Why I Quit 141-Woldwide, Our Plan with 02 Academy YouCrea Award – Ozone Mbanefo
Ozoemena ‘Ozone’ Mbanefo, Founder/ Provost, 02 Academy recently ditched his full time job high flying agency, 141-Worldwide after 7 years of service to devote his energy and time to his pet project, 02 academy full time. Brandcrunch caught up with him as the Nigeria’s ‘numero uno’ advertising training school unveils the maiden edition of its youth focused Young Creative Award (YOUCREA) which featured three tertiary institutions in Lagos. Excerpts
Congratulations on the maiden edition of the 02 Academy Young Creative Awards (YouCrea) what about this award as you still grapple with the Academy?
It is an initiative we kick started because we found out that there is a huge gap between the town and gown – the town, of course, being the industry and the gown being the tertiary institutions. Having helped the advertising industry for the past 10 years through the 02 Academy, we thought of how best we can actually move further to expand this idea of helping more people to discover how they can come into advertising more meaningfully by availing them the required skills. We discover that there are a lot of talents out there in schools but they do not have a platform to use as spring board into the industry. A lot of them are super talented and very excited about advertising but the truth is that schools are not giving them what they will need to come into the industry and so we felt “we can’t fold our hands and continue waiting for when they come and enroll, we need to take advertising to the tertiary institutions”. We decided to activate this by instituting this competition. We all know that healthy competition is germane to hone these latent skills. So we came up with an idea called Young Creative Award. It an award system focused on advertising in tertiary institutions. We kick started with University of Lagos, YabaTech and NIJ.
What we did was to bring them in for a one-week boot-camp to help them with the rudiments of advertising such as the things that happen in the creative advertising business set ups. We had industry experts leading the training sessions. On the last day, we gave them a brief and they cracked the briefs within two weeks and they created materials/solutions which we have put out there online for people to vote the best material. The voting carries 30% of the rating while the judges’ decision carries 70% of the scores. At the awards later today (Saturday), each school’s team will 15 minutes to present to the jury made up of industry experts and the jury will decide. The wining school gets a price of N1million worth of training at the 02 Academy.
We are very excited about it, today we are having the Managing Director of DDB, Lagos, Ikechi Odigbo, Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas; Doyin Oduwole, Managing Director, CreativeXone, and Sam Osunsoko, Managing Director, LeoBurnett and creative directors from TBWA and others a few other top notch agencies will also be here because they are the pillars that support the academy.
Is this competition restricted to students of mass communications and allied study fields from these selected institutions or just anybody and who are the sponsors?
We sold the idea to the schools, gave them the brief, we explained what we wanted to do. They in turn know the logistics and how they want to go about it. They knew this is an advertising competition and they sent in teams. These may be made up of students from graphics Arts, Mass Comm etc. It is left to their discretion. We do not interfere with the composition, they know what will give them the best.
Currently, the award is being single handedly sponsored by 02 Academy. It is our own way of supporting the industry. We have been passionate about moving the advertising industry to the next level. We love this industry and we are called to serve this industry. It is going to be an annual event, we are therefore hopeful that subsequent editions will be supported by brands and like-minded organizations.
You’ve running the academy for about a decade combined with your regular paid employment at 141-Worldwide without any known conflict, why did you decide to quit your regular job?
I started teaching advertising free for four years from my 2 bedroom apartment and when we moved to this place, we placed a price tag on it as tuition because the costs were mounting and we wanted to do it in a more structured way. However, I found out to an extent that my stay at 141-Worldwide was beginning to become a distraction. The truth about this is that when you know this is your calling every other enabler that you give full time becomes a distraction and so something in me kept telling me, “I needed to give 02 Academy, a 100% attention because people’s destinies and future are at stake”. I also realized if I give my full attention to it I most likely more people will be helped. This final decision to leave 141 came up shortly after the recognition given to me at the last Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF). The recognition impressed upon me the need to focus much more on this and make it more viable and useful to the industry. I left to help my industry.
Ten years down the line, how many lives (students) have benefitted by passing through 02 Academy and currently doing advertising, is there a platform that keeps the fire burning?
I can’t say precisely but we did a research recently and found out that out of every 10 “millennials” working in the industry today, seven of them pass through 02 Academy. We have the 02 Academy alumni. We always have our alumni dinner every year. It is a platform to encourage excellence and celebrate best performing alumni – such as best director, copy writer, strategist and brand persons that are graduates of the academy working in different agencies. So anywhere you work, you must remember that there is an award for excellence performance. It encourages them to be at their best always as they look forward to the awards. This has really helped us because the feedbacks we are getting from employers of 02 Academy graduates have been awesome. This further shows that the industry is gaining from the Academy’s widow’s mite. It is really exciting.
How does the winning team activate the N1 million prize worth free tuition?
It depends on the winning school (team), they are invited as a school not as individuals. We give the scholarship to the winning school because it is the institution that is being represented. If the management decides to give it to those five people (of course that is our thinking) so be it. But that is left to the discretion of the school but we can advice.
What is the structure of the training in the Academy?
It is for graduates of any discipline first. We have a 4-month intensive training that happens daily because we found out that training a person to become an advertising expert just within four months cannot be possible on Saturday basis alone and so we looked at the whole system and decided that the best bet is to make it a daily thing – 2 – 4pm for those who are not working and in the evening 7pm – 9pm for those who are currently working. So when you finish from office, you come in and exercise your creative muscles. We also have the Masters class which happens on Saturday from 12noon – 5pm in the evening. Here we invite mostly top industry experts to mentor these students. In the first one month, they take all the courses while they pick their areas of interest such as Digital Strategists, Content Development; Marketing Strategist or Art Director or Copy writer by the second month of the training. The student specializes in the area that tickles his fancy. At this stage they are grouped and work as a team, they engage in healthy competition and work on real life briefs every week. This is module and we have been so successful at it. Once, they graduate they are like hot cakes, offices employ them.
How do you support the training module in terms of international inputs for global relevance?
Yes, we are beginning to structure international affiliation with foreign organizations. Some of them will materialize pretty soon. It will also cost us money to maintain these relationships and be able to provide quality and world-class training. For this reason, we are thinking of jerking up the fee a bit from our current N200k for the four months training for which other operators charge between N350k and N400k but we are going to remain very reasonable, affordable and relevant to our target market.
Generally it is believed that there is no money in training, how have you succeeded so far?
Honestly, it’s not that we are making too much money but it’s been passion and passion driving us all the way. People keep asking “Do you make money?”; “I hope you are making money”. The truth is that “I am not here to make money but rather to make impact”. I know that when I make impact, the money will follow. The primary objective is not for the bread and butter but to build my industry such that some day, I am going to look back and say “I contributed to bringing advertising in Nigeria to where it is today”. Really, if you ask me what has been pushing me?, it is that picture of the future that our country should be one to be reckoned with talking about advertising and everyone knows that we are so blessed with the gift of people. Each time I beckon on these industry experts, they come pro-bono, I do not have the money to pay them, so I will say it has been the grace of God and the passion to see a life changed.
What will be your parting shot please?
What I want to add is that for our industry to be better is for us all to see how we can be more of men and women of service. “Selflessness is immortal, selfishness corrodes”. What will help our country Nigeria, what will help our industry and help you and I as individuals is when we begin to live a sacrificial life- how we can become a reason for somebody to survive, be a reason for someone to thank God. Each day I see people getting jobs, giving me a call to announce this to me, I feel fulfilled, for me that is the essence of life – live life to make life better for another. I know there are a whole lot of great men and women in this country especially ad-men, I want to encourage them to see how we can give back to the system. In that way, our lives and industry will be better.