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Saka’s porta-movement and functional advertising

The one interesting thing about advertising is its flamboyance.With advertising, anything can go. Advertising enables what has come to be known as ‘free-styling’; full of entertainment, thrills, excitement and laughter. There is really no limit to which advertising can go, to create humor. It is in the neighborhood of advertising most of our “NOLLYWOOD” home-video play – ENTERTAINMENT!

Advertising is entirely the creation of those commissioned to create them (to ‘tell a story’), not minding any  grand rule. Advertising permits excessive freedom of self-expression. During my start-off years in brands management, the most frequent warning I received from my teachers was to be careful to distinguish between advertising and marketing communication: they are two different worlds of engagement: the one is functional, the other is void.

With marketing communication, as in war, all the rules apply!

So, ‘SAKA’ ported (moved from ETISALAT for MTN), and so what? One wonders the Client’s brief to the Agency for this tactical campaign on SAKA’s movement. Could it have been to create a campaign that will make fans of the character SAKA, as an actor, move to MTN by reason of his change of client (MTN is SAKA’s new client)?

Or could it have been that the Client briefed the Agency for a campaign that will create the impression that SAKA moved over to MTN because it is a better network compared to Etisalat. Except for the simple reason of wanting to make money, the advert agency owed it a duty to the Client, to advise on the advertising objective for the said campaign and to help determine the marketing objective in quantifiable terms, compare same with the projected budget and take a decision based on the balanced cost-benefit analysis, in favor of profitability.

The operative rule, for purposeful brands management is that every investment must add-up to some value appreciation at the bottom-line. The Agency behind this tactical campaign earn my appreciation on speed of execution and beautiful creative. Beyond that, I am afraid, not much is earned.

Let us consider the Number Portability (NP) thing objectively; what has really changed? What is the NP thing bringing to bear, in real sense?

As it is, Number Portability simply put, enables subscribers change network without losing their numbers. Essentially, therefore, I can decide to drop my GLO network and move over to MTN, for instance, but still retain my GLO numbers. That way, my contacts will not have to confuse my numbers; I do not need to re-connect with those on my contact list with my new numbers as a result of my having changed network, if the number portability were not to be.

That is the benefit number portability offers. But truly, is that the issue facing subscribers in Nigeria today? I can clearly state that if that were to be the problems facing subscribers today, they would rather be celebrating, as it were, compared to the gross misconduct among the GSM operators presently. Let us consider the following:

1.    Quality of service. Which among the present GSM operators can proudly say it is delivering comparatively good telecommunication service, among the players? In case they do not know, they are all judged poor at various levels, by subscribers. The issues are poor voice clarity, call-drops, poor connectivity, frequency of call termination at destination, transparent billing system, ease of top-up or credit reload.

2.    Efficiency of Data Transfer – especially for internet service and BlackBerry and the social media users.

3.    Spread of distribution network – are subscribers in far-away Fugar in Edo state readily get a given network’s recharge card for top-up? Perhaps sales teams for GSM operators should be told this, the extent of reach and market penetration for recharge cards is, to a large extent, determined by the trade margin on offer. I have experienced trade apathy against a certain operator based on very low trade margin at the retail end.

4.    Image perception. At different degree and on perception of delivery at the various subscriber value touch-points, subscribers have different negative impression of every of the GSM operators. Some are considered deceptive, some other ‘thieves’, some others unpatriotic and snobbish, while others are considered ill equipped to perform.

Depending on a given subscriber’s experience, each of the operators is perceived negatively at some point. For instance, my elder brother replaced one for another based on “better service delivery, subscriber-friendliness, relatively more affordable call rate and connectivity at remote locations. There are many others like him….

Generally, subscribers complain of poor quality, insensitivity to subscribers’ needs, high call rate, and unfriendly cost profile (for instance, subscribers – including me – think text messages should be free). But for GLO, per-second billing would still have been a dream.

That brand earned a fair size of its market share and earned substantial subscribe loyalty by that huge investment that positioned it as a sincere/ honest, subscriber-friendly and reliable brand. NCC did not do anything about the per-minute billing while the cry was on. In fact MTN made it look like per-second billing was not possible.

Among data transfer category users, the choice of platform for internet-based services such as the BlackBerry service and the social media options is determined by level of technical infrastructure development and sophistication (not ‘SAKA).

Putting it clearly, subscribers would rather that NCC live up to its responsibility of enabling improved telecommunications service in more concrete terms and protecting them from the not-too-transparent trade practices of some of these GSM  operators, drive down call rates or costs and upping over-all quality standard, instead of trivialities such as NIMBER PORTABILITY.

Number Portability is beautiful, but the issue is that it is only the ‘icing on the cake’ in this market challenged in the fundamentals of telecommunication service delivery. The basic and rudiments are suffering, therefore, attention and efforts should be invested in improving the service delivery at that level.

Nobody is interested in number portability, at this point, because none of the operators is equipped enough or adequately positioned as a rescue option. In other words, every subscriber in Nigeria has more than one reason to complain of his or her present service provider, based on their failure to deliver at their critical value tou

My old mother will not leave her house in my village and travel  to Auchi to request for number porting (and wait for 48 hours for process completion) JUST because of call-drop or poor voice quality when she has been living with them for over 8years now, and when the other operators are equally guilty of same issues. That is why number portability will remain unattractive to well over 90% of subscribers.

What does number portability amount to, for a subscriber subscribed to all-four networks yet unsatisfied? The various customer-care centers are frustrating, to say the least. For whatever reason, customer service personnel treat complainants/subscribers with disdain. What does it all amounts to when it is still a nightmare to effect SIM card replacement or retrieval? NCC knows this number portability thing is a joke, at best, a cosmopolitan novelty. There are more worrisome issues requiring of NCC’s immediate and executive intervention.

Subscribers are still the losers in all.

ETISALAT has nothing to lose with ‘SAKA’s movement. MTN cannot justify its ad spend on this SAKA thing; the excitement the campaign generated did not last two weeks. Subscribers will not switch service provider in favor of MTN because SAKA switched ‘CLIENT’.

The Ad Agency should have properly advised the Client on this matter (professionalism!): brands thrive on consistent delivery on promise,  such that resonates with the target audience at the critical  value touch-point, not minding whether such offers are on the platform of services or products, luxury or essentials: the expectation is the same. NCC should please live up to its responsibility to subscribers in Nigeria.

‘SAKA’  is the only WINNER in this instance.


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