Monday, 1 April 2013

Grooming the next Generation of Advertising Leaders, by Jimi Awosika

Insight Communications MD, Mr. Jimi Awosika Photo: Insight

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
Listen to Bon Jovi:
‘Is it just me or does anybody see
The new improved tomorrow isn’t what it used to be
Yesterday keeps comin’ ‘round, it’s just reality
It’s the same damn song with different melody
The market keeps on crashing’

Tattered jeans are back in fashion
‘Steady of records, now it’s MP3s
I tell you one more time with feeling
Even though this world is reeling
You’re still you and I’m still me
I didn’t mean to cause a scene
I didn’t mean to cause a scene
But I guess it’s time to roll up our sleeve
‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’

Lyrics from Bon Jovi: THE MORE THINGS CHANGE
So, in contemplating the purpose of this gathering as a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes Lion, my heart is stirred into the frame of homily.
Not to pontificate, but to ruminate on my thirty six years of practice in our beloved profession; Marketing Communication.
And so today, I think about the Biodun Shobanjos, the Banjo Solarus, the Ted Mukoros amongst other great mentors and industry leaders.
These are some of the great people I observed, or to put it more correctly, I studied as they elevated a then relatively unknown profession in these parts into a respectable and valuable one that has brought fame and fortune to a long list of advertisers and practitioners.
Such mentors infected us with the appeal and passion for the advertising industry as it was then called.
So in the context and purpose of today’s event’ I am inevitable led to think:
What challenges must we be giving to them?
What should we be telling them?

I am here to talk about ‘Grooming the Next Generation of industry leaders’; a subject that elicits the imperative of our existence as human beings. It compels us to appreciate that what any preceding generation must do is to prepare the coming generation for the challenges of tomorrow.
It’s about the dynamics of parenting the progeny as captured in the old ad slogan:
‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.’
This readily brings to my mind the motivation that led us at Insight Communications to establish the first programme that was designed to develop Graduate Trainee for Leadership of the industry.
Today it is the humbling fact that an enviable percentage of leaders of top Marketing Communication companies in Nigeria are alumni of this programme which began in 1990.

