Your 10 years old shop, DP Partnership recently got affiliated with DraftFCB network moving the “corner shop” agency to the mainstream within in a few months, how did it happen?
It is the hand of God. Two years ago, we went for a shoot in cape town, South Africa. I mentioned it to head of the production company that we were interested in being affiliated to a good network. He was very willing to connect us because he saw the creativity in our works and couldn’t believe his eyes. We were interested because truly affiliation helps agency to grow, if you don’t connect with the big ones in the industry, you just toil without anything to show for it although, there are a few exceptions. You could be affiliated and within 3 months you will be doing business worth billions of naira. I told the guy that I need a technical partner that can help us. We had an initial arrangement with Tonic International, it lasted for about a year because it’s a small company and could not pull the weight we anticipated. We decided to be affiliated to a more robust network, having crawled for 10 years, we decided that was the relationship for us. On my next trip to South Africa, we had a dinner meeting with the Managing Director of a bigger agency network. After the meeting, he told us that they have an agency in Nigeria but if opportunity comes up we they will contact us and I forgot about it. Three months later I just saw a mail telling me that they would like to work with us and I said why not? They team flew into Nigeria for our a presentation. That is the kind of opportunity you don’t want to miss. With my team, we made our presentations to them at their hotel room in Victoria Island, Lagos. In attendance with the DraftFCB team was one of their clients, a lady marketing director from Indonesia. At the end of the presentation, she was very impressed and said “this is the type of agency we’ll want to work with”.
We set up another presentation with our media agency and before we left that hotel, the leader of the team came back to say “congratulations, this guy wants to work with you”. She wants people that are “hungry” and we are really hungry to make a name in the industry. Some people may believe it’s all about money but no we are hungry to make a name for ourselves. That presentation and acceptance to work together has been the turning point. We just came back from a pitch this afternoon is one of the many opportunities the relationship brings. I will be traveling to Morocco to shoot for Titus and Titus account is about 1.2 million dollars. We work on So-Klin etc. We were invited by the network and we were found qualified take care of the network’s business interest in Nigeria. We do not manipulate anything, not at all.
Are you not worried that why some agencies and their network are dumping each other, DP partnership is just consummating its affiliation?
With due apology to the agency that got sacked by their network or it the other way round? there was a reason to “dump” the agency for another agency that will actually do the work and move the stocks of the clients if I may put it that way. For instance, if a wife is dishonest and corrupt, that kind of wife will ruin the union. After all, the affiliation we are talking about has the two parties as business partners, if there is any trouble you will not hesitate to throw that kind of wife out of your life. If I had messed up with the Honeywell account, they would have sacked me. So transparency should be the watchword.
What is the format of the DP Partnership and DraftFCB arrangement?
Our own affiliation is equity participation. We are not in an arrangement of paying $50,000 dollars at the end of the year as a so called affiliation fees. We are not for that, we are involved in the business as partners. So, we are able to tell our partners that this is what we want, it’s not a question of you sending affiliation fees, we are part owners. There is equity stakes and this affects our entire process and operations. In the next one month, we are going to unfold that because we are going to mark our 10th year anniversary. So, what you see today (facelift, new businesses) are part of the evolution that you are going to see. We are going to start a digital agency and our media agency is unfolding within the next one or two months. It’s about time, everything has time.
You seem a bit distanced from the AAAN compared to when you worked for SunriseDa’rcy and why has your agency remained an associate member in almost a decade of operation?
That’s the problem. I will tell you, you have to be careful on issues like this. I was very angry when AAAN accreditation committee first came to our office three years ago. I had an option to say “I don’t want to belong” to the association. However, that will sound unhealthy. Later, the team that came to our agency said our agency is bigger, in terms of units, in terms of the creative works we do and the billings. You can’t compare DP Partnership with Comex, Martlink or Campaign Palace and so many other agencies yet they are full members while we are an associate member. Some full members do not even have an office, it is that ridiculous.
