‘Chats’ Expanded: Shimataver Igbawua

Interview by: Tshego ‘Red’ Mosiane

Shimataver Igbawua is a publicist based in Lagos, Nigeria. He has over 5 years experience in media – specifically between radio and online publishing – but over a year ago opted for a career change to Fashion PR and to further pursue his love for both industries through his YouTube channel.

We invited Shimataver to expand on the topic discussed in episode  of our talk show ‘Chats’ – the problem with branding, PR, marketing and advertising agencies – but in regards to the current landscape in Nigeria. 


REconnecteD: What do you believe is the biggest problem within agencies that contributes to the terrible content consumers see in general?

Shimataver Igbawua: Agencies chase and care for profit without regard for creativity or consumers. I mean, agencies compromise and give in to brand’s ridiculous ideas all because they want to make profit and keep the client. In Nigeria, it is very common to see brands go to agencies with not just what they want to achieve but with their own set instructions on how, when, where and even who they want for the project. More often than not, agencies easily give into it because of the profit they stand to make. 

RE: Who is to blame and how should the industry go about changing that?

SI: Who to really blame is an unending debate. But what I would say is that brands needs to start trusting the agency because they are the ones who knock on their door. You have identified your need and gone out to a particular agency to help you fulfill that need.Then it is also only right to trust that agency or person and let them provide the solution. And for agencies, to always ensure they satisfy brands needs irrespective of the creative route they choose. 

RE: Do you believe brands/agencies should be aiming for higher reach or higher engagement within the Nigerian market specifically?

SI: In reference to the fashion industry in Nigeria, I would quickly say reach. Nigeria’s market is has yet to be fully structured and is to an extent still in need of both more knowledgeable talents and awareness. I think before you engage me on something, I should have a reasonable level of awareness and knowledge. With an estimated population of over 180 million in Nigeria, I can assure you that the level of reach for most brands is low. We have cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt that are very much fashionable and up-to-date, but these cities are just a minute number as compared to the market at large. Even in these cities, one of the key structures of the market – which is fashion shows – is still not mastered. So with all these missing links, I think it will be unwise for brands/agencies to deploy their resources to engagement at first. 

RE: What are some of the internal struggles you and your colleagues go through that hamper your creative output?

SI: Okay. I had to laugh to this question. You know why? In Nigeria, no matter what you are into, if you are asked to point out your impediments electricity supply will/must be on your list and if not first, surely second. 
This is a hard hitting hindrance. The lack of steady or no power supply does not just hamper our creativity, it affects flow of work and thus growth of the business. This is the 21st century and there are gadgets to enhance & fast track whatever you do but without electricity, those gadgets are rendered useless. 
Secondly, trust. I think I mentioned it earlier on. Let me attempt to break it further. The big brands in Nigeria don’t have confidence in local agencies to deliver and this does not help us and our creativity. If the big brands that often have the complex and super creatively tasking jobs continuously take them abroad, we are left with nothing but normal jobs and that in the long run hugely affects our creativity. 
Thirdly, I will add undervalue. This is more like the opposite of the big brands. Some smaller brands don’t see or place much value on what we offer so often they are unwilling to engage or pay well if they do engage our services. And so no matter how passionate you are about creating & creativity, without finance to take care of your basic needs your creativity will eventually suffer.

RE: How have you seen agencies go about deciding on payments for privilleged creatives vs non-privilleged creatives? How do people justify it?

SI: Well, in Nigeria I think agencies decisions on payments can be said to be fair if not justified. I think the reason is because we are pretty much a same race nation so we don’t really have that problem. However, whenever it involves foreigners – either brought in from abroad or those that reside in the country – the difference in payment isn’t just glaring but painful. It even goes to as far as treatment too. 
I remember an incident we once had in Nigeria between 50 Cent (the American rapper) and our local rapper called Eedris Abdulkareem in 2004. 50 cent was in Nigeria for a series of shows. They were to fly outside Lagos to another city for a gig and the show producers booked 50 cent a business class ticket while all the other Nigeria artists were booked on economy and on the same flight. This did not go well with Eedris and he revolted which led to a huge PR mess for the brand leading the event.

RE: In terms of fashion marketing, where do you believe Nigerian agencies are going wrong?

SI: Influencer marketing is the order of the day and agencies here are doing well in it’s usage for fashion marketing in Nigeria. But are agencies maximizing it? My personal view is no. 
To get the best out of influencer marketing, brands should utilize influencers that have a connection of sort with the brand’s identity and ethical values. It could also be just the brand’s designs. But here in my country, most agencies don’t care about that. They just go out and whoever they can find that has large followings gets the deal and the campaign starts. That isn’t the right way and it is also the reason why most campaigns around here are just nothing short of conventional advertising. 
Events is another one. I really don’t think agencies are using events well enough for fashion marketing in Nigeria. I don’t necessarily mean events like the fashion shows during fashion weeks. I mean leveraging on events that attracts a brand customer type or events that pulls together a people that holds the same view with the brand’s ethical values. To me, events are the best way to employ and deploy a bunch of micro influencers without directly contracting them for it. You know why? Social media is one hungry beast for content and just like brands individuals are also constantly looking for content to share. No one on social media goes to an event and does not post about it. So events should be explored and exploited more for the most organic influencing and storytelling.

RE: What do you think is a major missing link agencies can and should look in to in order for them to create better content for brands in Nigeria?

SI: From where I live, I think agencies needs to invest in training and re-training of it’s team or staff. They recruit great potential but they hardly help or support them to develop those potentials to a great skill or talent. I also believe it is about time they stopped accepting clients who will not let the agency have control over creativity and the creative process. These adjustments can help improve the quality of content produced. 

RE: What do you advise young Nigerian creatives who are trying to get hired by agencies do to better their chances?

SI: I will advice them to get a few skills that have become so relevant in the agency world. First, social media marketing skill. This skill will set you apart from the bunch because PR agencies are no longer into just distributing information and managing image but marketing on social media is a main focus nowadays. Also, if they can add graphic design to their portfolio, they will definitely have set themselves up for being hired when there is an opening. When it comes to fashion pr, having a great style or simply being fashionable as a person can help in no small measure.
Watch episode 2 of ‘Chats’ here: