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The Chief Operating Officer, 7even Interactive, Mr. Taiwo Agboola, spoke on how the nation’s marketing
communications landscape fared last year as well as the contribution of the Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival to the growth of creativity in the country
How will you describe business in 2017?
From the point of view that advertising industry is not immune to the economic reversal going on in the country, I will say 2017 was a bit tough. Thankfully, the oil price is going up now and I expect this to impact on the economy positively very soon. We must not forget that the dwindling oil revenue occasioned by the price slash and the sector’s production below capacity starting from 2016 adversely affected the economy.
When do you expect things to pick up?
Well, if we get the budget passed on time by the House of Representatives and the Senate and the executive assent to it, we would begin to see some positive changes in the economy from first quarter. For now, between the lawmakers and executive arm, there is still buck passing and foot-dragging over the budget, but honestly, we need the budget done and treated on time.
Do you see the electioneering campaign and the World Cup opening up the industry this year?
Definitely, that’s going to help because the World Cup is a major event. Some of our clients will participate, which is good for the industry as spending is expected to pick up. Same with politics, the race for 2019 basically starts now.  You will see more smart politicians engage the services of professional agencies. If they really want to get good outcome, they need to invest in quality campaign. In that wise, we should expect a boost in the industry.
 In the 2017 LAIF Award, your agency stepped up from 9th position to 4th. What is the secret?
 Basically, it is hard work and passion; that’s the way I see it. We have a team of young and committed professionals in the agency. They are passionate about what they do. What we have done is to show what we can offer in the marketing communications industry and more important in building brands along with our clients.
In 2016, we were rated 9 position, we sat down and asked ourselves “is that the level we want to play?” We said no. We need to push ourselves harder. The result is where we find ourselves now. However, we are not there yet. We want to be at the top of the ladder.
What are the works that won you the awards?

I will mention a couple of works for some of our clients. For instance, Uber won considerably in silver and bronze in the radio category. The digital campaign for Mainone also won bronze. The work that won gold for us was our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaign. It is called the Frixion campaign, an anti-rape campaign. We felt there was need to sensitize the community in which we operate and the country at large on the evils of rape by advising people to seek consent first before sexual relationships. To achieve this, we created a fictional brand called Frixion Vodka.  We used images of celebrities, musicians and actors without their consent as models for the Frixion brand. These people were enraged and asked their lawyers to sue us.  However, we apologised to them and let them into the idea behind the campaign as “good cause”, they were happy and decided to give their full support to the campaign across all media and channels of exposures.

This particular campaign also won us a bronze at the Loeries, making 7even Interactive the only agency in West Africa to be awarded any medal at the Loeries awards last year.
With these local and international awards, 7even Interactive becomes one of the focal points, how do you contend with the likely upsurge in competition?
Competition, for us, is opium; it is what drives us. The truth is whatever industry you play in, if there is no competition, you would be lethargic.  It makes us to benchmark ourselves against those perceived to be leaders in the field as we are always on fire. If we don’t compete, how do we even measure ourselves? We are very ready to slug it out with whoever it is and we are sure that with the team in this building, we are ready to stand up to competition.
Despite the paucity of creative talent as commonly alleged, how do you spot your talents to build your team of creative soldiers especially as a young agency?
The creative industry doesn’t depend on what someone studied in school. Most of the times, we look for talents who also reflect our DNA because you can also learn on the job. We are heavy on training and retraining. We look for people who think the way we do as a very young agency, looking at the fun side of issues.  So, once we know that you are someone that is very inquisitive, you may make it to becoming part of us.
Such a person must be passionate about the job because he/she can be called anytime to come to the office. The truth is that we live for the clients. If the client wants something done, it is our job to get it done. So, if you are not passionate about it, you won’t fit too well into this agency
As a young company, are you not intimidated when you pitch a business against more established and older players?
You can’t achieve except you dare. The truth is that if you are going to be looking at the agencies you are going to pitch against, you would not be in business because there are some who have been there for 10, 20, 30 years or even more. Aside, if you look at the top five agencies in the LAIF 2017 medal table only one agency is from the old school, which has been there for 30 years. There is a shift in thinking; we are not scared.
We are thoroughbred professionals, we are playful and we go there with the best of works. If for any reason the client decides not to work with us, we shake hands and we move on to the next one. We are not bordered whether there are any antics and we don’t even think of that. What we think about is we compete to win. If for anything we don’t, we take lessons from it and we move on.
Most of the older agencies didn’t have impact at the Awards, what does the future hold for 7even Interactive?
There is no disrespect to all those agencies. When you speak of some that have gone into oblivion, you also talk of those that have transcended and still exist. For instance, Insight Publicis and DDB are going stronger. The business of advertising is dynamic. I think some of them failed to change with time hence, the fate they suffered. Contemporaries have changed over the time. The kids that just left schools few years ago are now marketing managers and marketing directors. Do you think that a marketing director, who is 28 – 30 years old, will like to interface with the MD of an agency, who is almost 60 years?  Even if they meet, do you think they will flow?

We need to keep reinventing ourselves. You don’t need to stay too long on a thing without reinventing yourself; other agencies will come up and outstrip you. When you travel for awards or trainings in other parts of the world, you see creative directors and managing directors in the age bracket of 28 – 30 and you begin to wonder what’s happening in my industry. The youthfulness and age of ideas also matter a lot in advertising.

Tell us about the LAIF’s campaign that became ads-of-the-world’s choice?
When we were approached to create the communication for LAIF, we asked ourselves, “How do we see ourselves in the industry”.  People sweat it out on the shop floor producing a single ad. Our people slave away like robots. It is same in 7even Interactive and other agencies. We were able to make this something fun, something light hearted and something everyone will see and identify with. LAIF itself gives you a lot of materials and opportunity to explore. We are delighted a lot of people including international players like the work.


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