I have been an AAAN council member for seven good years, I have been a member of APCON, administrative committee for almost same number of years, so the associate member thing is insulting but I didn’t bother. The agency was already seven years old and we had been in business for six years before we even applied because I don’t want to be rubbished. I took my time because I knew the responsibilities that come with it, such as payment of annual dues etc. I know and respect the rules of the game. So, we were six years plus before we applied to become a member. Ideally, we should have applied to be upgraded to a full membership status, they have been calling us but till now I refused to apply but eventually I will apply. The fact is that we are not in haste. Whether you call me associate or full member, it’s not going to win account or drop a brief on my lapse! Rather, it’s about how good (creative) and professional the agency is and more importantly, the value it can add to the client and his business. As a practitioner, I don’t want to bring the industry and association into disrepute. We want to build a virile business. I have been part of industry for 30 years, I just have to keep the sanity.
Why do agencies run into problems?
The reason is mostly based misplaced priorities. Focus is important in running an agency and you need to be patient also. I didn’t go into advertising to make money, if I had done that, this agency would have collapsed within the first few years. There are certain times in the life of an agency when there is lull in business, only agencies with enough reserves make it through such hard times without losing its essence. It happened to us when the agency was six or seven years, the staff did not know how we were able to pay salaries, the agency experience garnered over the years stood us out. Imagine an agency that has a N70 million campaign and thinks they’ve gotten money. Forgetting the bulk of the budget is media money. Instead, some will first go and buy a Mercedes Benz G55 for N22 million and also indulge on some lousy frivolities before you know it, the money remains only N10 million and you have a campaign of N65 million to execute. Tell me, how the agency will not run into troubles? My years of experience will tell you that an agency is only entitled to 15% maybe plus 5% or 10% volume discount, you have to manage this very well to be able to meet your responsibilities – staff, rent and other overheads- as when due. I didn’t go into advertising to make money, I want to practice a passion and I want to make a name and I think I am just getting it.
What is the agency’s idea about creativity annd how has this affected your clients' brands?
Creativity is everything that is what we are actually selling, we don’t sell coke, we don’t sell cigarette; we sell ideas. All what we are thinking about here is creativity, creativity is everything to us here. We are fully subscribed to the DraftFCB’s 6.5seconds philosophy. It means that if you create an ad and you don’t get the audience’s attention or get them provoked or interested under 6.5seconds you are a failure. You have succeeded in wasting the client’s money. That is the in-house policy here. Check all our commercials and you are going to see that they followed the 6.5seconds philosophy. Our new commercial for Sardines, will “wow” you. We test our copies against this principle. It’s not that we are infallible, we are not angels. Suffice to say it’s not about size, creativity comes like a flash, you must be painstakingly alert to filter through the lines and concepts, good copies can come from a big or small agency, the same for horrible copies. In the last twelve months, the job we are doing tell a good story about our agency. The arrangement between DP Partnership and FCB has not been made public, this will be done at the appropriate time. The relationship actually started in October 2012 for now we are courting each other. When the time comes we will definitely make it known to the public.
Within the last 12 months the relationship between us agency and our client - Honeywell has been very rewarding and cordial, we got an award for the Noodles brand at the just concluded AAAN's Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF) awards. We moved the brand from number 6 to number 2 within a period of less than 12 months.
The issue of back stabbing to get business or affiliation, some think you engineered your FCB affiliation through unclean means, what do you say to this?
Yes, I know some in the industry are insinuating that I ran down somebody to get the affiliation, I will never do such a thing. I try as much as possible to be ethical in my business dealings. I think the major problem plaguing AAAN and APCON has been that they have always been barking and they have not started biting, not until they do this that there will be sanity in the industry. The AAAN is handicapped because it is a free will association. The recent APCON regulation that says that every ad agency should compulsorily be a member of AAAN and that the association can discipline errant members will make the industry the better. For instance, if an agency’s license is withdrawn as a punitive measure and the media publicises it just as it is done by the medical and law professions by their respective associations, there will be order and sanity in the industry. I think in the next few months new APCON regime when fully on stream will bring about change the much desired change.