Insel Communications Accra, Ghana is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network. It describes itself as the big idea agency that takes your brand to the streets. In 2018, they created a storm at Pitcher Awards by winning the agency of the year with such memorable campaigns like “Jack, Where Are You?” for Ghana Post Co, Ltd which won several awards including a Grand Prix in Integrated Campaigns (see campaign here). In this interview, the MD and Creative Director of the agency, Russel Eni, shares compelling insights about his agency, the creative industry in Ghana and how Ghana is spearheading African integration and the return of Africans in diaspora to the motherland.
How did it feel emerging as Pitcher Awards agency of the year ahead of the big Lagos agencies?
Considering the amazing creativity that comes out of Nigeria, it was an unexpected win so it heightened the excitement for us. It was nice to feel our work was appreciated by our peers and we thank them for it.
Looking at your website, it looks like you have been on a winning spree since 2014, is this why you call yourself the big idea agency?
We focus on looking for the one locally relevant thought that marries the benefit of the product or service to the desires of our target. We design our campaigns around that and it has delivered results for us and our clients over the years.
You didn’t really make a big showing in 2019, is there any reason for this?
Campaigns are not won by agencies, they are won by brave clients willing to change the status quo in their messages. Last year was unlucky as we experienced, for the first time in years, a downturn in marketing campaigns by some of our clients. Two fully designed campaigns we had hopes for never saw the light of day.
You joined the Dentsu-Aegis Network in 2017, how has this affected creativity and general working process for Insel?
We pride ourselves as an agency that understands local nuance. Dentsu brings tools and research that opens a small local agency to global tools and processes. The two together can be quite powerful as it helps us expand creativity to spheres that were not immediately obvious to us before. It also means an agency our size doesn’t need to make the investments to access that knowledge.
What is the hottest thing that you’re working on that you’ll like everybody to know about?
We acquired a new account that we are particularly excited about. I’d like everybody to discover when we enter it into next year's Pitcher. We have a personal campaign on waste management that we are particularly excited about and are currently looking for a client to partner us on.
Obviously, you’ve done a lot of things that you’re proud of, but which projects have been the most challenging and perhaps the most fulfilling?
One of the most challenging was delivering a target of 300k downloads of a mobile app for our bank client in three months. It had been a campaign that a lot of money had been thrown at across Nigeria and Ghana but hadn’t moved the needle for the client. We were excited and nervous at the same time. We are proud to say we designed a campaign that exceeded the KPI by 57k in less than the three months and 1 million digital users in six. I believe our campaign was adopted in the other countries which saw exponential growth for the client moving them to number one in app downloads for months. It was gratifying to see competition adopt our model.
Tell us about creativity in Ghana generally, not just advertising, but entertainment, fashion and the rest. Who are those that you think the world must know about? Those that are breaking barriers and shaping culture.
A lot of creativity is happening underground. Young musicians, painters, fashion designers, and film producers have found an audience online and are using nontraditional channels to create cult followings. There are youth oriented traditional channels like YFM and 4site TV who are cashing in on this vibrant underground market too. And example is the award winning movie, ‘The Burial of Kojo’ written, produced and directed by Blitz the Ambassador, who founded a small movement called ‘Movie in the Park’ that hosts shorts by unknowns and old films from across Africa and the diaspora. The Burial of Kojo, grew out of this movement.
Another example is the yearly Chalewote Street Art Festival which is now a tourist attraction and getting international attention. It showcases performance art, fashion, food, music and all forms of exciting art-forms.
Ghana has been leading conversation on African integration. Ghana is one of the first countries to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and Ghana also declared 2019, year of return to the motherland by Africans in diaspora. Is the creative industry involved in this and what are they doing?
Ghana has seen a lot of firsts, and so I’m proud of her leading role in the conversation with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. It’s about time we opened the doors to the opportunities this brings to the growth of local brands and knowledge. We would be the largest number of participating countries in the world.
The year of return is an exciting prospect. Recently there was a fashion show curated by Kofi Okyere Darko, himself a creative in the entertainment and fashion industry. Rythms on Da Runway, was held at a colonial slave castle built 1657. It showcased our diverse fashion and music and was associated with the year of return. I feel that a lot of the creative work that’s being done towards the event will manifest itself towards the end of the year.
What are the major challenges facing the creative industry in Ghana?
Creative is the future. There’s a need for proper advertising schools and courses that take the industry seriously. In my experience a lot of people end up in advertising quite by accident, myself included. There also needs to be constant education in the changing patterns and mediums that people interact with brands in a time where there is so much choice.
There’s also a major responsibility for companies like mine to throw a spotlight on the beauty and of our creativity even more now than ever.
In 2020 Pitcher Awards will be accepting entries from agencies outside West Africa, is it a time for “fear and trembling”, “sitting up” or “work as usual”?
Ha, ha, ha...The visitors should be afraid and trembling. Having attended creative festivals across the world, judged in some of them, competition is what we need to jolt us from our slumber and spur us on. It would elevate the quality of work and brings the brave winning work closer to our clients.