In Nigeria's experiential marketing sector, the name Kayode Olagesin has become synonymous with great results. Thus, it is quite logical to state that any historical report on experiential marketing in Nigeria, without conspicuously showcasing the exploits of Kayode Olagesin, would definitely be declared inconclusive.
He has been part of the sector almost from the beginning. Although his career in marketing communications started at Insight communications in 1989, where left for SO&U in 1991, his formal entry into the experiential world was when he picked up a job at Cosse in 1995.
From that year till date, (except during his brief interlude with Bate Cose) Olagesin has consistently played many key roles within the experiential marketing space in Nigeria. He has handled top-notch projects from the stable of great brands like British American Tobacco and Nigerian Breweries. Some of The projects he has initiated and or handled include Star Mega Jam, Star Trek, Star Quest etc.
From the 90s till the turn of the century, Olagesin handled huge responsibilities in virtually all mega concerts in Nigeria. It is this depth of experience that has kept Towncriers, the company he handles now, at the top echelon of experiential agencies in Nigeria.
Even when the sector concluded plans to reorganise itself about six years ago, under the body called Experiential Marketing Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), the cap for the position of Pioneer Chairman was fit only for the humble but inextinguishable Kayode Olagesin. Here, Olagesin shares excerpts from his many years on experience with our Content Editor
EXMAN's achievement in the last six years
The beautiful thing is that we started off addressing a very fundamental issue from the beginning, and it was not a decision that was arrived at by the executive fiat. We basically had two positions in term of direction. We went through a very robust academic debate to arrive at a decision involving some of our trustees. We were looking at either making EXMAN a standalone body, the same way you have NIPR or basically aligning with the rest of the industry under the advertising platform. So they were two opposing schools of thought. The argument was that experiential marketing should also be a separate discipline on its own, but really, if you look at it what we do, it is advertising. The field of advertising is either above the line or below the line. Experiential marketing, as you know, falls under below-the-line advertising. We also sought legal representation, to help us interpret the pros and cons of the laws for us before we finally arrived at a consensus to align with APCON.
Efforts towards full registration with APCON
Executive after executive has pursued this objective alongside some of the other things in terms of training for our members. One of the early things we also did was developing a code of conduct for ourselves, for self-regulation and for our engagement with the rest of the advertising sub-sector. We started our engagement when Mr Lolu Akinwumi was the APCON chair and when then he left, we had Udeme Ufot and the engagement continued. Then suddenly the APCON council was dissolved for the past 5 years. It hasn’t been reconstituted as we speak but the good thing is that now we have Dr Lekan Fadolapo as the registrar, so a lot of the things we have been preparing for and engaging on are beginning to see the light of day. A number of our members have secured membership and our agencies are also registered under APCON. So we have come a long away for a very young industry association so if I should say I am very proud of what we have achieved, I have good reasons for saying so.
How we will enforce the payment of N500, 000 rejection fee to each experiential marketing agency that loses out in a pitch.
Our association is actively engaging with ADVAN, the body that represents a good number of these advertisers and clients so that we carry them along as well. However, I feel this issue will not really happen automatically. But we know that most advertisers are multinationals that are familiar with the practice in other environments, they also know that what we are seeking is not extraordinary. Since they will sincerely want to maintain the same levels of standards obtained elsewhere, then they will also want to comply with key industry agreements here in their operations in Nigeria, so we believe that through engagements, overtime we will be able to drive compliance. The other issue is the fact that I know that the APCON law is basically being reviewed at the national assembly as we speak. If it happens, then it becomes a matter of the law that the agencies invited to pitches will be entitled to some rejection fee then, I think compliance at that point will no longer be voluntary.
Besides, this payment puts a lot of discipline into the process and that is the rationale for it.
Because you as an advertiser will have to pay a rejection fee, it also means you should also do your due diligence well to bring down the number of agencies involved since there is no point in paying ten agencies the rejection fee when you could have whittled them down during profile presentation. However, I think the starting point is for EXMAN agencies themselves to make a commitment so that when a pitch letter comes from any client, it should be expressly reflected that this is a requirement from our industry. The association has also done a written communiqué on the matter. Advertisers must know that when you send a brief out, you are basically making a commitment that out of the four or five agencies that I have selected or shortlisted, I should be able to take one that will address my needs from their presentations and it takes cognisance of the fact that these agencies will commit both human and material resources towards being able to prepare for that pitch. And it takes a lot of time and resources for you to attend to a pitch properly. So it is for that reason that it makes a lot of sense to say that for the efforts that the agency is putting in terms of human and material resources, then there should be some form of compensation for their time and efforts. So if you have invited 4 agencies and you are only picking one then the remaining three should be paid the rejection fee.
