panel. If a system is compromised, certainly the best will not emerge from that system. If an account is given to somebody on the basis of relationship and not capability, professionalism is defeated. Unfortunately, you can’t determine how you get selected or how you get rejected during a pitch process. So, it is a process that is beyond agency; ultimately it is the client that determines which agency they give their business. Unfortunately, sometimes decisions are made not in the interest of their business but in the interest of individual client contacts. Pitch can just be a formality.
But you mentioned that multinationals do have templates that they work with. At least you could have inkling on the outcome of a pitch…..?
If you are invited to a pitch, it means that you are recognized at certain level that you can do the job, but it’s also a competition, somebody must win, somebody must lose. It’s beyond the agency to determine or to see before the presentation that you will win, everybody goes into a pitch to win. Nobody gets a brief and go to bed to sleep, and expects that miracles will happen, but what happens in the process of selection is beyond you.
Back to TPT, which has been your favorite and most successful campaign and why?
I have had many successful campaigns; I will be unfair to some of my clients if I pick a particular one. Indeed we have had many very robust and very successful campaigns. From Dunhill, to Saint Morris to Peugeot and even the banking sector, I can go on and on and on. We have had very many successful, there is also the Lagos lottery. We have some outings that are so successful, that is why it’s so difficult to just pick one and say this is the most successful. There have been so many innovative campaigns. For Rank Xerox in those days, we had an interactive session in a Marco-polo bus, we just rode around Lagos, and we did everything we wanted to do inside the bus and we dropped everybody off afterwards. Others are Saint Morris star selection, Guinness Micheal Power Project, Dunhill Symphony of fire, Wonderful Launch, Wonderful Campaign. Oceanic bank IPO, Wonderful Campaign, I mean I can go on and on.
What are those things you think contributed to the success of those campaigns? Creativity and Innovation. For instance, imagine you as a journalist being invited to a media interactive session, and on arrival you see a bus that is waiting and everything happened inside that bus,… just driving around Lagos, I mean it was fun, journalist were excited, it was different, and the result was excitingly positive. Look at Saint Morris, style cruise, for four hours we were on the sea, and people were having fun, we had the media interactive session there. For months the media reported the project with great details. At some point, we had to tell our friends, let’s take another angle to this, because they kept on writing. It was very successful. It is our culture here to challenge the regular way of doing things. That is our thinking, everything that we do, we just make sure that we have a creative approach to it; there must be a level of innovation to be brought into it, that is actually the strength of TPT.
What is the future of new entrants into PR business in Nigeria?
We are in the digital age now, things are changing, and you’ve got to be able to change with time. There is a future in PR, so we cannot say that there is no future there, there is future. It’s an industry that is growing, it’s just that it’s not growing at the speed that we all would have love it to grow. But having said that, you know how it is, something will trigger something that will really make the industry move faster than it is right now. Looking back, for TPT for instance, between 1998 and now, a lot has happen and I must say that I have no regret being in this profession.
How often do you train and retrain your staff and how important do you think ethics is in the practice?
We’ve had the privilege of working with multinational companies; they have their standard and corporate governance and expectations. Because of that, we have imbibed the culture of professionalism over the years. For that reason we train when we see training opportunities that are unique and that will add value to the human resources that we have. We plug in into such, sometimes within the country and sometimes outside the country.
What have been your benefits in training and retraining? Definitely, it strengthens your team. Knowledge is power, when they acquire knowledge, it helps them to sharpen their skills and definitely add to the overall output of the agency’s performance. So, it’s important, we have in house training every now and then; we look at different aspects of our operation and train every now and then because you can’t just assume that people know what to do.
What are your plans for expansion in the next five years? Are you exploring the west coast of Africa? I can tell you that two of our client’s operations in West Africa get PR support from us. These are General Electric and Procter and Gamble, two of the largest American business interest in Nigeria with uncompromising corporate governance culture and global standard business ethics. But in terms of expansion, you also know that we own a subsidiary event agency called 001 Limited which is an event activation and support services. We have Dream Media Limited, a destination branding and tourism facility Management Company. So we have already expanded, but what we want to do in the next five years is to consolidate on those subsidiaries and improve on the bottom line.
Is there any interest in handling political briefs or seeking for elective office?
As I speak with you, I don’t have any plan for any political race, I am very passionate about my profession, I can consult for politicians like am already doing. I am politically aware and active, because I believe that we should be able to influence those who lead us but to say that I have immediate plans to contest for any position, I don’t have, but I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
What gives you the drive to continue on this job?
PR has given me comfort, PR has given me a lot, why will I want to walk away, I love the profession and I am passionate about it, it’s one thing that gives me excitement.
Now describe yourself in three words? Bold, Style conscious, Passionate about knowledge, and very rebellious when it comes to idea generation.