Global viewpoint from Lagos
A view from Ranti Atunwa

Global viewpoint from Lagos

With more than 500 languages, staggering inequality problems and thousands of friendly princes seeking the assistance of strangers to move huge sums of money via e-mail, Nigeria is anything but boring. Urban legend says the British colonised us because HBO had not yet been invented and they needed the drama.

Could you blame them? Who can resist folks who subscribe to an alternate-reality time zone that guarantees tardiness to every event except one’s own funeral? Folks who answer every question with a question? Folks who take out bank loans to buy smartphones that cost twice their monthly salary?  

Yet the ancient adage "adversity reveals character" holds true here as well. The motive for a wren singing itself to death to attract a viable mate, women paying to accommodate silicone in their chests and the peacock’s tail are one and the same: survival. The silent trader sells no wares. Marketing communications is the road to plenitude.

It should come as no surprise, then, that advertising in Nigeria is everything except boring. The largest financial institution in the country, First Bank, recently utilised a meme, "oga at the top", to promote a corporate financial service. Street hawkers in Lagos engage motorists with outrageous stunts and jokes in a bid for brand affinity.

The silent trader sells no wards. Marketing communications is the road to plentitude

An example of our "normal insanity" is the rebranding campaign of First Bank. The TBWA agency Yellow Brick Road was selected to manage the project, including liaising with several third-party companies. It was mind-bogglingly chaotic, yet the Champagne afterwards made the sleepless nights and working over the holidays worth it.

Yet there are groups and organisations toiling to produce a positive change in Nigerians. For instance, apathy, solipsism, disregard for public infrastructure and social anarchy are turning Lagos into an overpriced cesspool. The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, realised the necessity of fostering a change in attitude in Lagosians. TBWA\Concept was tasked with developing a campaign and incepted the big idea of a "brand identity" for Lagos: "the spirit of Lagos".

The rationale is that Lagos was not always a nuthouse. Despite our culturally distinctive idiosyncrasies, Nigerians, even Lagosians, were actually sane at some point. With certain principles serving as pillars, the goal is to keep the spirit of the culture while bringing back some measure of sanity.

This campaign is an example of the rich creative opportunity in Nigeria. Our industry is subject to the full force of our frenetic, often maniacal, society but this presents our largest opportunity. Our task must be to continuously raise our heads above the melee, embrace our circumstance and see what could be among
the impossible.

Ranti Atunwa is the creative director at TBWA\Concept