Arts & Entertainments

Challenges and thrills of the advertising business

How do you chronicle the life of Shobanjo without it being majorly about advertising? The above question is at the heart of Dotun Adekanmbi’s brave effort in ‘The Will To Win: The Story of Biodun Shobanjo’. He set out not to write a book on advertising but “a career biography, one that attempts to capture his perspective to explain his dream and its realisation”. Adekanmbi states: “I prefer to describe this book as an extended personality interview conducted in the best traditions of my journalism background.

At all times, I recognised the imperative of subjecting claims and counterclaims to strict standards of proof. This book does not pontificate on the practice of advertising; neither does it touch on his privacy, except where necessary to illustrate a point or the other.

But it does attempt to dispassionately examine critical issues in the industry as they affect the man and his widely acclaimed extraordinary career.” Because Biodun Shobanjo played significant roles in Nigerian advertising and marketing communication, 90 per cent of ‘The Will To Win’ dwells on advertising.

It covers Shobanjo’s sojourn and exit from Grant Advertising, Insight Communication’s birth, Insight’s business trajectory from start-up through early years to growth and dominance. You will read about Shobanjo’s background and early life, his early career in broadcasting that exposed him to one strand of the disciplines that would count in his career in advertising and his qualification as a UKcertified public relations professional through correspondence.

That alone debunks the myth of a man with no formal education who then rose to the zenith of his business. You share Shobanjo’s battles and his experiences with AAPN and AAAN; the media debt challenge; the fights over affiliation. The journey to the book took 15 years and many exciting turns. Biodun Shobanjo challenged Dotun Adekanmbi to show proof ab initio of the necessity for a biography. The author then carried out a survey wherein respondents listed Shobanjo in the Top of persons whose biographies they would love to read.

There were other tests in this collaborative endeavour between the biographer and his focal person. Their mutual understanding produced a book chockful of information, anecdotes, and insights. The time and place dimensions enriched this biography.

It is comprehensive and provides rich insights into various aspects of Nigerian advertising. Journalism posits that a rounded story covers the five Ws and the H. The Ws are Who, What, Where, When and Why. The H is How. Dotun Adekanmbi tackles the five Ws of Shobanjo’s involvement and exploits in advertising. Significance is at the heart of biographies.

It is the litmus test. Good biographies seek answers to these questions: What is the significance of this person’s life? How did he or she change the world? What would happen if this person never existed? What is unique about what they did or made? What did Biodun Shobanjo contribute and change in Nigerian advertising? The Will To Win does an excellent job of providing perspectives and insights.

Some of the contributions of Insight/Troyka Group that Shobanjo led include: creativity and excitement; mutual respect between an agency and its clients; recognition of the limits of advertising; creativity in media buying; explicit agreement on deliverables between agency and client; flamboyance; an orientation for high standards and quality: “Selling on Quality, Not on Price”; demanding higher rewards for quality service or becoming a premium niche player; the art of presentation and the total business solutions concept, not merely creativity; internationalisation in standards and affiliations that preceded globalisation; compliance, from regulatory to professional and social; diversification; growing into an IMC octopus with legs in public relations, outdoor, experiential and events, and media buying; human capital as a critical factor in the knowledge business of advertising and marketing communication. ‘The Will To Win’ is a primer on management and entrepreneurship. There are lessons in management style, structures, HR, partnerships, competition, business, and personal relationships. Partnerships are common in the service industry.

Shobanjo shares guidance on partnerships: spell out all the terms of engagement in writing; avoid mixing friendship and business; understand the attitude of all partners to money; recognise the God factor. Dotun Adekanmbi has written a success manual that walks the reader through the labyrinths of the advertising business. As indicated, Adekanmbi does not treat the How of Insight’s advertising by design. However, the book gives enough pointers for another book on ‘How To Do Advertising The Insight Way’. It does this by mentioning across the book the many successful campaigns of the multiple awardwinning firm.

Some of the campaigns include Sparkle Toothpaste, Exceedrin-When you’ve tried Excedrin, you’ll know why it is more expensive; Vitalo; Nasco Cornflakes; Gold Beer dancing bottle, Oh my Gold; and Dulux Paint- The only way to paint a masterpiece. Others include Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel, Chrislieb’s Trebor Luckies; Lever Brothers; Nigerian Breweries’ Gulder Ultimate Search, Bagco Super Sack, Pepsi Big Blue, Indomie Noodles, Mirinda Orange Men, Daewoo Espero and 7-Up Hi-Life Promo. They deserve a nuts-and-bolts explication.

‘The Will To Win’ is an ambitious book. The author struggles in some areas between writing a biography and a hagiography. It is a thin line that he successfully skirts in the end. There are too many styles, from the New Journalism of elaborate scenesetting to the narrative and analysis.

‘The Will To Win’ deserves a place on the shelf of professionals in marketing communication, management and business studies. Following the breakdown of mass communication into seven disciplines, including advertising, books such as The Will To Win will provide case studies, particularly for graduate students. It is serendipitous that another industry veteran, Lolu Akinwunmi, also released a corporate history cum autobiograhy (Lolu Akinwunmi (2020), Skin For Skin: The Prima Garnet Story. Lagos: Heritek Support Services. The books enrich the literature in the field.

 

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