I must confess, although I secretly hoped and wished there was an upset in the highly-anticipated brawl between Mayweather and McGregor, I knew it was no contest for the acclaimed mixed martial art champion McGregor from day one. Just like hoping against the obvious (typical Nigerian that I am) I wanted Mayweather to hit the canvas for the first time if not for anything to prove he is not after all infallible.
Forget McGregor’s theatrical, and belligerent grandstanding showmanship before the bout, Mayweather’s arrogance stinks to the high heavens. I detest some things about him, his nauseating display of wealth, his puffy ego and boisterous overall demeanor (maybe like somebody reminded me, I am just jealous).
Another problem might be my obsession with the underdog narrative. McGregor, being the underdog from the beginning would have exerted a bigger victory if he won. Victory is sweeter when it is least expected. There is, nonetheless, an inherent problem with that narrative of unexpected victory, it is too skewed by emotional expectations rather than rational assessment and preparedness. However, reflecting further on the fundamentals of the fight, it was apparent that those of us wishing for a miracle reminiscent of the sucker punch in the Hardly Chase series were at best, fantasists.
The bout was lopsided against McGregor from the start. A mixed martial art fighter against an undefeated boxer in a “boxing bout” governed by the rules of boxing alone and none of UFC’s (come on, what was he thinking?). It's like a Danfo driver deciding to race Fernando Alonso in a formula-one race car at Autodromo Nazionale Monza or Pescara race track and expecting a miracle.
That he lasted 10 rounds is very impressive, considering he had to learn actual boxing techniques some months before this epic showdown. I was expecting an earlier knockout, say in round 3. From the fight, it was certain that if Connor was given the benefit of using his full skills and not limited to just boxing, he might have knocked out Mayweather long before the 10th round. There were clear chances and openings he could take with a kick to his fatal areas that would have knocked him out cold.
So how is this my concern, you might ask. Why am I taking Panadol for somebody else's headache? He knew he wasn’t a boxer and still went ahead to challenge one of the best in the world at his game?
Well, the fight is reflective of the struggles that enervate the entire advertising industry in Nigeria, the constant battle to outdo ourselves and stretch our competence beyond the bound of relevance. Like McGregor, we are not called the ‘advertising industry’ for nothing. It’s a tag that defines the intrinsic value of our delivery and our performance expectations. Once we start diluting it with obfuscated boundaries and varying combinations, we lose the essence of the value that defines our competence.
Ok, before I start sounding like McGregor after several deadly punches to his head, let me quickly explain myself.
One problem we have in the advertising industry is that we often attempt to be everything to everybody. At times, we try too hard to be everything. We want to be jack of all trades without the requisite foundational input or resource substantiation. We often, too quickly, lose sight of our core competence which is creativity based on sound brand strategy and consumer research and insight.
Yes, though our expertise can be as expansive as possible, it covers a variety of skills and competencies ranging from branding to design, consumer research, market analysis, channel planning, media strategy etc., but they all coalesce to define or enhance the worth of our ultimate end product, our creativity.
We are not McKinsey, KPMG or PWC, and we should not attempt to be, rather we should learn from them if we want to be respected. These firms provide multi-faceted and dimensional solutions for their clients that are deep-rooted at the core of their businesses. The Client tends to trust them more because, over the years, they have invested heavily in independent R&D and data that today gives them far-reaching advantages over any advertising agency.
Their expertise and experience delivers value to the core of most organization's operation and business, not just branding. They understand the fundamentals of the business, its core strategy, and the varying financial management schemes of the business, from its accounting makeup, P&L, personnel management, taxation, merger and acquisition, capitalization, etc. They have developed time-tested metrics and models, which most Fortune 500 companies run on, hence, the respect and perceived prioritized attention most CEOs give these firms.
Unlike the creative agencies, most of these firms have developed structures around the multifaceted services they offer the client. They have developed a system around specific expertise with well-trained experts and professionals prepared to handle various aspects of the clients’ business needs. E.g. tax, accounting, audit, business re-engineering, M&A, etc. they don’t collapse all the roles into one department like we often do in advertising. They can see the trail of naira and kobo and have multiple metrics to measure and advise client accordingly about business optimization, while we are obsessed with winning awards and billings. Perhaps that is why the client is more open to them than they are to agencies.
Aside from our rigid proprietary tools, how many agencies in Nigeria can boast of carrying out independent research on their own without a client’s brief. How many have developed time-tested models or metrics that have universal applications with results? Instead, what most agencies do is quote profusely from the research of these firms to validate our conclusions or creative directions. The truth is agency business, especially in Nigeria, is not just structured that way.
We should stop pretending to be what we are not. We are not business management experts, we don’t know financial modeling neither are we economists (well, I can speak for myself). What we are, is a body of communications experts with deep knowledge of the consumer dynamics and we should recognize that communication is just one part of the entire business value chain and not the entire pack. I was once privy to a discussion between a business management consultant and a top ranked communications executive in which he was rancorously and obtusely arguing that brand strategy is more important than business strategy. Overlooking the cardinal principle that brand strategy is derived from a businesss strategy and not vice versa.
The bout is truly indeed a laconic depiction of the reality of the Admen and the Consultants. Like McGregor, we are potpourri of many things combined to make us what we are, we only stand out when those things are coordinated to the deliver on the one thing we know best. The combination of these manifold capacities (albeit some in quasi-dimensions) has left us with the illusion that we are the archetype of everything knowledge (no be by Afro, lolz). Just like him, we have become loud and showy with snooty halos, carrying ourselves like pop stars.
The consultants, on the other hand, are hardly heard. They depict a Mayweather-like calmness, professionalism, and hubris. They don’t “jump upandan” sounding like empty barrels to make their point and interestingly, they are the money men.
To earn the respect we so eagerly desire, we must be like Mayweather, we need to bring back the minds of our clients to see our competency for what it is, we then must develop extensive knowledge and practice around our craft viz. creative, brand strategy (and all that it contains) etc. and deliver it in such a way that the client sees it as a valuable part of their business process and survival.
If we free ourselves from the delusion of McGregor, thinking he is a boxer because he throws punches, and focus on our core strength – creative delivery based on strategy and consumer insight, perhaps we might, like Mayweather, deliver deadly punches of ideas and creativity that will make clients see and appreciate our expertise beyond mere virtual rendering and media placements.