By Kabir Alabi Garba

NEARLY a decade ago, he and some his colleagues within the same age bracket bestrode the marketing communication industry in a manner that could be described as ‘rebellious’. They were more or less challenging the status quo. With their intellects as the major ammunition, having acquired experience from some of the big advertising agencies around then, coupled with the high educational certification, their song was that advertising enterprise should be done differently, albeit creativity and value added. They labeled themselves strategists. They exhumed passion and vibrancy preaching the gospel of brand management philosophy from the purview of consultancy services. 

There and then, new marketing communication outlets began to spring up and foremost of them is Adstrat with Mr. Charles O’Tudor as the Principal Consultant. Seven years down the line, O’ Tudor reminisced that the risk embarked upon then had opened up new vista of opportunities in the marketing communication sector. And to mark the accomplishment so far, his firm, Adstrat will certain roll out the drums on May 31, 2008 “to celebrate success, to celebrate seven years of brand excellence, brand strategy and to celebrate the future we are prospecting. 

“It a well-known fact that without the future there is no today, without yesterday there is no tomorrow. We have gone seven years into market and research has also proven that most entrepreneur efforts do not go beyond the first four and five years of existence. In fact, 50 to 60 per cent of most enterprise does not survive the first four years. We have done four, five, six, and we are now doing seven. So for us, it’s a landmark year. Seven is also very significant. For us, it represents perfection, refinement. And we are really doing a lot to re-verify our own belief that we are here on the long run, and here to celebrate our achievements in retrospect, and using them as a case study to propel us to achieve better, because our major competition is ourselves. If you don’t retrospect you cannot accomplish.”

To him, repositioning the brand as number one marketing communication firm with exceptional bias for consultancy, it is a mile-stone, and a cause for celebration. “We started in Surulere, later moved to Anthony Village, now we are in highbrow GRA, Ikeja, we have a bigger office, we have world class facilities, we have everything you expect to have in a global brand, we have them here… facilities, human capital, everything in place. On top of this, we are also celebrating the fact that we are opening up our Calabar office. What that does is also giving a stand in brand repositioning. We also celebrate our membership of the Independent Networks (IN). It is a network of brands, brands consultancy, communication agency and PR services that have come together to create a global network of professionals, professional agencies and consultancy that has a presence in 90 countries and all continents. What that does for us is exposure to best of standards, best of training, best of experience and of course, the exposure in terms of the brands you are going to work for. It goes more global than local. We have access to the brand we work for, any brand coming here must automatically pass under the network, but it is not a normal relationship that is why it’s being called the independent network. You keep your operational methods, you keep your name; but any global brand you work for, you have to standardize in terms of the global approach. So we are now global. The head office is in UK while the operational office is in Paris.” 

But most company celebrate 10, why the choice of seven? “Seven is a perfection. It represents perfection, regeneration. For us, it’s a landmark because it’s happening at a time when everything is working out in favour of the brand now and the future.”

The dreadlock brand strategist mentioned the long list of clients that the firm has serviced over the years as another reason why celebration is desirable. “They are many: Polo, Bevista, Sosoliso, GTBank public offer, First Atlantic public offer, Manny Bank public offer, Chartered Bank public offer, Afribank public offer, First Inland Bank. They are so many, we have partnered with so many nations. We are not very noisy, we do work, we don’t talk; the work should talk for itself. So we like to celebrate, let the brand celebrate the work. I have now come to what we call competition, Vista International, AMAA Awards, the one we did in South Africa, South Africa Women Conference. We’ve done so much in branding for a long while.” 

But the strength of the company and its staff lies in the understanding that the only competition they have is Adstrat. “No any external brand.” 

How? “Do you know when you set out to compete against yourself, you will score your worst free kick, because everyday you will want to improve on your standards; the human capital, remuneration, the quality of the work, the thought processes. If you’ve created something you’ve done yesterday to the client, you are using that work you did yesterday as a case study to do another work for a new client. So our biggest challenge all this years, first of all, was recreating the standards which we have created from internal, because the client is coming for a reason and there is basis on the structure of somebody else job, so you are trying to recreate your own standard. The biggest challenge in putting down all that resources together internally to create the resources for the next client is the biggest challenge.

