It's time for African creatives to step into the spotlight, argues Nigerian creative Owalawi Seyi in his guest post for Lürzer's Archive.
A couple of weeks ago, all every boxing lover and non-lover could see was news about the fight of the century between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. It was difficult to escape the hype. From the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas to almost all TV screens, mobile phones and laptop screens in the far continent of Africa, you just had to know something was going down.
But why can’t Nigerian (African) creatives have this same type of reception and talk value for whatever work it is they create daily? My guess is; many of us are contented with being local champions.
We have become jaded to the profession we felt so passionate about at one point in time. We have gotten used to; “Do it the client's way”. We move over, forget about it and deny when any of our friends ask if we had anything to do with the ad or campaign. This bothers me a lot, so I have tried to itemise some reasons why our work has very limited talk-value outside the confines of our country.
The majority of our creatives only do work similar to that of the foreign agencies they admire, replicating their work and styles, rather than invent one that is organically ours.
We really have failed to own and propagate our very own voice, texture, typography that speaks to our deep cultural heritage and rich customs.
Our press ads, tv, quasi-digital campaigns and radios are only slightly localised variations of those we have seen on the pages of certain magazines or ad forums we follow. With this mindset, majority of our works are rarely perceived as original when seen by the international community we intend to impress.
All this money - for what?
A large number of Nigerian agencies would never part with thousands of dollars just to give an ad the perfect 3D finish or give it the splendid image retouching that instantly glues the target to the intended message.
We try to do cheaper, faster imitations that end up looking like badly cloned doppelgangers. Trying to beat other western markets that have gotten a better grasp of how much financial commitment is required to create every creative piece will continue to limit our chances of competing and showcasing our best on a global scale.
Creative vs client services
An unfortunate great divide exists between these departments, and it constantly affects the kind of work that can be created by most agencies here.
Too often, the creative department is allowed to grow in isolation of what the client service department knows of its works, hence, the client service department has little to no knowledge of what the creatives do or how best to strategically sell their works to the clients. When the client service executive has no knowledge of the latest trends, ad styles or campaign gimmick, how can (s)he sell the client on a totally novel idea?
The client is king
The saddest bit of it all for me is the actions of the brand managers. They focus more on meeting the numbers, sales targets for specific financial quarters, rather than thinking about investing in a long-term identity for the brand in order to totally set it apart from the competition. What is requested of most agencies is the simplest of low-budget communication that just helps them meet the sales target beforehand, and the future of the brand can wait.
All of these are quite a few elements of what inhibits our global creative footprint, in my opinion, and I believe we need to keep fighting the good fight to change them, and make ourselves seen as global creative players.
Are you an African creative?
Owolawi Seyi is a copywriter with several works published in Luerzer’s Archive, and he has what he calls a fancy title at SO&U, a Nigerian ad agency (pictured above). Do you agree with his thinking, that it's time African creatives stepped into the international spotlight?
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