The Nation Executive Interview: ‘Lolu Akinwunmi
Posted by Head Editor on 12th March 2017
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“I am not a protocol person”

Mr. ‘Lolu Akinwunmi, an integrated marketing communication expert has over 35 years experience in the industry. Akinwunmi who sits atop Prima Garnet Africa Group, a world-class advertising and marketing communication group, has also served as President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) as well as Chairman of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, the apex regulatory agency in the advertising industry among other private and public enterprises. In this interview with Bukola Aroloye, he speaks on the nation’s advertising landscape vis-à-vis challenges and prospects as well as his work regimen. Excerpts:

Setting up shop

I joined LINTAS in 1982. I have quite a few mentors. Those I worked directly with, those I came in contact with in and out of the agency and Nigeria. With over 10 years experience under my belt, I decided to set up Prima Garnet. We started in 1992 as a full service agency. The journey has been exciting. I have been able to fulfill most of our set out objectives when I started the agency. We have had really exciting times, worked with so many clients and nurtured so many brands. We have trained and groomed people who have gone to become successful in various fields. We have received local and international recognitions too. We have had some disappointments, but they have added to our learning and experience. Looking back now from when we started running the company since 1992 till date, I can say, largely, it has been very fulfilling. It was the first time any Nigerian agency was running an international campaign on that scale. It was a great feeling especially when Ted Turner, the CNN founder cited the ad and requested that it is run during his Asian trip. It was also a turning point for advertising practice in Nigeria.

Strength of Prima Garnet Group

It’s not singular. It’s a combination of many values, some of which I have mentioned. We are particular about bringing in good people. We work very hard. We train as best as we can afford. We provide an enabling environment. We believe in treating everyone fairly. etc. Above all we are deeply committed to transacting our business with the utmost integrity and just conduct.

Futuristic goals for Prima Garnet Group

In five years time, Prima Garnet Group will be 30 years old. There are a number of propositions. To go PLC or not is a decision based on a strategic intent. If we need to go PLC before, by then or after the period, it will be because it is compelling to do so.

Coping with recession

Recession has affected many sectors significantly, including advertising. Globally, advertising drives trade and commerce. When you have a recession, the first area of cut is the ad budget. It has not helped that the Nigerian recession has gone on longer than envisaged. Quite a few agencies have shut down while others have had to take cost saving and survival steps. The challenges are the economy, lack of patronage, low budgets, dearth of experienced people and sometimes ethical issues.

Serving at APCON

I served as Chairman of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, the apex regulatory agency in the advertising industry. I served longer than my original three years tenure. I served for nearly five years before the government appointed my successor, Mr. Udeme Ufot. Looking back now, at the risk of sounding immodest, I can say there were so many changes we effected. Most significantly, I reviewed the 4th code, which produced the current 5th code. I streamlined the operations and compliance structure of especially the beer sector. I trained more than any other council. We produced more members at all levels more than any council before or after us. So we had so many achievements. Whatever policies we put in place was done to promote professionalism at all levels for local and foreign practitioners. The records are still very fresh.

A case for a virile advertising business in Nigeria

I’m assuming you mean ad agencies. Whatever government needs to be done has been achieved by our major reform. The practitioners need to comply. APCON needs to ensure compliance and the various trade associations need to support APCON. We need to have strong commitment to excellence, the strong desire to do the right things at the right times and overall God has been our helper.

Advertising before and now

Most of the principles remain the same. However trends have helped to define new ways of doing things. The various developments in the local and international economies have also meant agencies have had to adapt. I can say with every sense of responsibility that most of the leading lights in the industry have remained deeply professional and passionate. We sleep, wake and think brands and by refreshing the way we work and continuing to commit ourselves to the best ways to professionally manage the brands.

Settling persistent disputes between Guinness Nig plc and Nigerian Breweries Plc

There was already a law in place. The issue was compliance. We enforced this and when one of them was intransigent, we wielded the big stick and it complied. We had to set up a committee to investigate this and passed our findings to the Hon. Minister of Information, Labaran Maku. He approved all the steps we took.

Management style

That’s a hard question. I don’t have any specific style. I simply try to do what’s right from knowledge and experience. Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not. There is however values I treasure which are honesty, integrity, hard work etc. Better still, I can say that my management is a combination of many. Some I picked up from my Lintas days; others through formal learning during my SMP/MBA and other training modules. Some I developed on the job. Of course fundamentally I am affected by my faith in terms of what God says about work ethics, fairness, dealing with others etc. I hate too much formality and so we run a flat structure. I believe in openness and also participatory management.

Advice to the government on how to help the industry

The APCON code provides enough support. It’s still a regulated economy.  For new members, be sure you want to make a career out of marketing communication. Be committed, study hard and be up to speed. Aim to become the very best. Invest in integrity and not the desire for quick money by all means.

Staff motivation

I motivate my staff in many ways both formally and informally either through structured pay and other fresh innovations. Acknowledging when someone has done something well and rewarding them as well. I believe they also know they will have a fair hearing if they bring up matters related to discontent.

Philosophy

I have never given this any thought. I try to do the right things at the right time. I try to be fair to all. I respect what the word of God commands in the Bible and try very hard to be compliant.

Serving Nigeria

I set up my website, loluakinwunmiobservatory for this purpose so I can use the platform to drive discussions on advocacy, socio economic and civic responsibility issues. I am passionate about Nigeria and know it can be a very great nation. I love to create ideas and see them through. I love to write as well. Let’s just say simple things, well done.

Toughest decision

Generally asking people to go. I have a close and warm relationship with my colleagues. Inevitably and for various reasons, someone may have to be asked to leave the services of the company

 Most favourable decision

Too many to be specific. I’m excited when someone who has worked very hard is rewarded especially with a promotion or senior appointment.

Playing the role of CEO and parent

There should not be any conflict because the two roles do not compete. As long as one can define and determine where one starts and stops, or in some cases, where one loops into the other, there should not be any problem at all. No matter how busy or successful one is in one’s business, one must create time out for one’s children and one’s relationship with God. One cannot say one does not have time for one’s children because one is trying to make money. Plan your time and responsibilities so well so that one does not compete with the other.

Leisure time

Sometimes I hang out with buddies at the polo Club. I love music. I like to eat out. I do light reading for relaxation. I like and enjoy long solitary walks.