Coalescence: A Strategic Approach To Navigating Nigeria’s Dynamic Marketing Communications Landscape

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Unveiling the dynamics and challenges within Nigeria’s marketing communications industry, Olaotan Fawehinmi, Associate Director, Client Services at Mediacraft Associates, shares profound insights in an exclusive interview with MOSES OGUNLADE This interview navigates through Olaotan’s rich experiences, addressing pivotal topics ranging from AI integration to ethical considerations, offering valuable advice for aspiring communication professionals and showcasing a roadmap for success in the ever-evolving marketing communications landscape in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s media and marketing communications industry seems fragmented compared to more developed markets. In your view, what will it take to consolidate and allow more prominent and more influential agencies to emerge?
It all begins with regulation. The more developed markets are highly regulated, so transparency, ethical standards, and fair competition are easy to achieve.
Look at the entertainment industry; more prominent artistes sign younger artistes and bring them to the limelight. An upcoming artiste can feature a bigger artiste in his song, which could be his turning point. Look at the financial sector; there are mergers and acquisitions. Encouraging collaboration among smaller agencies will lead to shared resources, knowledge exchange, and collective efforts to raise industry standards.
Client education is also very crucial in this regard. As the consultant, you may know what is best for the client, but most times, the clients want what they want and need someone to execute at a fee. Educating clients on the diverse value propositions of marketing strategies and elucidating the benefits of trusting professional insights can cultivate a deeper respect for our services.

What are the key innovations you’ve seen in Nigeria’s marketing/communications ecosystem in recent years when it comes to taking advantage of digital channels and tools? Where do you see the most potential for future innovation?
In recent years, Nigeria’s marketing communications ecosystem, as well as other sectors, have witnessed disruptive innovations. Artificial Intelligence (AI) stands out as a game-changer, with platforms like ChatGPT, Grammarly, Da Vinci, and others reshaping content creation narratives. The nascent stage of AI adoption suggests further personalisation, predictive analytics, and marketing process automation integration.
We have increasingly utilised social media platforms for marketing. Influencer marketing continues to grow as a prominent strategy for reaching target audiences. Mobile marketing has grown significantly because of the high mobile penetration rate.
Looking ahead, content creation and marketing will become more immersive, interactive, and personalised. Decision-making processes will increasingly rely on novel tools for gathering insights into consumer behaviours. Let’s not forget the rollout of 5G, which will enhance internet speed and connectivity, opening new avenues for interactive and data-intensive marketing strategies.
As Nigeria’s marketing communications landscape evolves, the digital age demands a proactive approach to stay ahead of the curve, embracing continuous innovation and adaptation.

AI is transforming industries globally in areas like content production, data analytics, and more, which are critical for marketing teams. How can Nigerian agencies prepare to take advantage of these AI capabilities within their organisations?
Three Es can never go wrong: Education, Exposure, and Experience. We must build capacity and competency through meaningful training programs to prepare for and take advantage of AI capabilities.
We can’t afford to be local champions. We must glean insights from developed markets. Forming cross-functional teams, collaborating on projects, and active networking are catalysts for growth, achievable through affiliations and exchange programs.
AI solutions are great, but you wouldn’t need everything all at once. Identify which solutions align with your specific needs per time and conduct thorough evaluations and pilot programs before committing to large-scale implementations.
Begin with AI applications that offer immediate benefits and gradually expand adoption to more complex use as your team gains experience and confidence. Form partnerships with AI technology providers or startups to help access cutting-edge solutions and stay abreast of industry developments.

There have been growing calls for stronger self-regulation in the marketing/communications industry to build standards and trust. What’s your take on the best way to balance regulation and creativity?
Proper cultivation is required to guide a tree’s positive and productive development. Adequate training is needed to shape the morals of a child. Because things left to grow on their own often grow wildly. Look at the financial and telecommunications sectors. Proper regulation establishes standards, ensures ethical practices, and builds trust.
Regulations will establish codes of conduct and ethical guidelines that promote responsible and transparent practices. These guidelines must be practical and conducive to industry growth, and in drafting a framework that addresses industry challenges, we must be careful not to stifle creativity.
Building a culture that values creativity while ensuring compliance demands a dual focus on the right PEOPLE and the right PROCESSES. Effective processes guarantee a thorough review of creative ideas for ethical considerations before implementation. Simultaneously, the right people ensure the seamless functioning of these processes, overseeing reviews of campaigns, content, and strategies for alignment with industry standards.
Collaboration among industry players, regulatory authorities, and professionals is pivotal. This collective effort will nurture a culture of responsibility, transparency, and continual education, fostering an environment where global best practices and successful models from other regions are emulated.

