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OTI UKUBEYINJE: Cybercafe enthusiast who became digital comms guru

By Charles Kumolu,Deputy Editor & Urowayino Jeremiah

President, Digital Marketing Professionals of Nigeria, ADMARP, Mr. Oti Ukubeyinje, narrates how he used his likeness of the internet in its early days, to build a career in Digital Marketing Communications. Today, he is the Head of Operations and Sales, Opera Mini, Nigeria. Ukubeyinje also analyses the prospects of the field in Nigeria, emphasing that it is evolving at a slow pace.

Ukubeyinje

You are among those making waves in Digital Marketing Communications. Given that the discipline is not being taught at the universities how did you become an authority?

I studied Business Administration at the university and marketing was my favorite subject. I have been a huge fan of the internet since my cybercafé days in 1998  till date. Practically, everything I do revolve around the internet. It has been my primary environment for communications, entertainment, commerce, and education. When I decided to go into marketing, digital was a natural path for me. I taught myself marketing, took professional courses and went back to basics to build a career, starting as an intern at a marketing technology company in the UK. And here I am, nine years after.

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How would you describe digital marketing in Nigeria?

The advertising and marketing communications landscape in Nigeria is evolving at a very fast pace, and with a lot of casualties along the way. The Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria, AAAN, has in the last five years delisted over 12 of its agency members who have gone out of business due to non-profitability. Another 14 of them are reported to be struggling with a lack of business. Brands have an objective to communicate to consumers in the most creative and cost-effective ways. In recent times, this has been influenced by technology and economic conditions which put pressure on their marketing spend. As a leading professional in digital marketing communications, heading the Operations and Sales in Nigeria for Opera Software’s fast-growing global advertising business, we explore the current landscape of marketing communications in Nigeria, the challenges, and opportunities for the client-agency relationship to flourish.

What are the prospects of digital marketing communications industry in Nigeria?

In comparison to what is happening in other markets, the industry is slow in Nigeria. You can’t solely blame the players though, as marketing communications would evolve according to the opportunities presented by the environment including but not limited to population demography, technological advancements, and investment coming in from businesses that need to communicate. The industry is currently valued at $300 million. Compare this to $150 billion in the US, $26 billion in the UK, and around $3 billion in South Africa. Ours is equivalent to what a single-player spends in some of these markets. With very little to go around, most players here would die, and others would bootstrap on tech and talent to survive.

In terms of investment, how can the industry attract more spend?

In business, money follows value. For some organisations, in-trade marketing and experiential delivers more value, so you would find that line item constantly attracting budgets. For others, it is direct sales that matter, so they invest in personnel and equip them to execute this. In most cases, it isn’t very straight forward to evaluate marcomms contribution to the bottom line. It is often the first area to face budget cuts during tough times. The only way to avoid this is to become more measurable with clear attribution models to prove value down to the last naira, where possible. Let us agree that this isn’t very easy across all channels, but it should always be the aim.

How do you think Marketing Communications can become more measurable?

Technology, people and intent should be prioritized. Nigeria used to be very behind in banking and financial services, but the country has used technology, skilled people and the clear intent to expand financial inclusion (for profit mostly) to get us to where we are now with mobile money, micro lending and alternative payment solutions. Agencies and media houses have thrived in the ambiguity of measuring marcomms, but this has only led advertisers to lose confidence and turn to alternative channels to drive the bottom line. For this reason, most agencies are still in a vendor-client relationship with their advertisers, instead of being in a consultancy relationship, ensuring the most value is extracted from every communications activity. Digital has proven that communications and its impact can be measured, almost in real time. So it is important that traditional communications channels evolve and build measurement technologies that are more efficient and accurate. This is already being done globally across TV, and radio among others. You should be able to run a billboard over time and find out from consumers in that location how they feel about your brand or product via mobile for example.

Do you see digital communications outgrowing the traditional marcomms?

Maybe, but not anytime soon as it currently accounts for less than 10 percent of marketing spend in this country. There are several factors to consider here. You can’t grow faster than the technology available to the audience. There are more eyeballs and ears than mobile phones out there, yet brands want to reach as many people as possible so they would surely need beyond digital platforms to do so. However, there is a big debate about what constitutes digital – once a channel becomes powered by the internet. Does it suddenly become a digital channel or is it still traditional with digital ability? Take IOT enabled digital OOH for example or online radio that you can listen to on your car radio, and Digital TV ,Netflix, Showmax, etc, that you can watch on your home TV. If more people move to consume content and advertisements on traditional devices but via internet transmission, would you attribute the communications and they spend on such channels to digital or still traditional? The answer to that would determine whether digital spend would soon overtake the traditional system. In the UK, digital already accounts for over 66 percent of all advert spend. It is indeed a possibility.

 

There are talks about the likelihood of advertising agencies going into extinction. What is your take?

It is a tempting thought, but I don’t see that happening. If you were to launch a shoe company today, your priority would be to make shoes, and then how to market it comes after. For most companies, making the product takes a lot of their resources. They rely on experts who have sold similar products to help with marketing. Flooding your company with comms staff even before the product has proven itself not the smartest thing to do in my experience and opinion. While agencies would be needed, the real question is what type of agencies would be needed? Value, creativity, and relevance would be the key determinants here. While more organisations are internalizing comms services to avoid bloated agency fees, smart agencies are evolving with tech and fresh talent, combined with the adoption of value-based pricing, replacing time-based billing, to provide more value to advertisers. I also see opportunities for agencies that choose to specialise in specific industries or specific areas of marcomms, deepening their strengths through focused innovation and collaboration.

What role can ADMARP play in all of this?

While our focus is on the digital side, we are actively working closely with all stakeholders in the marketing communications industry to drive this agenda of effective measurement. In fact, we have our conference and awards coming up next year, where we would focus on the benefits of effective communications measurement, and celebrate brands and agencies that have demonstrated this. We aim to educate and equip all stakeholders with the skills and tools to effectively measure marketing communications, which would give businesses the confidence to keep investing in this area.

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