New Airtel advertising. Must be the water in Banana Island.

There must be something in the waters at Banana Island. It was just a few weeks ago that I wrote about Airtel Nigeria’s Lost TV spot and how different and refreshing the spot was from previous Airtel commercials, and indeed from category spots. Lost was a marker set down by Airtel against competition, and unwittingly, against itself. The next spot from the company was always going to draw keen attention. Will it match or beat Lost, or will it crash and burn under the weight of high expectation?

“Life’s Precious Moments” is the new spot from Airtel under its “Data Is Life”campaign. And it would appear the company isn’t a one-trick pony.

OK. So Lost and Life’s Precious Moments aren’t the best spots ever made. However, what I like about the two spots is that they are clearly differentiated from competition’s and they tell an engaging story.


MTN, Glo, Etisalat and Airtel are the top 5 marketing spenders in the land, yet their advertising are getting increasingly similar than dissimilar. In several respects, you could swap a Glo spot for an Etisalat spot style-wise (maybe it is the similar brand colours and heavy reliance on brand ambassadors. It does appear that industry can’t live without celebrity endorsement. I have my sacrilegious views about celebrity endorsement and brand ambassadors in this clime, but we’ll keep that for another post).

MTN, Glo and Etisalat sell their data offering by touting infrastructure and technology: 4G LTE. The argument is simple: “because we have 4G LTE, you will enjoy greater data speed than you’ve previously experienced” (provided you have a 4G or LTE-enabled phone, and all other conditions remain constant).

Airtel, on the other hand, is not selling its data by touting speed but by anchoring it on utility. On how helpful its data service is to helping subscribers get important stuff done.

We understand why Airtel is taking this tact of course. It doesn’t have 4G LTE and needs to downplay 4G LTE as a brand Point of Differentiation. But sooner or later it must have 4G LTE if it wants to stay relevant in the data space. And when it does launch 4G LTE, it can continue to use utility, boost by 4G LTE, as a differentiated platform. But for now, utility helps Airtel differentiate from the pack.

Interesting Storytelling

The utility stories are told in interesting and engaging ways. Which is another point of departure from competition’s CGI-heavy data advertising. Lost is comical while Life’s Precious Moments is emotional. The common thread that runs through both is they show how to solve a human problem in a lovable way. It is hackneyed that fast data speed helps us get office work done faster. But there are other dimensions to being a human being than being tied to a computer. We have a life outside work. That is what I think both Lost and Life’s Precious Moments exploit brilliantly.

Production Values

Producing good advertising is like producing a good movie. The script has to be great, the cast brilliant, the art direction superb and must treat us to great attention to detail.

I like the cinematic feel of the spot. Feels like you’re watching the trailer of a very well -made Nollywood movie. Didn’t feel like you were watching an ad. When advertising doesn’t look like advertising, the team deserves applause!

I particularly like the music score. It is well-appointed and fits nicely with the emotion of absence and the forlorn nature of Mr Uka Snr. Airtel is really nailing it with its music score.

The cast is also spot on. If there’s a grouse I have with many TV spots in Nigeria, it’s the recycling of cast (models, more like) and usage of cast that can’t act to save their lives. Pretty faces and popularity hardly make great cast. Blame the laziness of agencies for that though. Or a client that has a girlfriend that wants to appear on TV.

The shots are of course beautiful. The shots of the Niger Bridge and the bus passing through villages are amongst my best in the spot. I really like the evening shot of the Smart Trybe Gantry at Alapere, Ketu. Situates Airtel in the story. Spot shows us landmarks we actually know. Makes the advertising real.

The one sore point for me in the spot is how Mr Uka Snr, who had never seen his grandchildren, suddenly has his son, wife and grandchildren waiting for him at the park. When Mr Uka Snr told Bimbo Manuel with hurt that he had never seen his grandchildren, I thought perhaps there had been a breakdown in the relationship between him and his son that kept the grandchildren away from him. All of a sudden the whole family is now waiting for him at the park? Or if he was expecting the his son’s family to be waiting for him at the park, he’d rather be excited and not cast a sad demeanour when Bimbo Manuel showed him his own grandchildren. There’s a disconnect somewhere. Or maybe I’m overthinking things. Harmattan has that effect on me sometimes.

But Life’s Precious Moment is a beautifully made spot. It is an emotional spot. You can’t be indifferent about it. On the contrary, your eyes may just mist.

Well done to the marketing team at Airtel. When a great idea flies, it’s because a client approved it. Too often many great ideas are splayed on the surgery table of the client for reasons other than to save the life of the idea. But Airtel has turned out two really nice ads in the last three months. That’s praiseworthy. It’s good for the brand. But it will also make competition respond. Airtel, however, has first-mover advantage in taking the emotional and story-telling high ground since MTN ceded that ground. It just has to stay consistent with it.

Interesting days ahead. Let’s see which network gets a larger share of heart in the coming months.

I leave you with this warm spot from Amazon Prime. The human side of technology.


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