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‘Infinite Future’ is big for global brands, says Ogunyomi

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Olateju Ogunyomi is CEO of the new digital marketing company, ASPORA. An experienced and versatile brand builder, Ogunyomi describes her journey in the world of advertising and marketing and the ‘infinite future’ digital marketing offers global brands. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR captures her movement.

At what point in your life did it occur to you that you want to be a marketing communications practitioner? What is your journey so far?
I LEARNT at an early age how to identify and analyse competition, how to use SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to understand what needs to be done to survive, and the importance of using creative and strategic conversations to achieve my goal. Another critical thing I learned is behavioural analysis and change. However, I didn’t know the terms until I got to the polytechnic. When I got the admission to study mass communications at the Ogun State Polytechnic in 1997 and my dad insisted it had to be law, I analysed my situation and strategised on what to do to get what I wanted. Although dad delayed until admission closed just to make me give up, I was ready to do part-time which was for three years instead of two – there is always a price to pay (smile). So, my venture into this career is not by luck, coincidence, or what is available, it is what I have always wanted to do. On my career journey, I started out at BCOS in 2001 as an OAP before moving to Lagos in 2002 for greater opportunities like many others. Then, I worked as a freelance presenter on a programme on Eko FM called Property Network, did a short stint at Oshodi-Isolo Council secretariat for a year, and later worked at TQA Communications as an ad hoc staff at events for Nestle – Maggi cooking competitions and Milo basketball, Nigerian Breweries – AMBO box office and Business Retreat, and Coca-Cola; for three years. I finally got my first agency full-time job in 2008 before moving to Criterion Communications, which later launched as Ogilvy.

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As the first staff of Ogilvy, you left to take a break. Are you quitting marketing communication? 
I needed that break badly. Some people believe that I was not smart to have resigned without getting another job. Others think that I could have taken a long leave to rest and then go back to work. But the truth is that I don’t know how to stop when I feel that there is work to do. There is this sense of responsibility that makes me feel that I have to make sure everything is fine, and that makes me restless and push myself more even when I am ill. So, at the time I resigned, I knew if I didn’t, something will go wrong. All the medical checkups I did came back with warning signs, so it was a decision that if I make again, I won’t think twice. However, quitting MarComms is like telling me to commit suicide. I am very restless, and I thrive most with challenges. Serving brands is what I live for and the only thing that has always kept me on my toes is this profession…honestly, it seems like a till-death-do-us-path relationship. So, I am not quitting. But I am starting a new agency called ASPORA. ASPORA is a Digital Marketing Agency with strategy, integrated communications, and consultancy offerings. The company’s vision is to take brands into the infinite future, and that future is Digital. For me, digital is not about just selling products or creating amazing designs, it is about building relationships. The brand’s personality and character are what the digital natives experience when they connect with a brand, and how that experience makes them feel, is what makes them hold on to the brand. We are here to take brands through the process of building a life of their own that will become their true community and help them achieve business growth. We intend to connect and infiltrate their world through Me-Media to understand and measure share of mind and share of heart in order to build brand value and a positive direct relationship with consumers and advocates, using best practices. Most importantly, we want to deliver business value. We believe value is about human connection, and that is what matters.

Why do you think digital is the future of advertising?
You need to understand that in every second, 500hrs of videos are uploaded on Youtube, 150,000 users share messages on Facebook and 147,000 photos are uploaded, Instagram Ads receive 138,889 clicks, 41,666,667 messages are shared on WhatsApp, 208,333 meetings are hosted on Zoom,404,444 hrs of videos are streamed on Netflix, 316 people join Twitter, 52,083 people connect on Microsoft Teams, 69,444 users apply for jobs on Linkedin, Amazon ships 6,659 packages and above all, 1,000,000 dollars is spent online. All per seconds! And the most interesting thing is that it can be measured, and brands can use the learning algorithms to discover and understand the behaviors of those users that connect with their business goals. So, brands should stop seeing social as another digital channel for just support or visibility. Social has become the new mass advertising with the ability to hyper-target personalized messaging. Many brand managers believe in what we call the ‘vanity metrics” in the form of “engagement and likes”, to measure the success of their brands when actually, the KPIs should be “awareness, consideration, and action” in alignment with the business goal. It is very necessary to understand that data has proven that optimizing towards engagement just target the ‘engagers’ who are not necessarily the target, and “click-happy” audiences rarely purchase. Ultimately, there is absolutely no correlation between engagement and brand effects metric!

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But don’t you think brands are creating posts and engaging their audience already?
Marc Pritchard, P&G’s brand officer said, and I quote, “we fell into the content crap trap”. That is exactly what is happening to many brands. It is not the quantity of posts that makes the target want to keep coming back to your page or be part of your community, it is how you make them feel. Creating many posts can easily make brands lose the customer’s attention. With the intensifying battle for attention and the shrinking target’s attention span, most of the things created become ineffective, uninteresting, and do not inspire them, and brands need to cut through the clutter. My effective way of doing this is for brands to move to the transformative stage. This means that brands should start building content in line with consumption habits and not a “one for all” approach. You have to get the target’s attention in the first second or they move on. Therefore, what is missing in today’s digital marketing is the understanding of where the brand’s personality and the consumer’s habit meet, how it fits into the ecosystem, and how it should be measured. It cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. And I think we keep making the same mistake as we do in traditional advertising where we do not analyze brands deep enough to understand where the messages need to be to connect with the right target. For example, outdoor; should our messages be on only tricycles or BRT buses, or inter-state buses or billboards, or on all? What is the bottom line of the client’s business? It has now become imperative for brands to develop content that enables them to build and maintain relationships. I call it “predictable but innovative”