"So if you can track the consumer and we find them in the physical space, then, of course, we engage them there. But if you find them in the virtual space then we must devise a means of giving them an experience within that virtual space"
Challenges facing experiential marketing agencies in this COVID 19 era and reasons for the low level of experiential activations this year
First and foremost, experiential marketing shouldn’t just be seen from the physical alone, it should also be seen through the virtual space. The most important thing is that you want to build a connection between the consumer and the brand and so the reality of it is that we talk about different touchpoints where we engage consumers and what informs what we engage consumers is really the function of the consumer's path. Where will they be and at what particular point in time? And where are they receptive to the message I want to share with them? So if you can track the consumer and we find them in the physical space, then, of course, we engage them there. But if you find them in the virtual space then we must devise a means of giving them an experience within that virtual space. So yes the bulk of what we have been doing has been in physical space and the reality for us now, given what has happened in the COVID 19 period, the physical and social distancing and all of that have made us realise that we need to engage the consumers now in the virtual space. So it is an interesting challenge but I believe that the more agencies find ways to do that, the more you will find an increase in activations in that area. Now we have virtual parties, we didn't have that before. In the past few weeks, we had some major events like awards, shows for some multinationals that were virtual and it had all the elements of we would have in a physical encounter but it was done differently, But we did have an event. So to answer your question directly, it will and has reduced the number of physical events but it creates an opportunity for experiential marketing to begin to do more in the digital space. But we must equally make a distinction between digital marketing and experiential marketing being delivered within the digital space, these are two different things entirely.
Why Experiential agencies should not focus too much on multinationals and mega-companies, virtually ignoring a huge market of small and medium scale enterprises.
Incidentally, during one of the sections that we had recently, looking at the business outlook, the key issue is that everybody is looking at the direction of the big players. Naturally, since the big guys have programmes that agencies can provide services for, everybody basically is running after this very few numbers of prospects. Whereas we have a whole range of other opportunities like local players in the organised private sector in particular and even in a public service side as well (government) that we can look at. So I would say it is really a matter of individual agencies being able to see where the opportunities are and being able to go after them. But I think the challenge is that the kind of services that are provided by specialized agencies like our members are not well-known or appreciated by most small or middle-level organisations. They tend to just reduce it to going out there and making some noise in term of street-level activation and It becomes difficult for them to understand why they need to put in quality resources behind our platforms. The major area we are talking about now is trade marketing which is an aspect of experiential marketing. There is a huge gap in Nigeria here today because knowledge of trade marketing is actually not very well developed in the country. Very few companies come here and use it effectively. Even among multinationals, you will find out the knowledge level and the way they apply it in business varies. So to that extent, there is still a gap in terms of companies outside of the multinationals taking advantage of what the agencies can do for them in terms of helping them to solve some of the challenges they have and building loyalty for their brands. You are absolutely right about this untapped market currently and I think agencies that can restructure their services and their business model to access the needs of those ones would be able to take the advantage here.
" In looking at the consumer path, you are trying to identify the touchpoint and those touchpoints are the engagement opportunities that you have."
Challenges COVID 19 is bringing to the industry in Nigeria and how a player can position themselves to excel
Well, human beings are social animals and the need for us to interact and interface is inbuilt, we look out for each other because we want that social interaction. That is why in cities where we even had a very high level of COVID-19, the first opportunity that they gave the people to come out, they trooped out and mixed together then the second wave comes and now the government is begging people to stay indoors. Why? Because human nature loves physical interaction. So will physical interaction stop? I can assure you that it won't. To that extent we will weather the storm and basic human nature will ensure that we come together again. How and when we come together can now be a different issue., I mentioned earlier the concept of consumer path in experiential marketing which is really where does the consumer go in a typical day. Where would he be in the morning, afternoon evening/night, where will he be over the weekend? In looking at the consumer path, you are trying to identify the touchpoint and those touchpoints are the engagement opportunities that you have. When things changed, people migrated to phones, then unto the digital platforms and there are so many interactions and things that are going on there. We will basically be following the consumer and we will develop new ways of engaging the consumers wherever we find them. Yes, we would evolve because that is the name of the game, just evolve with whatever that is happening. The consumer is a moving target that is why we have to adapt and continue to evolve to take advantage of the opportunities the will be created.
What 2021 will bring for the experiential sector and the integrated marketing communications industry in general?
We can't make any prediction outside of the larger economy. Nigeria has entered into another recession even though they are two schools of thought in term of how long this recession would last. But there is a school of thought that is more positive in terms of outlook. I believe we can propel the economy back into the growth phase, hopefully going into the new year we will dig ourselves out of the recession hole. If the government opens up the borders, you will begin to see a lot more activities on the path of manufacturers. Right now, according to MAN, we have a situation where they are a whole load of stock that is sitting in the warehouses that they cannot even move them. The inflation is such that even consumers' purchasing power is really low right now so the ability to buy is impaired. The manufacturers are also having their own issues too. So all of these `presents a huge challenge but if they open the border as promised, part of the huge stock can now be moved out to neighbouring countries. That means part of their problems has been solved because if you export, you actually can earn foreign exchange and some of their foreign exchange challenges can be addressed. With the vaccine, COVID 19 should be gradually brought under control. Then people placed on half salary or were asked to go home because of COVID 19 would probably be called back to their offices which means people will be in a position to spend. A lot of people would be more disposed to attending and organising events so I am cautiously optimistic that both business and consumer activities will receive a huge boost coming into the new year and I want to believe 2021 will be a better year for the marketing communication industry for as long as our clients are active and doing business, then we need to support their products and services.