What aspect of Nigeria’s unique economic, social, or cultural landscape excites you the most when it comes to opportunities for impactful, innovative communications campaigns? How can we showcase that to the world?
Nigeria’s uniqueness and dynamism challenge the assumption that policies or models thriving elsewhere will automatically succeed here. The country’s vast population, expansive landmass, diverse social inclinations, ethnicities, and cultural nuances create strengths and challenges within its federal and divergent economic framework.
When strategically harnessed, the rich blend of ethnicities, languages, traditions, and contemporary influences becomes an asset. Focusing on impactful social cause campaigns allows for creating compelling narratives that resonate with diverse communities.
There is a dire need to shift the focus from only profits to prioritising people and the planet. Community-focused and cause-based campaigns that tackle social issues, champion inclusivity, and drive optimistic change showcase businesses and organisations actively contributing to community development.
This approach extends beyond borders, captivating global audiences and fostering a nuanced and positive perception of Nigeria on the world stage. It underscores the country’s commitment to sustainable development and social responsibility, contributing to a more favourable global image.

From your vantage point, what are the most significant ethical challenges facing Nigeria’s marketing/communications industry today? How can these be addressed?
Challenges like insensitive campaigns, cultural missteps, and exploitative tactics demand a proactive approach to navigating the marketing communications landscape. Diverse misrepresentations in marketing content regarding religion, ethnicity, gender, and other dimensions underscore the need for sensitivity, inclusivity, and diverse perspectives in campaign development.
Combatting these issues requires industry-wide initiatives. Establishing guidelines that explicitly prohibit exploitative practices while emphasising authenticity, proper disclosure, and adherence to standards is paramount. This collective commitment ensures ethical practices across the board.
Beyond external considerations, internal well-being is equally crucial. Prioritising employee welfare prevents burnout and unhealthy working conditions. Deliberate efforts towards work-life balance, mental health support, and fostering a healthy workplace culture contribute to sustained professional excellence and overall industry well-being.

As both a practitioner and a teacher in this field, what skills gap stands out as most urgent for the new generation of marketing/communications professionals in Nigeria to fill?
Professionals must be adept multitaskers, excelling in effective storytelling and crafting compelling content across diverse mediums. The ability to think innovatively and introduce fresh ideas sets the stage for impactful campaigns.
Understanding and appreciating cultural nuances is indispensable, enhancing communication strategies for optimal audience engagement. Proficiency in public relations and crisis communication principles becomes a linchpin for safeguarding the reputations of individuals and organisations.
Given the era of globalisation, staying attuned to international marketing trends and strategies is non-negotiable. This awareness is particularly vital when working on campaigns with global implications, ensuring a nuanced approach that resonates across diverse cultural landscapes.

In an industry often focused on creativity over discipline, what workplace culture and ethical values do you actively instil in your teams?
Teamwork – A cohesive team approach where one’s weakness complements another’s strength. We must collaborate like a broomstick in a bunch because success is achieved through collective effort. When we work together, we win together.
Ingenuity – The same pencil that is useless in a potter’s hand is the power of an artist. Clay cannot make ridges, but loam can. Yet you dare not use loam when you need to make pots. Nothing is inherently useless; it’s just a matter of finding the right use.
Effective communication, encompassing both speaking and listening, helps conflict resolution. Quality conversations bring meaningful resolutions to human interactions.
Be responsible and resourceful – every challenge has a solution if we are determined and diligent enough to find it.
Balance hard work with smart work and a commitment to continuous personal learning and development. Uphold the highest standards of integrity and honesty.

What advice would you give aspiring communications professionals today regarding building trust and safeguarding integrity?
Initiate, Integrate and Iterate.
Initiate your career by setting the tone from the beginning. Start by building competence, capacity, and character.
Integrate other skills and ideas, and let your communication strategies, messages, and interactions reflect ingenuity. Integrate trust-building into your dealings. Consistently deliver on promises, be reliable, and let your stakeholders feel secure around you.
Iterate your unique selling proposition both personally and professionally. Reflect on experiences, learning from successes and challenges. Adapt your strategies to align better with your trade secret.
When entering a room full of people, shift your focus from wondering if they like you (rooted in fear and insecurity) to evaluating if you like them (reflecting courage and confidence). Choose to assert your presence in the industry, take control of your narrative, showcase your worth, forge your path, and exude strength. With each step, demonstrate that you possess the qualities to become the next big thing.