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13 years on, LAIF sets eye on regional, continental industry growth

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Steve Babaeko

Tori tori headlines ideas’ feast
The Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF) awards may be in its 13th year, but it may not have attained the needed fame when compared with similar awards around the world. Created by the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) to recognise, reward and foster creative excellence in all areas of marketing communications, LAIF should be on the same level as Loeries and Cannes, especially, as it hopes to expand to West Africa by next edition and subsequently, the entire continent.

The Nigerian creative industry has evolved; this is readily seen in most of the commercials that come out of the industry. Many have wondered why 13 years on, LAIF is still not the most sought after event. The Guardian recently caught up with the Chairman of Event Planning Committee of Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF), Steve Babaeko, who harped on the importance of Africans telling their own stories instead of allowing foreigners to tell a twisted one for them.

He observed that over the years, there have not been authentic stories of Africans by Africans, adding, “If you are looking for a little material, some form of background literature about an institution or a person in Nigeria, you go to the BBC before you can get such materials. I think it’s a little bit embarrassing. We decided that, instead of leaving our stories as Africans, as Nigerians, for other people to tell, this time let’s concentrate on telling our own stories.”

The 13th edition would hold on December 14 with the theme Tori Tori of LAIF. Babaeko said the industry was ready to walk the talk, as it would also be reflected in the dress code for this year.

He said, “It’s going to be purely a Nigerian affair. It’s one thing for us to want to imbibe what foreigners do, but also if we don’t celebrate our own, who will do it?

Specifically, he added that the vision of the award has always been to be a sub-regional award, “but as you know getting some of our brothers and sisters on the West Coast to jump on it, has been a little bit of a challenge, but we will not stop trying.

“We are expecting a keen contest that is normally associated with LAIF; since that is our own ‘premiership’. Everybody wants to see the top five –10 agencies for the year. So the contest is expected to be keen.”

To ensure a fair and balanced atmosphere for judging the LAIF entries, he said members of the jury include Gbemi Sagay, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dencil Limited; Stanley Lumax, a New York-based communication expert; Toni Kan Onwordi, author, editor and public relations specialist, and Irene Donati, Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy, Lionheart Group, Ghana. Others are Ekenena Ezaga, Creative Director, SO&U, Yaa Boateng, Creative Director, Ogilvy Ghana, Dave Chukwuji, Creative Director, DKK Nigeria, Sunny Mohammed, Creative Director, DDB Lagos, and Kayode Olowu, Creative Director, Onewildcard.

On how the journey has been so far, he noted, “anybody that is involved in the organization of this kind of award, in Nigeria, would understand how difficult it is to sustain awards, such as this, over the years. LAIF is one of the key pillars of the AAAN and it is in its 13th year now. We are super-excited that the tradition remains unbroken.

“Secondly, what is paramount on our mind now is: how do we look inward and get people to be more excited about the award? We are also looking forward to seeing more participation from the newer or younger agencies. We believe the younger agencies are the lifeblood of the industry. If we can’t get the younger agencies to be a part of it, then what is the point? That’s what is going to guarantee that the longevity that we plan for the industry will continue.”

He, however, said there was a time the Ghanaian advertising president was showing interest, adding, “We actually followed up. You know, there is a new Pharaoh who does not know Joseph. They too had succession happening at their end. The president that was interested is not the one that is there now, and some of these logistics problems always crop up. But like I said, it’s something that we are very passionate about, and we will not stop at pursuing such.”

Reacting to whether there would be a probable change in nomenclature from Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival if neighbouring African countries participate, he argued, “it’s like saying why is Cannes a creativity award? Cannes is just a small village in Europe, and the name has not stopped agencies from the U.S. and even Africa from coming to participate in the festival all through these years. So, I don’t think the name should be any issue really.”

Interestingly, he said a new category, Advertiser of The Year, would be introduced this year. It is meant for one brand, one company that has supported and invested in more robust advertising created for it.

According to him, “We think that will help stimulate other clients to want to support, not just advertising, but creative advertising.  Remember, this Award is all about creativity and the efficacy of communication. So we are trying to push that this year, and for the client who supports advertising, and who supports their agencies to be more creative, we single them out, and we honour them appropriately.”

He also pointed out the dichotomy between LAIF agencies and non-LAIF agencies. Saying, “in fairness to small agencies, entering for this type of award, costs a lot of money, hence, agencies from Africa struggle to win Cannes. Sometimes it’s a question of how many entries do you have. You have a small agency, in Europe, that runs a small operation of maybe 10 to 20 people, and they earn their money in Euro. So if they are entering for Cannes at maybe 200 or 150 Euro, it doesn’t hurt them.”

Conclusively, he stated that unlike last year, the entries are still coming in, “but we are hoping and really optimistic. This is why we’ve been paying courtesy calls to people and telling them the importance of participating in the Award. I mean to get a LAIF Award on your shelf for the work you’ve done for a client, is evidence that, as an agency, you are still very relevant in the scheme of things. There are agencies that continue to win it, year in, year out. You can tell the agencies that are really doing well by the number of entries they are able to put in, and the number of entries they are able to win. This is why we are encouraging the young agencies, because for me, there is nothing like a big agency. You are either a creative agency, or you are not. I expect even the younger agencies to be hungrier.”


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