“Then the other challenge now is growing the business from the explorer point of view, from one level to the other, without, incurring too many losses. In any economic environment, you must have losses. Especially where you cannot perform or plan what you have left. So our biggest challenge have always been putting in place new ideas. This is because clients come here for the creativity and the ideas. So you must surpass your own last ideas for the next one. That was the major, the biggest challenge… to regenerate new ideas, and service our clients exceptionally.” But besides consolidating successes, “we are also breaking new grounds,” he added. 

But what manner of celebration when opening a new office in Calabar, Cross River State is also considered as an achievement that should be mouthed. “We are members of the global network. We are almost opening up everywhere. We are represented in all the continents because of our strategic partnership. We are global. We are represented in over 90 countries now. Our interests are protected in 90 countries and all continents for you to conquer Nigeria. Many people are going African. But they don’t have the market in Nigeria. There is a lot of work to be done in this country. There are lots of brands looking for help. We will conquer Nigeria, and use our global presence to conquer the world. But first of all, you need to conquer the Nigerian market and ensure that you are represented. He who wants to do branding within Nigeria must be well represented in the major places in the country: Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Kano, and others. 

He debunked the allegation that Adstrat always parts ways with clients in ‘controversial manner’, just as he clarified the circumstance surrounding the agency’s business relationship with brands such as Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA), Intern Reality TV show, Genesis… among others.

“In branding, our operational methods are either project base or retainership. Our philosophy and our methodology are two fronts; we can come in as interventionist, meaning a brand needs a kind of specific attention. The brief may be ‘help us to regenerate this brand’. We do it, and we move on. We don’t hold on tight to a particular client. But it all depends on the client. We can serve as consultants to a project or retainers.

“For instance, Genesis wanted to re-brand, re-strategize, because there was a specific problem in place. We solved the problem. They wanted to go beyond being just hotel to a fast-food outlet, and they had too many small hotels all over. Our challenge was to create different identity for these small hotels, we delivered, case closed. They wanted to unveil their 5th anniversary in a way that would reposition role of the media in the inner market. Delivered! So your response would be determined by what is expected of the brief. That is the issue. Was it delivered?

“As for AMAA! We create a case afresh. What people knew as AMAA before was not standardized. It was not on retainership, but project base, and delivered. In the case of the Intern show, it was not handled by Adstrat, it was a project of the principal consultant. And it was delivered. It was an outlet for one of our brandings. It was just an external attribute of what we are trying to do internal. We did it but I was the face representing the peculiar interest of our brands, so I was not a promoter. We didn’t draw the master plan. It’s not our project. We only worked in contract with the owners to ensure that everything works well. We didn’t create it.”

With the affiliation to Independent Networks, would there be a change of name to reflect the new status?

“Never! Adstrat remains. It’s for the independent network. That’s why we agreed to join them. The brand called Adstrat will never change. We have an option to either retain our name or put it in form, but it is optional. Adstrat remains as it is. That’s the brand.” 

The job of a brand consultant, he asserted, “is standardization. But he must also create the template that will drive the communication from external. Somebody must create the template that will drive the communication in synergy with the brand language. Right from the word go, he creates the brand behaviour campaign, the brand attitudes and the brand manifestation and you ensure that there is a synergistic approach in terms of articulating that across all media.” 

The experimentation in the last seven years, he sings, has brought about “professionalism. Specialization. That’s my achievement. It is not Naira and Kobo. And I am okay. A state government is employing us, other state governments are talking to us, and other brands are talking. I am proud to tell you that when people want standardization in terms of core brand management, they know where to go.”

His verdict about the advertising practice in the country presently is a reflection of a vintage Charles O’Tudor who is ever controversial. “It is not growing. The creativity, the content, the value driven proposition to the client and consumer is not there. When you create an advertising contract, as a brand consultant, you must bring about brand standardization. No more, no less.”

* Source: The Guardian Newspapers


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