Here, I would like to address the need for us to engage a strategy that would raise what I call the pride quotient in our profession. The Pride Quotient that young leaders have for our profession must be maintained at a very high degree because today’s young generation; more than that preceding them has been so incredibly empowered by both technological advancement and liberal world view.
So they have become very ambitious about ‘making a dent in the universe’. And that’s why far beyond being simple seen as people who work to ‘put food on the table’, we must make the Next Gen realize that they are crucial to sustaining the world’s socio-economic ecosystem.
They must be made to see that as practitioners, they are actually modulators of culture; trendsetters who craft the narrative of development of products that continuously improve the quality of life consumers. This gives us all our identity strength.
After all, creating appeal for products, services and causes should come naturally to us as practitioners of Marketing Communication, since creating appeal for client’s brands in the hearts of the consumers is our Job 1.
Physicians heal thyself; you’d say!
We must make the profession cool. Generation Yers consider something cool when it is attractive to them. Here cool stands for trendy, high status, successful, creative, fun, contemporary.
In this regard, it is created by the work we do, so when we commit to doing great work that young people love, they ‘d love to be part of the profession that does such work. We see therefore that we must commit to very high standards of creativity. And this is why I commend the effort of Chini to provide the opportunity of the Cannes Lion platform so that young people can access and be inspired by the very best of creativity in the world. Story telling session is a must.  My position is that we should invite our successful veterans to tell their stories APCONAAAN and Chini must collaborate on this forum with a tentative name being ‘Hand over Notes’
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in the brain race where knowledge resources such as know-how are expertise are critical as other economic resources. The advertising business is a spin.
So isn’t it a danger that our ads are still so generic?
As the world is now fully entrenched in the ideas economy, the imperative for instant education; that is education that is relevant to proving solutions to ever emerging challenges in real time is indeed.
Today is the day of the Artist. And Artist here means anyone-Copywriter, Engineer, Chef, the Artiste as we know them traditionally, et cetera-who matches insight with courage to change the status quo.
For what can you say about the phenomenon in which Clients are finding their creative sources in musicians and designers? is Director of Creative Innovation for Intel.
Alicia keys is Creative Director for Blackberry
Lady Gaga is Creative Director for Polaroid.
Marc Jacobs is Creative Director for Diet Coke.
And if all this sounds too far out, then watch out for a brand near you. Don Jazzy has signed a contract to design Samsung music system for Africa.
This new trend is having these creative artistes replace most of the roles that agency creative and creative producers played in the past.
A cursory investigation into this trend will reveal that these companies believe that these artistes enable their brands to talk to new audiences by driving engagement and positive, authentic perceptions.
And as Clients are beginning to see value in the idea of baking marketing and marketing communication into the design of their products and services, the role of the agency creative will continue to dwindle, if we don’t change the current model of how we train our people.
As you can see therefore, the new competition is not really between Agencies but between creative sources. We must expose and educate our young professionals to be able to lead Client in new thinking and practices of global dimensions.
We have to retain the upcoming advertising people in the new skills and attitudes possessed by these new creative that makes them adept at mining popular culture for insights which enable them to design communication solutions that build authentic connections with consumers.
Our next generation of leaders must see that today, the world is their stage; and at their feet.
After all, creativity is creativity.
We must realize that we are not the only repositories of knowledge and skills of effective communication and so we must equip our upcoming leaders with future-proof and competitive training.
This is the mindset that made an Amos Tutuola trained Blacksmith and T.M Aluko, a trained Engineer who stand peer-to-peer with the Chinua Achebes and Wole Soyinkas who were trained as writers.
So it is not about the profession that you are trained for. It is about an adaptive mindset and relevant retraining.
We need leaders who are adept in leading thought that finds solutions that resonate with today’s distracted consumer in the ever-fragmenting media landscape.
This is how the new ad agencies should be thinking.
The developments that have changed the dynamics of communication and social relationships; lead me to propose that we are no longer Marketing Communications Practitioners but Marketing Conversation Practitioners.
It is a paradigm that we must embrace; if we are to be relevant to today’s connected and incredibly aware and aware and empowered generation.
We must accept chaos as the new normal as the advertising business continues forever in a spin.
This is why I call for a mind shift that takes consideration of this new thinking where our young people are taught the way to see through the chaos to sift patterns that lead them into insights for making coherence out of disparate tendencies.
Insight is forever key; as solutions will always be derived out of insight and understanding.
Again remember Bon Jovi. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Inherent in this notion is the promise of business sustainability, in addition to satisfying the existential sentiment of making meaning out of our long lives spent in work.
We need to build our tomorrow now.
We should challenge our young colleagues to see immeasurable opportunity that awaits anyone who steps forward to offer the way out of the chaos. For this is what a leader means in essence-anyone who steps forward to confront a challenge and shows the way out for others to follow.
This presupposes the need for an emphasis on intelligence of a new kind; if we are to win the war of attrition that is buffeting our profession from all comers.
Again, take the case of the blogger for example. A blogger could have more followers than all the national media channels combined. That’s a one-person publishing conglomerate, whose infrastructure is a brain and a computer. Or even a tablet or phone. See what that means for your media revenue
The new intelligence that we need to engage should rather read ‘in-telligence’- the kind that soldiers employ to learn about the position at which the enemy is vulnerable.
This is the kind of motivation that we should be giving our  next generation.
In Naija terms, we can call the first module “Shine Your Eye 101”
At this celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Lions let me pass my congratulation through Chini to the great minds behind the institution that the Cannes Lions has come to be.
Let me congratulate Chini for stepping forward to bring the benefits that Cannes Lions provides for our industry and country.
Ladies and gentlemen, we stand at a place of immense opportunity, to provide solutions for Clients who are daily confronted by the challenges that have placed businesses in a spin.
We must meet this challenge by engaging, educating and motivating our upcoming generation for leadership so that they can take the helm in doing what the world needs us for-that is improving the quality of life and living as we connect the producers of good and services with consumers

Full text of an address by Jimi Awosika, MD Insight Grey, at the Nigeria celebration on the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes Lion at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos on Saturday March 30, 2013.

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