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‘LAIF is major driver of creativity, innovation’

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Mr. Steve Babaeko


Thirteen years on, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) is not relenting in its efforts to grow the advertising industry to global standard, as it will yet again showcase the best agencies through Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF) award, which commenced since Sunday, December 2, through December 9.

Many industry players hold the award in high esteem as it continues to promote Nigeria’s creative potential in the international circle as well as recognise outstanding creativity and an avenue for the celebration of world-class ideas.

For the first time, it would feature as a creative week with three major categories- LAIF Seminar, Young LAIFERS Competition and LAIF Awards Dinner, which would conclude the event on Sunday. The jurors’ sitting started yesterday, Monday and will end on Thursday while Friday is for Young LAIFers competition. The Chief Juror is Mr. Michael Zylstra, the Chief Strategy Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network, South Africa.

Also worthy to note is the partnership of AAAN with Globacom Nigeria to bring Mr. Thebe Ikalafeng as keynote speaker for the Seminar. Ikalafeng is the founder and Chairman, Brand Leadership Group, South Africa and first African Chairman of Loeries Awards.LAIF seminar is targeted at senior practitioners in marketing communications. The programme will be facilitated by local and international brand luminaries and will have in attendance over 500 delegates from various sectors of the industry. The seminar would take place at Civic Centre, Lagos, while other programmes would hold at Landmark Centre.

The Guardian caught up with the chairman of LAIF management board, Steve Babaeko, and he spoke about LAIF achievements, vision and its defining programmes. While describing the journey, he said LAIF awards has been one of the most consistent pillars of achievements of the association, adding, “In fact, participation this year been very encouraging I must say; the entries went up by 20 per cent or so. The most satisfying for me is that we now have younger and smaller agencies participating as well.”

Speaking on the theme ‘Future Forward’ Babaeko said it was AAAN’s norm to challenge itself on the challenges facing the industry, saying, “Technology is disrupting every industry today, and as a business, you have to contend with that. How are we making the industry ready to face these challenges? The theme is a clarion call to every agency because for us to survive tomorrow, we have to be ready today.”

On how LAIF has helped in shaping advertising practice in Nigeria, Babaeko answered in reverse, saying, “If you wipe away 13 years of LAIF awards as per the development of our advertising industry, it is still the major yardstick for measuring which agencies are doing well and which clients are supporting innovation and creativity, and if you remove it, there is nothing we can aspire to. A couple of years ago, clients didn’t bother much about LAIF awards, but from my experience in the past five years, clients are showing more interest in LAIF; they really want to see themselves win to.

“LAIF is the major driver of creativity and innovation in the country. In business, you need to support your clients to innovate and do fantastic work, and one of the ways these clients weigh agencies is through the LAIF awards; this is our Cannes here, and perhaps the biggest awards ceremony in West Africa.”

The growth of the industry, he said, is evidently seen in the numerous international awards that many local agencies have clinched in the past three years, noting, “They have won at the Leories, Cristal and so on. At the Lorries, Nigerians are winning and at Crystal, the same achievement is being recorded. What Noah’s Ark and X3M Ideas did at this year’s edition of Crystal is a major landmark. DDB is doing well in that regard too, Insight is doing great and many others are coming up. We will continue to push ourselves, help to create more competition amongst agencies.”

Babaeko, who is Vice president of AAAN and group CEO of X3M Ideas, said one of his goals is to take LAIF’s participation outside Lagos, adding, “Next year is my last year as board chairman. So, I am very optimistic, and by the grace of God looking forward to leaving the legacy of expanding the participation to outside Nigeria.”

One but wonders how much Nigerian stories are considered in determining winners, but Babaeko said it was imperative to tell Nigerian stories which is majorly a form of branding for the country, affirming, “I read somewhere that the telecoms industry seems to be telling authentic Nigerian stories, and if some of these acts win big at this years LAIF awards, it will go a long way in setting the standard and encouraging other clients to work with their agencies to tell Nigerian story, because, unfortunately, if we don’t tell it, other will tell the wrong version for us.”


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