How Advertising, PR, Grew the Telecoms Brands

ANALYSIS
 
Since 1999, when democracy emerged and became a springboard for the nation's economic growth, the marketing communication industry has steadily increased in fortune and development as a result of its contribution to the building of local brands, especially in the telecommunications sector, Raheem Akingbolu reports
 
Until year 2001, when the telecommunication industry was deregulated, the highest spenders on Advertising, Public Relations and other legs of marketing were players in the financial and manufacturing sectors.
 
Like in other countries, the volume of government spending on advertising, though massive, was not properly coordinated because of low patronage of registered agencies. For PR, Events and Media buying agencies, it was a total neglect on the part of government.
 
The status quo did not only change with the advent of the Global System of Mobile (GSM) communications, the impact of creativity on the growth of telecommunications brands sent an instant wake-up call to other brand owners to look outside the box in arriving at their marketing solutions.
 
For instance, aside the consolidation exercise in the banking industry, which led to stiff competition among the players, the contribution of PR to the development of the telecoms brands, convinced the management of many banks on what PR was capable of achieving.
 
Prior to the introduction of GSM telephony into the market, the number of connected phone lines in the country was a mere 450,000 for an estimated population of over 120 million people at the time.
 
Also, the level of investment in the telecommunications sector was put at $50 million. Between 2001 and now, the sector has remained a major revenue earner to the Federal Government.
 
Last year, the Vice Chairman of National Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, said the gains of introducing GSM in the country have lifted the economy more than any other sector. He said: "the revenue generation in licence fees alone, in four years of the Revolution stood at over $1 billion, while private investment was over $4 billion, in the first five years".
 
Analysts Views
 
In an interview with THISDAY, brand analyst and publisher of Marketing Edge Magazine, Mr. John Ajayi, said the feat recorded by the GSM operators in the market place would not have been possible, were it not for the activities of creative advertising agencies in the country.
 
According to him, "the activities in the market in the last 10 years have shown clearly that telecommunications industry redefined the market communications business. The beauty of it however has been the fact that most of the works that shored up the profiles of these companies come from the Nigerian market."
 
The Vice Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Mr. Kunle Ogedengbe, who also corroborated this position, attributed the success of the telecommunications brands to Public Relations and Advertising.
 
Ogedengbe, who is also the Head Consultant at PR Plus Consulting, added that the managers of the various companies must be applauded for providing the technical structures for their brands as well as appreciating the fact that the local practitioners understand Nigerian market better.
 
At the initial period, the battle was solely between MTN and then Econet Wireless Nigeria, while Mtel, owned by the Nitel, was also struggling to add its voice. In 2002, a fourth Digital Mobile License (DML) was issued to Globacom (Glomobile).
 
In what look like a deliberate attempt to strengthen the competition in the market, three years ago, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), the regulatory agency of government in charge of the sector, took a step further by awarding licence to Emerging Market Telecommunication Services Limited, otherwise known as 'Etisalat'.
 
Since the various brands were launched into the market, the operators have left no stone unturned in building desired equity status for their brands.
 
MTN
 
The MTN success story is due largely to the vision, mission and commitment of its operators in establishing a market leadership position for itself.
 
When MTN launched into the market, its PR account was handled by Corporate and Financial, while the advertising brief was handled by TBWA/Concept Unit. The two agencies launched the brand aggressively into the market with the pay-off line 'Best Connection'.
 
In April 2005, it launched 'Everywhere you go' to harmonise and create a universal brand promise in all MTN operations across the continent.
 
Still yearning for top of the mind presence, the brand went into its creative kitty to launch the 'Go' campaign with a view to positioning the Telco as a company that encourages men and women to go and conquer the world, knowing that man desires to live a better life, desire a secured future, progress and change.
 
'Everywhere you Go' was said to have been anchored on MTN's core values of leadership, integrity and can do spirit. However, due to the company's leadership on coverage and market share, in the Nigerian market, consumers' interpretation of the pay-off was seen to have emanated more from a geographical rather than a brand philosophy perspective.
 
In order to change 'Everywhere you Go' being geographic, to seeing it as a philosophy of the brand. It was for this reason, according to MTN General Manager, Consumer, Mr. Kola Oyeyemi, that 'the company re-strategised and launched another value proposition tagged 'Moving you ahead'.
 
The brand has equally launched a highly creative advertising campaign with the theme 'Mama na Boy!'
 
Meanwhile, to pacify the gender activists, who criticised the usage of the word 'boy' in the campaign, 'Mama na Girl' was quickly coined. The strategy perhaps resolved the riddle but the brand also benefitted immensely from the raging debates.
 
