Etisalat PR: Five Agencies Test Wits, May Go into Second Round

Marketing egg-heads, L-R:Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher; Managing Director, Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) , Segun Agbaje; and Chief Marketing Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Angelone Francesco at a recent joint event in Lagos. 

Thursday last week in Lagos, five public relations outfits were locked in battle for the multimillion Naira Etisalat public relations business which was recently thrown open for a review. 
The pitch was called for a routine review of contracts which officially lapse after every two years. This is to give room for level playing field for all competent agencies as well as to avail the brand the best services from contracted service providers. 
According to those in the know, contrary to the insinuation that the client is currently displeased with the incumbent agency, The Quadrant Company, the truth is that the brand owners reviews its business to avoid complacency in its operations because pitches  are expected to throw up the best agency for the brand. 
According to Brandcrunch investigation, agencies featured in the high powered pitch include the incumbent agency on the business- The Quadrant Company, Media Craft and Corporate & Financial Porta Novelli. Others include XLR8 and Chain Reactions. 
Most of these PR shops are not new to telecoms business in general while appreciable numbers have pitched this particular business at one time or the other before now. 
For instance while Bolaji Okusaga led TQC is the agency with hands-on experience on the business - currently handling Etisalat PR,  Emeka Maduegbuna’s C & F had previously worked on the business for about four years before it lost the business to TQC about three year ago. 
Findings also reveal that Jaiye Opayemi’s Chain Reaction and Media Craft have garnered experiences pitching the business and other telecom businesses associated business. In particular, Media Craft worked for Starcom, a leading CDMA operator, during the latter’s heydays as the foremost CDMA operator in the Nigerian market. 
Also noteworthy are the credentials of some of the other agencies contesting for the business which not a few found very not only impressing but also intimidating. According to our findings, XLR8 brings a whole lot of current competitive experience to the contest, having  been one of the two PR agencies working for MTN, the Telecoms industry undisputable market leader.
The MTN business until it was reviewed last March, had domiciled with Marketing Mix and XLR8 with each having responsibilities for the brands PR and Corporate PR aspects of the business respectively. 
Available records show the two agencies to be about the most consistent in the industry having served 12 years and 8 years respectively on the business. Both have had course to re-pitch the business a couple times and defeated new comers to retain the business until last March when the business was moved to another set of agencies in April. 
Investigation reveals Marketing Mix and XLR8 are on the last lap of transiting the MTN business to the new winners as they are billed to relinquish the business to DKK and Brooks & Blake as new custodians of the MTN PR business come 1st of July.  XLR8 comes to the Etisalat pitch with such marvelous competitive experience and outstanding relevant credentials.
Similarly, TQC as the incumbent will perhaps be the experienced on the brand having minded the business for the last two years or thereabout. One could simply assume the agency understands the current mindset of the Etisalat brand.  Additionally, the Troika group agency is not bereft of competitive experience as the agency handled extensive PR responsibilities for the Airtel brand before the business was snapped away and the TQC landed Etisalat as replacement.  
Competitively, TQC apart from being the incumbent has proved it’s the agency to beat, however, the current pitch with its array of ‘stars’, impressive competencies and outstanding experiences, the last Thursday’s  outing by the five agencies may turn out to be only a ‘First Stage’ that will provide a shortlist for the Second stage of the pitch. 
Our investigation also lends credence to the likelihood of the pitch entering into a second stage.  The client’s pitch team that took presentations which comprises of some middle level managers might recommend candidates for the last and final round. This is fueled by the finding which suggests that the team is not composed of the most senior or powers that be in Etisalat marketing.  More to come…