Recently, Noah’s Ark, arguably the nation’s leading marketing communication outfit, signed an ‘application agreement’ with Dentsu Aegis Network, DAN, a London-based media and digital marketing communications company.
The partnership is expected to be a sign of better things to come in the industry.
The Humble Start
Noah’s Ark, one of the nation’s fastest growing marketing communication outfits, is just eight years old. But if one looks at what it packs into its operational packages, one might be forgiven if he or she thinks the agency is 25 years old. That is the extent of its growth that many now see the agency as the reference point as far as integrated marketing communications in the country is concerned.
Yet, the story has not always been that of instant success. Noah’s Ark crawled before it walked. Lanre Adisa, the Group Managing. Director of the outfit, has this to say:
“When Noah’s Ark opened shop eight years ago, we started small. We were a team of less than 10 men and women with no assured accounts or financial backing in the sea of very intimidating big players. But we had a big dream; a dream powered by a simple believable vision. Our vision was, and still remains, to be in the league of the most successful brand builders out of Africa.”
The Dentsu Connection
Last week, the agency took a step further in its quest to join this league. It signed an application agreement with London-based Dentsu Aegis Network, DAN. Such partnership should ordinarily have passed without attracting much fanfare. But when one takes the pedigree of Dentsu into consideration, perhaps one begins to appreciate the business coup Noah’s Ark had just pulled off.
Dentsu, from all indications, is a media and digital marketing communications company with presence in more than 145 countries but with headquarters in London, the capital of United Kingdom. It is owned by the Japanese advertising and public relations firm, Dentsu. According to information supplied by promoters of the company, “the international agency is into communications strategy which its carries out via digital creative execution, media planning and buying, sports marketing and content creation, brand tracking and marketing analytics.”
Interestingly, Dentsu has subsidiaries like Carat, Dentsu Media, Mcgarrybowen, MKTG, Posterscope, Isobar, iProspect and Vizeum. As at today, the international agency has over 30,000 staff across 145 countries. That is not all. As at 2011, the agency did a total billing of £1.4billion while operating income stands at £197million with net income standing at £81million.
Beyond Advertising Traditions
With an international agency with this pedigree entering into an affiliation (though it called it application agreement) with Noah’s Ark, a statement has been made. It is not only that. It is also an indication that perhaps, operators of the nation’s advertising industry are beginning to think out of the box and see beyond the rudiments of traditional advertising.
Dentsu does not do traditional advertising as it is known, not 20 years ago, but today. It is more into media content development, digital media marketing as well as sports and entertainment marketing. Understanding where the future of the business lies is the key to being able to perform in today’s emerging markets and ability to communicate with different publics in languages that are unique to them and which they can easily relate with.
The communication needs of brands and clients are changing every day with different media channels coming up beyond what traditional advertising recognises.
It is not surprising when Noah’s Ark has this to say about itself:
“We believe understanding your audience is key: What their motivations and needs are? What their behaviours tell us? Using answers to these questions as foundations, we consequently embark on primary and secondary research, with which we paint a picture of what makes your audience tick.
Speaking at the affiliation agreement signing ceremony, Adisa said works of the agency have been winning awards within and outside the country. He explained that last year, “we emerged the de facto Agency of the Year at LAIF Awards with our winning of the only Grand Prix that was awarded for that year.”
He added that this year, the agency “won one Silver and two Bronze (medals) at the Loeries Awards in Durban, South Africa. Just very recently in Marrakesh, Morocco, we won two Gold and Three Bronze (medals) at the African Cristal Festival.” He announced that it was the first Gold to be won by any Nigerian or West African outfit at any international awards ceremony.
Going Global, Thinking Local
With clients like Indomie, Three Crown Milk, GoTV, Hypo and so on, many might be wondering why an agency like Noah’s Ark would be entering into any partnership with another international agency.
“Those who know me know that I have always relished our independence. But they also know that I have always been a great advocate of collaboration.
At different times, I have had cause to speak on the need for our industry to steer clear of isolationism.
I believe that to go far we have to seek out like-minded people from other parts of the world to raise our game.
When we had the first interaction with the DAN team, the first thing we asked ourselves was how would this relationship help attain our vision,” Adisa said.
Ms. Daon Rowlands, Chief Executive Director, Sub-Sahara Africa, Dentsu Aegis, speaking at the signing ceremony, said her outfit did not come about Noah’s Ark by accident.
She said anywhere they went, they were always referred to the agency.
“We were looking for a Nigerian agency that would be able to help us realise our dream in the West African market and everywhere we went, they always told us: ‘talk to Noah’s Ark.’”
Going Beyond the Flash
As rosy as its story sounds, Adisa and his team have to study the history of marketing communications in the country and what they are likely to discover is that no agency has been able to be a reference point in the industry for more than 10 years. They always fizzle out.
While there was no point mentioning names here, the nation’s advertising industry has more ‘former’ giants than ‘present’ big performers. It is always like the case of old empires that rose and also fell.
But the gladdening thing is that the Noah’s Ark boss seems to be aware of the industry’s existential ‘banana peel’. He told reporters at the ceremony that he felt bad that agencies that used to be reference points some 20 years ago are either dead or struggling.
“It gives me great concern,” he stated. “Even the agency where I started my career is no more. That is not gladdening at all. You are not as concerned as I am. No one is happy that some agencies that we used to look up to are no longer there.
But we want to change that narrative and that is why we are doing what we are doing today. We want this business to outlive us, professionally.
That is why we are looking at options and new trends beyond traditional advertising and signing this application agreement with Dentsu is part of our long term strategic plan.”
Noah’s Ark might just be eight. But its dreams seem to look at the next 80 years and that is why it is perhaps the time for the marketing communication industry in Nigeria to have enduring giants. Not just seasonal big players.
And if there is any agency that is capable of breaking the jinx, it is Lanre Adisa’s Noah’s Ark. The signs are reassuringly there; just like the Dentsu partnership.
Quote: But the gladdening thing is that the Noah’s Ark boss seems to be aware of the industry’s existential ‘banana peel’. He told reporters at the ceremony that he felt bad that agencies that used to be reference points some 20 years ago are either dead or struggling.
“It gives me great concern,” he stated. “Even the agency where I started my career is no more. That is not gladdening at all. You are not as concerned as I am. No one is happy that some agencies that we used to look up to are no longer there. But we want to change that narrative and that is why we are doing what we are doing today. We want this business to outlive us, professionally. That is why we are looking at options and new trends beyond traditional advertising and signing this application agreement with Dentsu is part of our long term strategic plan.”
More importantly, he has been instrumental to the growth of some of Nigeria’s major brands by directing the creation of exciting advertising campaigns.
Noah’s Ark emerged the ‘de facto’ agency of the year at LAIF, after it won the elusive Grand prix, the first Grand Prix given by the award in five years.
This year, the agency has followed on that track by winning a number of international awards. It won one silver and two bronze medals at Loeries Award in Durban, South Africa, and then followed up with five medals at the recently concluded Africa Cristal Festival in Marrakech Morocco.
Now, perhaps, Noah’s Ark is better position and equipped to fulfill its ultimate dream, which is to win the Cannes Lion award, after all, like Adisa has said, it is no longer a small agency.
Samuel Ajayi writes.