No sooner the issue came to a head than MTN harmonised the brief, which was shared between TBWA and SO&U by consolidating it in one agency with the appointment of DDB, Lagos. The appointment of DDB, in 2006 is a landmark creative renewal of sorts for the brand that has been known for cutting-edge creative themes.
 
The agency, which prides itself as 'enemy of the ordinary' has in the last six years created innovative selling ideas in pushing the brand equity of MTN in the market place. At the moment, MTN PR accounts reside with Marketing Mix and XLR8.
 
Bharti Airtel
 
The story behind what is today known as Bharti Airtel brand is both intriguing and exciting.
 
Though first to launch out with a hypothetical campaign theme 'Your cellular network' which ran for a short time, the brand's creative advertising had encountered brand positioning challenges over the years.
 
It was originally launched into the market as Econet, with Insight Grey as the creative power house. Not long after its launch, it changed its pay-offline to 'inspired to change your world'. Indeed, the vicissitudes of brand ownership and management has greatly impacted on the brand's positioning.
 
As the populace was about settling down to appreciate the value offering and brand essence of Econet, it went on a failed romance with Vodacom. While the marriage was being finalised for consummation, things went awry and the Econet brand was left high and dry while Vodacom took to its heels.
 
Unbeaten, yet injured, the owners of the brand went ahead and eventually got the brand transformed into V-Mobile. It later came up with 'It's all about you' pay-offline after it dumped Vodacom's largest network in Africa.
 
The brand's advertising later moved from Insight to Centrespread. A little part of it was given to Rosabel Leo Burnet in what industry pundits say was a strategic exploration to fill a creative lacuna.
 
In yet another ownership, challenge occasioned by paucity of funds, V-Mobile which has consciously contended with the number two position in the GSM telephony market was also acquired by Celtel.
 
This was in turn acquired by Zain Africa and was finally acquired by Bharti Airtel. It has been a long and tortuous creative adventure for the brand which current pay-offline is '2Good'.
 
As it were, it is very difficult and too early to conclude whether it is actually 'too good' for the brand by now, as only time can tell. Other agencies that have so far worked on the brands include Prima Garnet, the Quadrant Company, Ogilvy PR and Blueflowers.
 
GLO
 
Globacom's adventure into the Nigerian GSM telephony market is the best and most revolutionary epoch in the annals of GSM mobile business in Nigeria.
 
The brand, which came with a bang in a market already dominated by two leading brands, launched out with an offensive strategy that almost caught already established operators gasping for breath with ambitious and popular per second billing.
 
It was the most revolutionary offer in the market which instantaneously paved the way for the brand Glo in the market.
 
This brand initiative was launched with the thematic campaign: 'Magic Ball'. Since the launch, the brand's advertising theme campaigns have been reviewed and adjusted over the years.
 
Some of the strong creative platforms the Glo brand have been positioned since launch in the market place are: 'On your marks'; 'Turning dreams into reality' (Documentary); 'Glowing continent'; 'We live where you live'; 'Rule your world'; 'We've got people talking'; 'Glo CAF'; 'Football made in Africa'; 'Marathon'; 'The more campaigns'; 'More technology'; 'More people'; 'More friends'; 'More millions' and 'More youth'.
 
The brand is obviously the most unique GSM brand that has experimented with a plethora of advertising agencies and had equally savoured the creative edges of these agencies than others.
 
Quite a good number of advertising agencies have had a bite of Glo's juicy jumbo advertising account. Some of these agencies are: Insight Grey, Bates Cosse, LTC and lately Verdant Zeal. The brand, which presently but quietly engages the services of some avant-garde creative shops is also said to have nurtured an in-house creative team headed by Joe Atunwa.
 
Etisalat
 
The launch of Etisalat in 2007 with its unified access licence was both daring and adventurous. Notwithstanding the fierce competition already defining the GSM market, Etisalat launched out with its own controversial theme campaign: '0809uchoose campaign'.
 
The campaign was received with lots of excitement as it further heightened expectations amongst mobile phone subscribers. It (campaign) was said to have been aimed at reflecting unique lifestyles of subscribers with their phone numbers.
 
The strategy also worked for Etisalat as it got subscribers switching to its network within a record time. The brand later came up with another theme campaign: 'Now you are talking'. This new campaign was seen as a direct affront on one of the earliest operators with the theme 'We've got you talking'.
 
The introduction of this new theme campaign brought some controversies and attention to the brand, thereby allowing the populace to pay attention to the new GSM telephone brand in the market. Since then, the brand has been operating largely within its limits and capabilities.
 
Etisalat's launch into the market was handled by 141, a fourth generation creative shop, while its PR brief was first handled by C&F before it was won by the Quadrant company. The agency has played a great role in supporting the brand to gain access into the hitherto conquered territories.
 

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