Wednesday, 07 January 2015

In First Person, Lolu Akinwunmi, Group CEO, Prima Garnet Africa tells the good, the bad and ugly
stories behind the famous and respected Lagos agency, Prima Garnet Africa and gives thanks to the
Almighty as well people who have contributed in one way or the other to the success of the agency.

On the first of November 1991, my wife and I arrived 117a Aina George Street Ilupeju around 7.15
a.m., said a quick prayer there and she left me to go to work. It was strange and I felt very lonely.
The building was not in any appreciable state and I was waiting for one or two people to join me so
we could start doing some things. It was actually my first day at work in the place that would
house Prima Garnet, and the building was far from ready; the last tenant had not used the place
About an hour later, Sola Olabanji joined me, and was resuming as our pioneer Deputy Creative
Director. Because there was nothing to sit on, we begged Audu the meguard, and he gave us two
rickety chairs. These would serve as our “furniture” until the place was ready and our furniture
delivered, and until I brought in a couple of dining chairs from home. Sola and I really couldn’t do
much because we had to wait for the landlord to complete whatever renovation he had promised. Of
course he took his time, and daily we would impatiently watch his snail-slow artisans. We
eventually took over and got the place ready for our January 6 1992 staff resumption. In between
we conducted staff interviews, visited Mushin so many times to get materials for renovations etc.
January 6, 1992. A few young turks gathered in the modest board room for the very first staff
meeting. Numbering about twelve, yours truly patiently shared the new agency’s raison d’être and
vision with them, along with the key developmental plans and strategies. I also emphasised our
commitment to integrity and conducting our business with the utmost probity and just conduct. The
office itself was neat, corporate enough, but kind of sparse and quiet because no creative activities
had taken place nor were in progress.
We quickly decided we were not going to wait for any client’s brief. Everyday Tunji Olugbodi and I
did cold calls and even offered free creatives just so the potential clients would see what we were
capable of doing. Sometimes it worked; most times it didn’t; plenty of warm reception, but lots of
“sorry we are already working with agency xyz”. So we changed strategy and decided to create a
rude awareness by developing a house ad with the headline, “We will take your briefs to town”, and
showed a display of underwears, punning on the word brief! Did it work? We had to stop it after
two flightings. Some loved it passionately and got in touch with us; others “eeuuuwwwed” and
wondered why we would show “pants” especially in a Sunday paper (we chose the Concord and the
Guardian centerspread on Sunday knowing readership was highest on those days). The ad got us
the famous Crystal Bank account and many others; we became so busy we never had to go
knocking on any doors again. Briefs just chased themselves in!
A lot has happened since then. In January 1993, we became the first agency to run a six-month
campaign on CNN with our Crystal Bank TVC (CNN loved it so much that when Ted Turner visited
Asia on a major trip, they sought our permission to run it free during the visit; they also gave us
free spots for about two months). We did so many other exciting things. In between we got
affiliated to Ogilvy worldwide and racked up three other international affiliations as the number of
companies in our group grew from one to the 6 we have today. They are 141 Worldwide,
Mediashare, Cutler Comms PR, Lampost, etc.
In between, our modest group has produced two AAAN (Association of Advertising Agencies of
Nigeria) Presidents, the pioneer Secretary and pioneer CEO of the federal government rebranding
project, the current APCON (Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria) Chairmanship, a delegate to
the just-concluded National Conference etc. We also became the first agency to be invited to join
the very prestigious Convention for Business Integrity. In addition, we became a part of the global
agency family, then restructured with an own vision to spread into Africa as a truly pan African
player, and taking on a new brand name of Prima Garnet Africa in line with our fierce regional
vision. We have tried to promote Nigerian talents and remain perhaps the only agency group our
size that has never hired a foreigner!
And it has not always been easy. We have experienced ups and downs, good and bad times. Most
significantly, we have gone through a very tough fight for our very soul, against foreign invaders
who felt they could casually take us over and destroy a God-given vision. And a few times during
the process of writing this piece, I broke down and became very emotional every time the Lord
brought to my mind things I went through in obeying Him and doing His will. I found myself
touched by memories of acts of tyranny against us by those who couldn’t achieve their selfish
desires. I also broke down when I remembered friends and especially very, very close former
colleagues who at some point or the other changed attitude, spoke negative things, worked against
our very interest and did unbelievable things in spite of great and intimate moments we had shared;
the memories fill me with distress and melancholy, and a few times I felt my spirit was going to be
crushed. We have been blessed with incredibly talented and loyal staff; sadly we have also had to
experience the duplicity and treachery of a few. We will save the details for the book we have
almost completed writing!
We couldn’t be where we are today without very loyal friends, shareholders and clients who have
stood by us. We won’t mention the names today; we have created an honours roll for them and will
reveal the list in due course. Many started as investors and clients, and became friends and are
now family. Of course a few relationships became casualties as a result of what I will not mention
today. God bless you all.
Today as we mark the 23rd anniversary of our flagship model and parent company Prima Garnet
Africa, we profusely thank the Lord for the opportunity and the grace to forge ahead, and trust Him
for the great years ahead. Amen.

via brandcrunch.

posted by @djshyluckjimmy
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