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Shooting Nigerian commercials out of Nigeria. What is true? What is bunkum?

A few months ago, the Minister for Information & Culture announced the government was going to ban the production of Nigerian movies, music videos and reality TV programmes outside the country. Such ban was to help grow the creative industry in Nigeria and to create jobs.

Said the minister:

‘It is Nigerians that pay for the consumption of these products and therefore they must be allowed and encouraged to participate in their production.’

There is also a creative and cultural angle to the minister’s position. He added:

‘It is like somebody going to China or Japan to make a product that looks like palm wine and bring it back home to label it Nigerian palm wine.’

I understand the minister’s sentiments. The government wants to reduce the demand for forex and make the Naira stronger. It wants to grow local industries.

Now, many who agree with such ban propose that it extends to advertising also. That is, ban the production of Nigerian advertising abroad.

I have produced loads of advertising campaigns. Both within and outside the country. I’ve been both guilty and helpless. I’ll share my experience.

But first, let’s unbundle what it means for advertising to be produced outside the country.

There are two ways an ad is produced outside Nigeria. I’ll call them the Full Monty Production and the Half Monty Production (Bear with the names. The Muses aren’t exactly rousing today).

Full Monty Production

Here, the advertising pre-production, shoot and post-production are done outside the country. The models are foreign and the production crew are also foreigners. The Nigerian client and its agency representatives travel abroad to supervise the production.

Half Monty Production

The creative, technical and administrative talents are flown in. These talents usually comprise the Director, Director of Photography and Producer. They work with a local production company. But once the shoot is concluded in Nigeria, the oyinbos jet off to their base. To shoot ‘abroad scenes,’ if required, and to finish the commercial. An advertising agency representative will usually join them.

In both types of productions, forex is needed to pay for the services. In the Full Monty, all the financial gains stay abroad. In the Half Monty, Nigerian companies and individuals share in the money.

But why do Nigerian clients produce advertising abroad?

The absence of Craft and Excellence.

One reason usually given is the believed lack of craft or excellence in Nigeria.

Take a look at the creatives below. They were created for a client in 2008.

We wanted a mosquito rendering that looked life-like. But this was the best we could get in the land.

Of course, we could get a more convincing execution. But it would be from outside the country. And it would set us back some $9,000 per execution. So we settled for these.

Now, the point is, even if the client was willing to pay $18K for the two executions, we would still have to get them done abroad. There just wasn’t that level of skill available in-country at the time.

Also, take a look at the pack shot below. We did the photography outside the country in 2011.

‘Crap! Are you telling me that there was no photographer in the country that could have shot this?’

That is exactly what I am telling you. At least not to the quality we required.

We had tried a few local photographers. What we got was decent, but not to the level of craft required.

That’s because we didn’t have product-shot or food-shot specialists in the country. Abroad, there are photographers who specialise in food and beverages. Photographers who specialise in automobiles. Or landscape. Or portraiture.

I was in the photography sessions for the pack shot. The level of preparation and detailing was annoying. We spent a whole day preparing bottles, labels and crown corks! I mean, we were only shooting a beer bottle!

Many marketers and procurement guys often ask if consumers notice this ‘craft.’ Whether it really matters to justify the cost.

Great craft makes an ad convincing and memorable. If it is convincing and memorable, you’d likely remember it. If you remember it, the brand might come to mind when you are in a buying situation.

Great craft also reinforces perception of quality. Perception of quality is a vital pillar of brand equity. It creates favourable memory (brand association) and has a direct relationship to price.

Besides, remind me again why you prefer Hollywood to Nollywood?

But I have seen some advertising produced in Nigeria and by Nigerians with great craft.

The two spots below were produced by TBWA\CONCEPT. In Nigeria and by Nigerians. Post-campaign evaluation showed brand recall to be very high. (Full disclosure, I had something to do with the spots).

Costs and Broader Appeal

Multinational brands try to cater to different markets with one piece of communication. It saves costs. It ensures brand imagery and campaign themes remain the same across markets.

For instance, most advertising for Coke in Africa is designed to run in more than one African market. Same with Guinness Stout, Always sanitary pads, DSTV and many other global brands.

These global brands are administered from regional hubs. Say, a Middle East and Africa Group or a Sub-Sahara Africa Group. The hubs have marketing, sales, costs and bottom-line goals set by the Global HQ. The hubs, in turn, distribute the targets to the different markets in their region.

So, Coca Cola Nigeria and Coca Cola South Africa want to advertise for their markets. The Group looks at the ‘bigger picture,’ the goals for the region, and shoots one TV spot for Nigeria and South Africa. Make that the whole of Africa. It saves the cost of each market producing their own TV spots. Money that is coming out of the pocket of the Group, in a manner of speaking.

These, of course, assumes Africa is one homogeneous market with similar psychographics. We know this not to be the case. The middle-class chap in Jozi is different from the middle-class chap in Accra.

So, banning advertising produced outside of Nigeria will run into turbulent business waters. Multinationals produce one advertising for all regions to preserve brand fidelity. To save cost. That is well within their rights. Any effort that hampers this is government interference in private business.

I’m all for growing the creative industry in Nigeria. But there are some craft and technical requirements that can’t be met in Nigeria. Yet, there are also many advertising projects that could have been produced in Nigeria which are taken abroad.

What the government can do in such instances is to levy a tax on the companies. Like a luxury tax. The companies will have to prove that the advertising could not have been executed in Nigeria. Due to cost, technical or craft constraints. If not, pay up ladies!

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