Agencies Are Finding It Hard To Retain Top Creative Talents – Maurice Ugwonoh Creative Director Noah’s Ark Communications MWorld FEATURES, INTERVIEWS Maurice shares with MarketingWorld how retaining creative talents has become a very big challenge in the industry, his views on LAIF, achievements and leisure. THOUGHTS ON LAIF AWARDS Maurice: LAIF AWARDS, the annually organized award festival by the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) is not just a platform for celebrating the best creative advertising ideas here in Lagos, it’s an opportunity to showcase the best out of Nigeria to the world. And with each year the festival comes closer to becoming the Super bowl of Nigerian advertising. The 2016 edition themed “the New Frontier” signaled another milestone in the evolution of the festival where a total of 113 medals consisting of 21 Gold, 46 Silver and 46 Bronze were won from a pool of over 300 award submissions spanning several award categories. I had the distinct privilege of being a member of the award jury that same year and for the first time I was able to experience how gratifying yet extremely daunting it is to decide what piece of work becomes the gold standard for each category, at least from the Nigerian stand point. The Jury was made up of nominated professionals from across the industry, each sworn to conduct their assessment in a manner that would bring credibility, integrity and transparency to the award process. Maurice Ugwonoh, Creative Director, Noah’s Ark Communications The Chairman of the Jury, Mr. Clement Omemu displayed sound leadership by being fair yet resolute on the rules guiding the jury process. So from in my view, I would say the results were credibly reflective of the quality of work submitted and the high standards of the award show. Furthermore, it’s very gladdening to see that Noah’s Ark, within its short 8 years has become one of two Nigeria’s finest agencies. This is what makes LAIF award pieces so priced and sought after across the industry. So, looking at the future, my desire would be to have festival where even clients; marketers visibly display unabashed interest in entering and taking part in LAIF awards. This will in no small measure make LAIF more coveted as we have in the caliber of Cannes Lions in France and other global award shows. TRAINING AND RETRAINING OF CREATIVE PERSONNELS There was a time when, the global industry looked up considerably if not solely to advertising agencies for bright ideas. Ideas that break cultural barriers revolutionize how business is done or just simply change our perception of life itself. Today, that allure is becoming a struggle to acquire. This is simply because; agencies are finding it hard to retain top creative talents. In over a decade of what has become my career in advertising and marketing communications, I have seen leagues of colleagues look agency Managing Directors in the eye and tell them they were terminating their employment. And foremost amongst many of their reasons for leaving was the basic need to grow. Creative talents are like plants and as such, training is a key element like the sun or water, critical to sustaining their growth. We recognize this at Noah’s Ark and that is why we run a periodic and systematic training program that gives ample opportunity to every creative staff based on matched career needs with organizational objectives. Whether it’s our intensive internship program or our on-the-work weekly ARKnowledge sessions where we conduct agency wide knowledge sharing sessions, not to forget unfailing appearances in the Lurzer’s Archive global magazine, our people are given ample opportunity to retool their career. Noah’s Ark takes capacity building very seriously. Besides sharpening our talents on the immersive role of strategic advertising by using global effectiveness platforms like W.A.R.C, we also expose our junior and senior staff to creativity events such as the African Cristal Awards in Marrakech Morocco, Loeries Awards and Design Indaba in South Africa, and even the Cannes Lions Festival at Cannes, France. From AAAN organized trainings, to Miami AD School tuitions as well as Strategic Creative Leadership management programs, Noah’s Ark never stops developing its people. I for one I’m a beneficiary of The Berlin School of Creative Leadership program organized at the recently concluded African Cristal Award Festival at Marrakech, Morocco. As far as I can tell, only one other Nigerian Creative professional has had the distinct privilege of experiencing the prestigious full MBA program at the Berlin School of Creative Leaders, and the professional in question is from Noah’s Ark. FINDING AND KEEPING RIGHT TALENTS The best way to finding and keeping the right talent is by displaying credibility when it comes to giving talents the right platforms and opportunities to shine on the local, continental and global stage. Noah’s Ark has exceled pretty well on all of these stages. Noah’s Ark is the current Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival Grand Prix winner from 2015, we were Nigeria’s first agency to be awarded Press Lion National Diploma Award at the international Festival of Creativity held in Cannes, France in 2013, we were celebrated as Nigeria’s most awarded agency at the just concluded African Cristal Award at Marrakech, Morocco and remarkably so, in 2016, we occupy the 9th position as Nigeria’s only and first agency to ever be on the Loeries Award international ranking for Africa and the Middle East. All of these achievements are the works of our most valued talents. And as it is evident, the only way to attract talents and make them stay is by making them love what they do. And at Noah’s Ark, all we do is win, win, win no matter what. RECENTLY CONCLUDED AFRICAN CRISTAL FESTIVAL. I must say Nigeria had a good showing at the just concluded African Cristal Awards. The award featured the best works from all across Africa as well as the Middle East. Noah’s Ark kept the Nigerian flag flying high with an unprecedented 20 African Cristal award wins consisting of Sapphire and Emerald in both continental and regional awards. On the Continental awards Three Crowns Milk won Film Sapphire for it’s “Smoothie” 30 days Fitness Challenge commercial and won another Film Sapphire for Three Crowns Milk commercial titled “Tea” for the 30 days Fitness Challenge. For Emeralds trophies, Three Crown Won for Integrated followed by Airtel winning Film with “Moments”, Hypo won two Press Emeralds with “Mrs Ekene” and” Mrs Badmus” creative, And again, Three Crowns won two Outdoor Emeralds with Pillar of Support. Add this to the remaining Regional wins and you get a total 20 African Cristal Wins for Nigeria from Noah’s Ark alone at the African Cristal Awards Festival. CHALLENGES IN THE INDUSTRY Our biggest challenge today as an industry in Nigeria is advancing from where our mind presently is. The industry is extremely transactional focused with a seeming inability to midwife a generation of relational brand advertising. Of course, everybody wants to sell. The prerogative to move products in large volume and stay profitable remains perhaps, one of the most important reason companies employ advertising agencies. However, this should not be the case, as brand advocates both on the client side and agency side must continue to seek new ways of creating enduring relationships with consumers through emotive advertising. The most successful brands of all time are the ones who have ben able to sustain enduring conversations between themselves and consumers at large. UNICEF was able to provide drinking water to “a Child” who had none for 40 days with the highly acclaimed “Tap Project” from Droga5. Budweiser’s “whassup” commercial redefined the alcoholic beverage industry with “bro humour” and created an iconic-pop-culture phrase that became the meme of the 21st century. While Metro Trains: “Dumb Ways to Die” just turned a safety PSA (Public Safety Announcement) for a local train company into the world’s most memorable sing along for being safe even beyond train tracks. These are all amazing ideas that won the heart of millions across the world (and by so doing won their pockets) by being relational. Don’t get me wrong; there are a few brands here in Nigeria working out to break out of that transactional mold. However, the industry and the world demand for us to be more courageous and strike a relationship with our consumers. I say the key to making more money as clients and agencies lies in first winning the hearts of our audience. ACHIEVEMENTS AND PLANS FOR LIFE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR While you wont find me wearing garlands of achievements around my neck like medals I must admit, I have won a few petit amount of successes for myself. First of, I was one of a two man team to win the first ever international creative award for a Nigerian brand. These are Silver at the Epica awards 2012 with “Speechless” a Girl Hub’s initiative and also won Silver at the Loeries 2013 for the same ad. In 2013, I won an Emerald at the African Cristal Festival with “Standing Erect” a Digital campaign for Durex Nigeria. Since then, I have over several Loeris and African Cristal awards both as a copywriter creative and as a Creative Director at Noah’s Ark Nigeria. I’m yet to win my first Cannes Lions. That’s a tough cookie, but nit impossible. In recent times, one of my most known achievement in marketing communications and advertising was helping to make the Airtel Nigeria brand the formidable icon it is today with landmark campaigns such as SmartConnect, Winback and the critically acclaimed Data Is Life campaign which saw itself winning over 1.5 million new subscribers for the Airtel network under three months between 2016 and 2017, a period where other telco operators were experiencing significant loss and churn in subscribe base. There are quite a lot more and many more to come. But like I said, let’s not wear achievements like garlands when there are many more to achieve. With regards to being a budding entrepreneur, I‘ll say we are working on that. Beyond advertising, I have a flair for marketing and digital marketing, mobile marketing to be precise. I would love to drive growth for brands and see how this impacts consumer behavior while delivering on corporate goals. Noah’s Ark has a budding content and digital marketing arm that’s positioned to be powerhouses of the future. That’s where my eyes are fixed and it will be interesting driving such businesses in the close future. LEISURE My leisure revolves around new experiences. I like to travel and experience new cultures. I love African cities and discovering rustic natures of Africa. These I bring to bear in my writing, especially on a number of novels and graphic novel I am writing and would publish in the near future. Home theatre or movie cinemas are also a big deal for me. I like to experience musical concerts and poetry lounges amongst notable forms of performing art.