Winning the Pitcher Awards Agency of the Year is a confirmation that an agency’s success is not just a flash in the pan, but a reflection of the quality of their creative processes. This is even more true for an agency like Noah’s Ark Communications that has now won the award for the second year in a row and is the first winner of the Pitcher Awards Digital Agency of the Year.
In this interview, Lanre Adisa, Managing Director and Chief Creative Officer of Noah’s Ark Communications, Lagos shares his thoughts on their winning and other contemporary issues affecting the creative industry in Africa.
Noah’s Ark is a 2-time Advertising Agency of the Year winner and the first Digital Agency of the Year winner at the 2020 Pitcher Awards, what does this mean to you and do you have a structure in place to sustain these achievements?
For starters, we never thought we were going to win the Agency of the Year back to back. Neither did we think we were going to be the first winner of the Digital Agency of the Year. So it all came as a pleasant surprise. We are humbled by these feats. At a time like this when things are on the gloomy side globally, it is heartwarming to see creativity being celebrated as Pitcher Festival has done and also to be at the centre of it as an agency. It means a whole lot to us. It is a great reward for all the hard work, not just for us but more so for the clients who have entrusted us with their brands. All we can do is to continue as we’ve always done; never stopping to push for new frontiers to express ourselves.
The storytelling technique is now seen by many people as the house style of Noah’s Ark. This is quite impressive, but is it deliberate effort to infuse African culture or just a requirement of the brand that has caught on?
Storytelling has always been a part of us and will always be. It is not a question of a house style. As a matter of fact, that has always been part of all great brand building. From Apple’s 1984 to all the great pieces from Stella Artois and Guinness and the great body of work out of India and other parts of the world, what makes them stick in our memory is the power of storytelling. Perhaps what has shifted in our case is the African (or better still the Nigerian) cultural nuances that have been foregrounded in most of our recent work. I guess that also is a reflection of our current reality. In a globalized world where it is also easy to share everything good or bad ( as we’ve seen with COVID-19) it is very important that we shift our focus to identity in our storytelling. This is what you see in emerging culture today; in our music and our films. It is not at the instance of the brand owners. It is about knowing our audience well enough to know what will resonate with them at a visceral level. If the audience cannot relate with the work, it amounts to a gross waste of resources and opportunity.
The "Fela" execution of your campaign "Let History Repeat Itself” was well received by the jury and they awarded it an Outdoor Gold at the 2020 Pitcher Awards. Is there a back story to this campaign that you’ll like to tell?
The “Fela” material was done to commemorate Children’s Day. As usual, most people will go for the usual platitudes and exhortation about these kids being leaders of tomorrow. It took the death of Fela for us as a people to realise the greatness of his person and talent. This is a call for a shift in our parameters for judging heroes and greatness. For a country that has stopped teaching the next generation their history, this is a piece of work we are so proud of because it will get the younger generation seeking to know more. The other point to note here is the need for us as a community to promote our icons and legends. Often, people in our business find it easy to seek foreign icons: Einstein, Gandhi, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty. Whatever happened to all the great icons of our past and contemporary history. This is part of our duty as brand builders. We are witnesses; chroniclers of lived experiences past and present. So in this campaign, we didn’t just feature Fela, we also had Rashidi Yekini, the great football striker and Ladi Kwali, the celebrated potter on one of our currency notes.
How did the audience receive your Happiness Campaign for Maltina during the pandemic, knowing that those were very sober moments when many where battling with fear and the consequences of the lockdown?
One of the beauties of our work is the moments of serendipity that do occur every now and then. The Happiness campaign for Maltina was created a year before COVID-19. Our aim was to inspire people to look within and around them for the little things that make for happiness. In a world that has gone so materialistic driven by the exhibitionism of social media, people often get their priorities misdirected and end up in a space that’s not so uplifting. We never knew the world would need a message like this some day. For this period, we rode on the campaign as originally created and developed some animated pieces to reflect the realities of the so-called new normal to inspire our audience to look on the brighter side of things. Truth is that in the midst of all the gloomy news, some good things have come out of this season. We only need to look around us.
As one of Nigeria's leading creative agencies, what will you advise other agencies across Africa to do to help them cope with the new normal?
I believe the best attitude for this moment is to stay positive. See this as yet another crazy brief to crack. As usual, we’ll crack it and bounce back stronger and wiser. We just need to stay the course. Brands today are assuming a new role in the lives of people as we’ve seen in the case of the Trillion Dollar Club of the big tech companies. Most governments are failing their people. Brands by their nature and activities are perhaps closer to the people. That is the unique position brands and people in our industry occupy today. It is tough but we need to start from the positive mindset of overcoming this era in order for us to be able to inspire our audiences to see beyond the gloom of today. The world needs creativity now more than ever before. Our brands and our communities need us now more than ever.
With many brands cutting budget, agencies slashing salaries and production slowing, is there a future for the creative industry?
Like I said earlier, these are tough times. That goes without saying. At a time like this, every business will have to make choices. Some of those choices may be hard. The essence is to keep the ship sailing in the midst of turbulence. As our clients try to lighten their ships to stay afloat, so are we also affected. We have to readjust to keep going. In all of this, what really matters is that we stay on course and stay relevant. Clients are looking for partners who can bring extraordinary value to their businesses. These brands need us now more than any other time. But we must be ready to shape up. Digital transformation needs to be accelerated across every facet of the creative business. We should also be able to think beyond the confines of our business as things stand today. For an industry that has always thrived on short form content, the time for convergence as regards content in its entirety, technology, big data and big ideas is now. We must be ready to think on our feet. We need to apply creativity to our business for us to be sure of a great future.