Lawrence Enyoghasu and Ademoye Oluwatobiloba
In the advertising industry, he is referred to as the King. Erhabor Emokpae, the Chairman of Lowe Lintas Ltd, is business personified. From his years at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where he studied Economics, he started his journey into business but could not continue.
Did formal education shape who you are today?
School, was a long time ago that I have almost forgotten. Anyway, I went to Kings College Lagos, where I did my secondary. Then, I proceeded to study Economics at the University of Ife. And I got into advertising by circumstance, I would say, but I found it to be an exciting field and very fulfilling. I am also very much into technology, I am an adept follower of technology and trends in that area. So, it should tell you a major part of my life. I have been very excited about the recent and very many recent developments and the sheer pace of change that technology has brought to the world.
You said you got into advertising by circumstance, can you explain that?
Well, when I was younger, you know the usual question, what do you want to be when you grow up? I wanted to be a doctor and even further, I wanted to be a dentist. It was my mum who first made fun of me and said ‘dentist! You’re being lazy you know. If you are really serious, you would go for medicine.’ Anyway, those were my initial thoughts, but after A’ levels, I believed, having studied Literature, Economics, and Fine Arts, obviously I was in no shape to be looking at the sciences . I took a key interest in Economics. I got into Economics at O’ levels, so at A’ levels, I did very well at especially Micro Economics and I became a reference point to my classmates. It took me to Economics in the university but even then, I wanted to study Business Administration. At that time, it wasn’t a very widely offered course, the University of Ife had something they called Business Economics. I guess it was just Economics but with some business element, that was why I went to study at Ife. So, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, at least, from that time on. I really had an eye for it. Even while I was in school, I wanted to set up a business, I did, and it was a laundry business. I got home, just for my father to tell me that he didn’t ask me to earn any money. Beyond that, I started working, selling photocopiers and at that time, electronic typewriters, they were very new and were the forbearers or the forerunners to today’s computing environment, that is everywhere now. I got engaged with business, in my early career selling electronic typewriters and convincing people that they shouldn’t waste time with manual and that this stuff was better. So, not long, I discovered Apple computers and remained positive for expanding the possibility of the ordering manner to do graphic designing, so I started up “communico electraset”. Electra set was basically a play on the very famous “netra sets” of those days. It was a tool used by design agencies to produce. So, desktop publishing was the first major application of Apple Mac computers. I started a small company doing desktop publishing, doing layout and before very long, I found myself handling almost all the major publications in town. Now, everybody has their own stuff, but that time, nobody did, it was all done manually. So I started out producing for publications like Health Sciences, Hints magazine, when they first started, Thisweek which is a forerunner to Thisday, so many magazines like that, Newbreed I think at a point like that. So, we have revolutionized the whole design space and from there, I got into advertising. I joined Lowe Lintas back in the 90s and also brought that knowledge into the agency and that got into, that became a major part of how we developed graphic designs. The rest is history as they say.
Now you are into the world of advertising, how has it been?
It’s been very exciting, quite fulfilling, but many aspects of life seen as unfair share of change, and I can’t say the recent changes having that positive, but you know what they say, “adapt or die”, so when there is change you have to change or adapt yourself to those changes. So the entire industry has been in the throes of adaptation trying to adapt to some of the changes in the industry. I would say as a whole, we are having a fairly rough time, but the future is bright.
How has technology improved advertising?
It has certainly improved our ability to do great work, but on the part of advertising; it is really not the tools. In the past, we used brushes or hair brushes, pencils and what have you, but computers have simply replaced those tools and made the work easier to do and faster and more precisely with a more finished appearance. You no longer have to do rough sketches. In fact, you are not to expect any roughs anymore. Anything you present to a client, it is almost as basically a finished stage. But, it has been a double edged sword; technology has democratized or made available many of the abilities that we would have offered as specialists. For instance, PowerPoint or many of these presentation packages. It would allow you to do wonderful sleek presentations which are also available to your clients. So, when you are presenting something to him using one of these packages, it isn’t magical anymore because he can probably also do the same and often times feel like he can do better . A lot of computers have editing packages. You just load up your film, next thing you are doing you are editing, you are adding music, and good you think you have all it takes to produce your own adverts. I’m not saying people are producing their adverts, but, it has taken away that extra value added that we could offer as professionals. It has, therefore, reduced some of the respect that used to be accorded to agencies and so we get the second guess, sometimes you get clients prescribing what they want rather than following the guidance of a professional.
Has the internet bridged the gap of cultural relevance in advertising?
Well, various agencies and advertisers’ plans have approached it somewhat differently. Some plans value and understand the importance of localizing your offerings, your cultural cues have to be there , otherwise, they are not relevant to your audience. Some other advertisers believe in the universality of ideas, they generate their advertising centrally and they feel they can work worldwide. It just depends.
Some people say that advertising business is one you do at night, it is a business that keeps you away from home and takes you to the club where you can talk business with clients. So how do you manage your time?
Well, it has become habitual. It is not always, you get used to it, it is the base of the business, and advertising tends to draw the societies that thrive on that kind of lifestyle anyway and some of the best client service people and even the creators tend to do business at the odd hours. This is not always.