What is your team at ASPORA looking like? 
Our team at ASPORA excites me because we have from start-up designed a virtual office structure and a cloud-based engagement system that allows us all to work from anywhere in the world but still deliver fast and strong.   We have an internationally experienced crew with global marketing experience and strong brand-building bonafide. Our Directors and Consultants are able to offer our clients case-study evaluations based on international references but with local market intelligence and the nature and level of digital penetration in each instance. I feel really blessed to lead this exciting team and we are energized to bring a new colour and energy to how brands engage Nigeria’s huge generation of digital natives. 

What is ASPORA’s brand promise? How do you hope to make a difference?
What we offer are bespoke innovative analytical tools to assess the paradigm of brand personality, channels, consumer behaviour, messaging, and alignment. We apply this analysis, bespoke, to every brand we are privileged to support. We encourage robust investments in digital marketing and embrace measurable milestones that prove our analysis and solutions. And we do this by understanding the pressures that brand teams face and the dynamic and sometimes tumultuous nature of the marketplace and the intensity of competitive activities. We work hard. We work smart. We work fast. We deliver. 
That is the ASPORA brand promise.

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How many brands have you managed?
The first brand I managed was Suppy Seasoning and within one year of working with my team, the sales turnover grew by 22 per cent gaining three market share, and the brand moved from being strong in Lagos and struggling in Ibadan market, to gaining market shares in Ibadan, Ilorin and Kano. Since then, I have horned my skills in brand management, digital marketing, business management and development, and strategy by leading both the client service and digital teams that managed brands like Coca-Cola, Schweppes, PAC, Philip Morris, Chesterfield, American Express, Phillips, Tom Tom, Buttermint, Bournvita, Cadbury Hot Chocolate, Golden Penny Pasta, Golden Penny Noodles, Mai-Kwabo pasta, Lumos Solar, Kortex, APT Pension, Velo (by BAT), So-Klin, Supreme Noodles, African Petroleum and after it launched as Forte Oil, Union Assurance, De-deons Syrup of Heamoglobin, and so on. 

Working at Ogilvy was very challenging but a great interesting and knowledgeable experience that I am always grateful for. I am happy to say that my team worked hard and impacted greatly on brand growth and we also won awards. At LAIF Awards in 2019, the Coca-Cola AFCON campaign won the Best Editing and Best Production Design and Art Direction award, the EPL Partnership TVC won the best animation, and Schweppes’ Brand Repositioning campaign won the Best Outdoor Material for OOH. Also, at the ADVAN awards, Schweppes repositioning campaign won bronze while Coca-Cola was awarded the most valuable beverage of the year. Lastly on awards, Tom Tom won the Candy Brand of the Year in 2020.

Those who really know you say you are a workaholic. What drives you?
Results! Simple. I love to be a driving force in brand building, make an impact on organizational growth and personal development, and oh! Challenges make me tick. Every time I have the opportunity, I say to people that I am a challenger brand. There is no giving up or going back until my client gets a compelling and innovative solution. You know, I always tell my team that it’s not personal. We just need to get the job done and everybody is happy. Some people don’t like me for it but many of them understand my personality. If there is a task to be completed within a tight deadline, it’s better to let me know if there would be a problem meeting up, at least 3 hours before the deadline not when I am supposed to have the work.

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What is the toughest brand or project you have worked on?
Hmmm… Coca-Cola! Although, I won’t say it’s a tough brand… It is challenging and interesting,  the good thing is that at the end of the day, the result is worth all the stress. Working on Coca-Cola, American Express, Philip Morris, etc., taught me how to give life to a brand. There are structures, guidelines, playbook… let me just say that each brand is treated like a person. And that is what makes a brand successful. Most importantly, their teams are amazing. I can tell you that the AFCON TVC almost drove me nuts but every time I reached a breaking point, there is always something to be happy and thankful for. We only had 20 minutes to shoot the changing room and also take pictures of the Super Eagles players in Asaba, because they needed to practice in preparation for an important match. Meanwhile, the production house didn’t get to Asaba until 30 minutes to the time we had. By God, that was just the beginning of the chaos that became an award-winning TVC. Script was changed by the day, there were modifications even on the shoot day. We didn’t shoot the main TVC until two weeks to AFCON. I remember at a point Chimamanda’s team was not agreeing to how we wanted to use her clips during editing, and she wanted us to add a clause to the agreement, so we proposed to the client to take her off, but they won’t have it. They told us to sort it out as the story will fall apart if we take anything out at that stage. Then we were caught between what can fit in a 60/30/15 secs cut, there were changes in how it will start, client, wanted us to try a combination of voices – male, female, male and female, etc. I think through it all, the one person that really gave me hope was Fiona Uwagwu who was my MD. She stayed with me in the office till midnight every day while I liaise with the production house in South Africa. Kim on the editing side was also an amazing lady. She understood and never complained every time I go back with changes. Finally, the TVC was approved few days before the AFCON competition started. Another project that I will not easily forget is the launch of Golden Penny Mai Kwabo pasta in Kano, but I am always glad it was a success that opened more doors for the Ogilvy team at FMN. Again, it is an experience I will love to share later.

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