TED MUKORO: THE HARD TRUTHS
Theodore Austin Mukoro didn’t die young. In a country where life expectancy now hovers around 53 years, our Uncle Ted, thankfully, died at a ripe age of 89. Though his death is painful, what is more painful is the fact that most young practitioners today barely, or don’t even know him at all.
Last week at the office, a young colleague of mine was asking, “Who is Ted Mukoro?” Interestingly, this young colleague knows almost everything about David Ogilvy, Sir John Hegarty, etc., via materials such as: books, interviews, talks, seminars…and the likes, all well documented, and abound online.
The only few materials you’d ever find online about Uncle Ted are the ones that centered on his experience as the first Village Headmaster. A compendium of his learning and experiences as a pioneering and distinguished adman doesn’t exist. Not even at the APCON library! And if at all there’s one (which I doubt), then why is it not archived for public consumption? We’ve failed in this regard as an industry. Truth is, we’ll do well as ad practitioners to not only celebrate our greats and legends while alive, but also endeavor to document their timeless experiences and robust learning, if for nothing, at least for posterity sake. Flooding everywhere with tears and glowing statements when they’re dead and gone doesn’t really cut it.
Curiously though, Ted’s ambition in life was to become a Catholic priest. According to a rare material on him, Ted disclosed that he actually got into the seminary in 1946, though he was unjustly pushed out two years after. The ethical drilling he got at the seminary largely contributed to the disciplinary stance that defined his lustrous career as an adman.
A lot of people know him by his “Shine-shine bobo” appellation. However, the story behind this great copy holds lesson for today’s young practitioners. According to Ted, after working extensively on the Star beer brief, the best line he could come up with was “You’re brighter by far on a star.” He shared this with his expatriate Creative Director, the foxy CD not only liked it; he ended up taking all the credits for the line. Unlike how today’s young practitioners would have reacted to such incident, Ted wasn’t dispirited in anyway, rather he proactively kept working on the same line. He believed he could still make the line stronger. The eureka moment came when, according to him, “I realized that brightness is an essential attribute of the original luminary of the sky…I had to transfer that attribute to the man that drinks Star. Then I ask, how would you describe such a man in our local parlance when he steps into a room?” Thus “Shine-shine bobo” was born.
Guinness stout, a global brand, sent a global communication idea to regional markets across the globe. In Nigeria, Ted’s team got on the case. Unlike how today’s practitioners would have “helplessly” in most case, deploy the same global idea locally, Ted stood his ground and tactfully insisted that they needed to make the global idea locally relevant. The global line was, “Black is beautiful.” Extensively, Ted worked on this idea, and then localized the line to “Black thing fine o.” Not satisfied, he dug further and finally landed on, “Black thing good o.” Of course, this became the hit.
Worth mentioning also is the fact that, a lot of people erroneously believed that Uncle Ted was officially a copywriter. No he wasn’t. Apart from being a thespian, he came into advertising as a producer. Notwithstanding, he strongly believed that, whether you’re a producer, client service or what may, you’re in the business of creative advertising; you should be creative. Besides, everyone has the capability to express creativity. Ted expressed his creative side from the get-go. This is a lesson to us all, today’s practitioners that habitually operate in silos. It pays to know something about everything as far as the advertising business goes.
From the role of a producer, and even voice artist, Uncle Ted grew through the ranks within the creative department to earn the lofty title of a Creative Director. He was a wordsmith; well rounded and a highly respected CD. Unfortunately, the concept of Creative Director today has been, to a large extent, bastardized.
Apart from all the above, perhaps the most fascinating thing about Uncle Ted was that, even at old age, he was far from being senile. Until his death, he was as sharp as a whip. According to him, he owed this to the good habit of constantly reading, and always finding time to write; an attribute he imbibed early in life, such that saw him became who he was. And he stayed true to that good habit even in old age. Unlike some practitioners today that are blatantly lazy, barely able to read big books, or stay up attentively through tissue meetings, Ted not only did all that at old age, he was in fact, consulting and still making money at 89 years of age. Until his death, he was a consultant with some of the major ad agencies within the industry, and also a consultant with a very prominent TV station in Lagos, and a handful of moviemakers. Uncle Ted was simply amazing.
He was a respecter of family units while alive. He left behind a daughter, Angela Olu-Ajetunmobi of the “60 Minutes with Angela” fame, and a son, Stan Mukoro of Bentley Motors, and lovely grandchildren. Ted’s wife, Mrs. Felicia Mukoro preceded him in death. They’re definitely together now.
Shine on, Uncle Ted.
…I’M JUST SAYING.