When NASA’s space probes hurtle through the Solar System, they take some pretty astonishing pictures. But there is one picture that NASA dare not release. That is because that picture has profound implications for humanity, and is also deeply bruising to the ego of the West.
They have found an Igbo man on Mars.
Remember that ‘historic’ Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon and his “One-Small- Step-for-Man-Giant-Leap-for-Mankind” speech? It’s a conspiracy. That footprint belonged to Akunesiobike. He had stopped over on the moon on his way to Mars.
Well, of course, Akunesiobike – or Aku for short – has set up shop on the Red Planet for the day mankind desired a more sizzling holiday spot. Oxygen tanks, sunscreen lotion, Ray-Banned glasses, Marsda cars – everything you need to make your Mars vacation comfy, Aku’s got you sorted. He’s even got spare parts for NASA rockets.
When there’s money to be made, there’s an Igbo man to be found.
How many times have you heard it said that you’ll find an Igbo man in every country in the world? Including Tuvalu (population 9, 893) and Palau (population 21,097)? Maybe even in Aleppo.
What I’ve just done is something we do well as Nigerians. Finding the light side of our realities. Making fun of ourselves without malice or denigration.
If only our advertising were that humorous.
Every day we get very funny Nigeria-themed memes on WhatsApp. We see funny Nigerian videos on Facebook. We laugh. We share them. We connect to them because they mirror our realities and beliefs, even if exaggerated.
Why can’t our advertising mimic our Nigerian world views and mannerisms? When was the last time a Nigerian ad made you laugh because it mimicked or mirrored a Nigerian truth?
Between the agency and the client that humour and cultural relevance gets murdered.
We laugh when we see and read all these memes, but when its time to create advertising, we all become academic and create ads for robots. We reel out a bunch of benefits and undersell on persuasion. The real work advertising is supposed to do. We hope that a high media frequency will make the consumer beat a path to our door.
A part of persuasion is being authentic. And in some markets, it can be a very big part. Many brands claim ‘authenticity’ in their advertising. But using Nigerian casts, clothing or lingo in an ad doesn’t make your communication ‘authentic’ anymore than being in a garage makes you a car.
At the core of authenticity is truth. Is this behaviour true (intrinsically) of the people depicted? Once this truth is established, craft and creative styles then come in. You may, for instance, use exaggeration or humour to convey the message.
Authenticity is being relevant and true to a specific target. It also has cultural undertones. While all human beings feel emotions, different cultures tend to express them in different ways. The happiness a Yoruba or Igbo man feels at the birth of his first son is totally different from the happiness a Briton may feel at the birth of a son.
The majority of the ‘Nigerian’ ads I see on TV could as well have been targeted at a Ghanaian, Kenyan or South African audience. If the goal is a culturally neutral communication, that would be success. But if the target is local, then you’ve lost us.
Indian, Thai, Brazilian and a good many Asian advertising have shown us the way forward here. That by being true to what makes us Nigerian brands can build a strong bond with its target. And enjoy global acclaim to boot. Advertising agencies who long to be the first in Nigeria to win a Cannes Lion, One Show or a Pencil will do well to remember that.
Right. For some funny Nigerian memes.