Why We Are Organizing National Marketing Summit - Ajayi.

In this interview with Publisher/Chief Executive Officer, of Marketing Edge magazine, John Ajayi offers critical assessment and review of the integrated marketing communications sector in the last few months in the face of the current economic recession, the imperatives for a stakeholders national marketing summit to offer fresh insight on how marketing services providers can mitigate the current hardship while exploring newer opportunities in the emerging market

What is your assessment of the integrated marketing communications industry vis-à-vis the current economy situation in the country?

As we are graduating into the end of the second quarter of the year, the industry is just picking up in terms of marketing activities. Some advertisers are about to start their financial year. The budget has just been approved. I am aware that some outdoor companies are getting renewals. We will begin to see new campaigns in the coming days and months. I am pretty sure that there would be a beehive of activities soon. We are entering a period of heavy marketing activities. We shall be witnessing festive seasons that would herald sales and serious brand and marketing efforts. So, in a nutshell, we expect an improvement in the marketing spend. Definitely, it is going to create a lot of works for marketing services providers. We have had a lot of pitches in the first quarter of the year and some decisions had already been taken. We have witnessed accounts movements and realignment of accounts at both local and global levels and on the agencies and client sides. We have seen heavy advertisers’ account movements from companies which I would not like to mention. Of course, we are going to see more. These companies did all of these with a view to achieving a new strategic direction for their brands.  Brand owners certainly want to create a more impactful routes to the market. That is the new reality. So, it is a new season that we are likely going to see new budgets being put into effect. Obviously, it is going to be a beehive of activities for the brand owners and new business winners in the service arm altogether.

What lies ahead for marketing communication industry?

Of course, when you look at the Lekki-Epe free trade zone alone, it is amazing to discover that a lot of greater economic opportunities are waiting to explode and unravel on the nation. The quantum and multiple opportunities that would naturally surge and emerge from the billon dollar investments in that axis alone is unprecedented in the annals of business investment in the West Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa region over the years. We may not really know what lies ahead for now as the scenario is still unfolding. But this is the time for marketing services professionals to go into serious intellectual retreat and self entrepreneurial renewal to be able to appreciate the enormity of opportunities and work ahead and cease the bull by the horns. They need to be immersed in the new philosophy of business resurgence that is going to unravel. They have a lot of work to do. Marketing services providers should begin to challenge themselves on how to maximize the unfolding opportunities in different sectors. A lot of people are now going into farming and other areas which had hitherto been left untapped in the country long before now. The question for stakeholders is: are there opportunities for marketing services providers in the restructured and recovering economy? In that area alone, we are talking about Dangote multi-billion dollar initiative that will blossom into unquantifiable and unprecedented opportunities. It is morning yet on national economic front. Again the question is: what is going to be the ripple effect of this on existing and other businesses and how are we preparing to tap into these legion opportunities? That is question that should begin to agitate their minds. 

What informed the idea behind the forthcoming MARKETING EDGE national marketing summit?

I think the national marketing summit being organized by MARKETING EDGE is geared towards initiating and activating conversation on contemporary industry issues. It is a summit where you see the meeting of minds cutting across integrated marketing communications industry. We want to use the opportunity to initiate discussion that can further promote and develop the industry. This year’s theme is even more apt because of the socio-economic trajectory of Nigeria as a nation. We felt that the last one and half years for the Nigerian nation has been very critical and challenging. While government has come in with the idea of restructuring the economy because there is a disruption in the international price of crude oil especially for an economy that has been hitherto monolithic i.e oil dependent, I think the readiness and sincerity of the present administration to find solutions through diversification cannot but be appreciated. Of course, there was a shock in almost all sectors when the oil price plummeted at the global market. This shock however affected all other sectors of the economy causing a lot of reverberations. The reverberation created a lot of disruption in the economic system at micro and macro levels. That is why most industry operators were caught napping. The manufacturers found it difficult to source for foreign exchange in order to import raw materials. Because of this scarcity, a lot of factories were shut down, some foreign companies closed down. This however necessitated the need for Nigeria to look inward. When these shops were closing down and could not meet production capacity, and factories were operating under capacity, the national economy became illiquid. The resultant effect of this is the change in the fortunes of marketing services providers as the general economic situation took serious tolls on marketing communications industry. Most agencies witnessed a lull. Even some agencies that were on retainership were sacked as brand owners started cutting down on budgets as a panicky measure. So, the industry has come to a crossroad to the point that it does not know where it is headed. That is why we have to assemble very knowledgeable industry intellectuals to come and give new and fresh perspectives on how to mitigate the prevailing challenges. 

There is no disputing the fact that Nigeria remains a foreign investors’ destination of choice. If you take a look at enquiries being made about Nigerian investments opportunities, it is quite amazing. This is because there are quite a lot of potentials in the market. How do you educate the marketing service providers, marketing practitioners to begin to fit into the new development, the unfolding emerging markets if you don’t provide such platform. There is a new paradigm shift on the Nigerian economic plane. The shift, which has come to focus through restructuring, diversification and recovery, calls for urgent attention and concern. That is what informed this idea and that is why we have chosen the topic; Brand Marketing and Marketing Management in A Recovering and Restructured Nigeria Economy; Challenges and Implications for marketing  services providers. Of course, to do justice to this all important discourse is a guru of very reputable pedigree, Mr Ekwunife Okoli, former marketing director of Guinness Nigeria, and also former Managing Director Guinness Cameroon and currently, Founder /CEO, Advertange Consult who will be the Guest Speaker while the keynote speaker is the Minister of communication, Barrister Adebayo Shittu. With Adebayo’s presence at the event, he will be providing some gaps, missing links on how the service providers can begin to take advantage of the Federal Government efforts in trying to create more enabling environment with the development of ICT and digital technology.

The minister is particularly excited because the theme for this year’s, summit which he said will be addressing what is critical to the present administration. We have some discussants that will do justice to the topics and these include the former marketing director of Nestle, Mrs. Iquo Ikoh, The marketing director of Coca Cola, Mrs.Patricia Jemibewon, Managing director of Media Fuse, Denstu Aegis, Emeka Okeke, Group Head, Marketing and corporate communications, First Bank, Mrs.Folake Ani-Mumuney and Managing director, DDB Lagos, Ikechi Odigbo. These people will be providing insights to the lead speaker’s discussion. The occasion will be chaired by no less a marketing guru himself, Mr.George Thorpe.

How best can brand owners leverage on this unique opportunity which you are providing to improve their businesses?

Like I said earlier, brand owners, marketing, advertising and marketing communication industry operators are in a critical cross road. It is a critical historical conjuncture for marketing and advertising players because the sudden fall in the crude oil price brought about unforeseen crash in the nation’s treasury and the resultant recession we are witnessing. But we have to commend the present administration for rising to the occasion by insisting that the economy needs to be diversified. With such great step, it has helped to promote interest in other sectors of the economy. As we speak, people are now thinking of tapping opportunities in the area of agro-business. Few months earlier, we saw partnership agreement between Lagos and Kebbi state coming to fruition. This appears to be the new thinking. Now, who says brand owners and agencies cannot approach both parties to make a brand from the result of such relationship which is Lake Rice.

Can’t brand owners begin to look at how they can promote indigenous brands? Why is it difficult for agency practitioners to think of how to build those brands into iconic status? These are the opportunities. It is a wake up time for all of us. Of course, the multinational brands will continue to invest to grow .But I think it is high time we grow indigenous brands to become global brands. So, the summit will provide the platform to get pot-pourri of views on the challenges and implications of the new realities in the industry.

All is set to award personalities in the integrated marketing communication industry for outstanding performance at the 2017 MARKETING EDGE Brands & Advertising Excellence Awards as renowned advertising practitioners, Bunmi Oke, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director, 141Wordwide and Tunji Olugbodi, Executive Vice Chairman of Verdant Zeal Group, have clinched this year’s Marketing Personality of the Decade awards while former Managing Director of Guinness Cameroon, Ekwunife Okoli will be conferred with Lifetime Marketing Achievement Award.

Other categories and winners are Telecoms Brand Leadership Award- MTN, Outstanding Customer-Centric Telecoms Brand of the Year – Airtel, Innovative Telecom Brand of the Year- Etisalat, Outstanding Dairy Brand of the Year- Peak Milk, Outstanding Brand Re-Launch of the Year - Union Bank, Outstanding Cola Brand of the Decade- Coca- Cola and Media Advertising Personality of the Year- Emeka Okeke.