Earnest Etim is a Marketing Communication professional and a techno-branding specialist. He is the CEO of SUB Consulting Limited. In this interview, he share his thoughts with Vincent Utere on the trends and challenges facing his industry and the way forward.

SUB Consulting prides itself as a techno-branding company, and we know that you are very active in the outdoor advertising market. Can you tell us more?

Our techno-branding disposition draws from the desire to bridge a gap. Mind you, the advertising business just like any other business is evolving with time. Technology is setting the trend right now. We are so called, because we proffer innovative IT solutions to branding challenges. 

We have carefully integrated essential principles of branding with the innovative components of Technology to ensure that our clients engage their target audience in a most irresistible way.

We are not just engaging in outdoor practice. We are a 360 degrees marketing Communications Company, meaning that we are active across the entire marketing mix. We try as much as possible to deliver an improved version of each element of the marketing communication mix by infusing tecno-branding approaches.

For instance, our Billboard Virtual Monitoring Services, BVMS is a technology designed to enable our clients monitor their sites online real time. In simple terms, the BVMS technology transmits data from IP cameras mounted on sites to a virtual server making it possible to be accessed by the media monitoring units.

With the advent of the BVMS technology, physical monitoring of outdoor sites is no more necessary, especially considering the cost and risk associated with staff members traveling round for monitoring purposes

You can stay connected to all your billboards pan-Nigeria and outside Nigeria to know if anything goes wrong with any of them.With BVMS you can see and monitor your boards from anywhere around the world.

Over 200 billboard sites can be monitored in house on a large LED screen, with a zoom in capability to view any board of interest. BVMS is also mobile enabled. What it means is that you can also monitor all your sites online real time on your mobile phone from any part of the world. The GSM has opened up a new vista in business convenience. BVMS can also be applied on event activation. Often there are misunderstanding between clients and suppliers concerning the delivery of activation services especially in areas remote to client. Technology makes it easier for any activation to be streamed live for increased visibility and for the principal to be sure that he gets premium services and optimum value for his money

Outdoor advertising has been said to be a case of road traffic competing against web traffic. Which of them do you think is winning the competition?

They both complement each other; but as an advocate of technology, I would definitely say that technology remains the winner at all times. Online advertising is taking over from conventional advertising. It is cheaper; yet it reaches a global audience. Do you know that in 2016, online advertising revenues in the United States surpassed those of cable television and broadcast television In 2017, online advertising revenues in the United States totalled $83.0 billion, a 14% increase over the $72.50 billion in revenues in 2016. The story is not different in Nigeria because a large number of people are on social media, they are active mobile phone users. More so, the average advertiser wants to cut cost, he wants feedback, he wants to reduce wastage as much as possible and he wants to measure the impact of his campaign. Fortunately for web advertising, you can do all of these things. You can customize your push to reach your target audience in terms of age, sex, social class and geographical locations.

What new trend or trends do you think will change the face of the outdoor advertising industry now and in the future?

I just mentioned the BVMS and of course we must not ignore the role of disruption in advertising. Disruption in the sense that for your message to be seen, you have to be imposing in structure and your message must task the mind to keep thinking again and again. What I’m saying in essence is big bold electronic billboards like the one we have by Adeniji Adele can never be ignored. Nobody drives by it and fails to see it. The way forward is the infusion of technology, the way forward is being spectacular.

Are there challenges facing the industry today?

Unfortunately, the major drawback in the practice of outdoor business in Nigeria is the operators themselves. The lack of cohesion has consequently encouraged the intrusion of dabblers. Today, every roadside business centre can buy you a billboard for as low as you can think of. Also in terms of electronic boards, the issue of power to sustain the message is a challenge. Electronic billboard service providers charge huge amount to cover the cost of generating power by themselves. The issue of government regulatory agencies, the ever expanding city scape and the attendant pulling down of outdoor structures in their path, and of course the informal sector-the area boys are all a potpourri of woes for the outdoor businessman. Solve these issues and modern outdoor business especially the electronic billboard remains a great source of revenue not only for the investor and the host government, but also an element of city beautification. A case in point is the city of New York. Alicia Key sang about it how the street will make you feel brand new and the light [from billboards] will inspire you to do greater things

What do you think are the best ways to rise above these challenges?

First and foremost, the practitioners need to be more creative in thinking. They need to evolve constantly in their thinking along with time and trend because the client is simply interested in getting more value for his money. Vehicular traffic is a major determinant for siting any billboard; otherwise, the budget is a waste. Operators need to be together, speak in one voice and be determined to move the industry to the next level. Regulation is key in order to send off dabblers and quarks. That done, other responsibilities such as constant power supply, and all the enabling laws to safeguard the smooth operation by practitioners must also be in place.

Tell us a few projects your company has handled in recent times?

Fortunately, we have taken several brands to the market. We’ve been privileged to work with some huge, average and small brands. The values in terms of experience garnered while working with these brands cannot be quantified because each of them come with their own unique problems and DNA which we ultimately have to diagnose and proffer solutions to. Some of those brands include Skye Bank, International Breweries, Sab Miler, Lagos Carnival, AKBC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Unicem, Lafarge, Multi Choice, Antonio oil, NDLEA to mention but a few

Which of them do you think made the most impact, and why?

Like I mentioned earlier, each of them was unique in its own sense, and cannot be underrated as a result of size. However, foremost amongst them was the production of “50 years of Nigerian Foreign Policy”, a 20 minutes documentary in celebration of Nigeria at 50

The brief was exciting as well as revealing in several senses because it granted the SUB Consulting team an unhindered access to several top government functionaries both past and present.

 In the narrative, we were taken through the bitter-sweet and rigorous road of Nigerian independence, her consolidation and her role in subduing conflicts not just across Africa, but across the globe.

We saw the brief as a national assignment and took on it with passion and all sense of patriotism. The documentary was well packaged and delivered to the approval of Mr. Odein Ajumogobia who was by that time the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs.

To our delight, the documentary eventually became the high point of the dinner hosted in honour of members of the diplomatic corps

CEOs are always keen on knowing the impact PR and marketing campaigns have had on their company’s bottomlines. Do you have ways of measuring an outdoor advertising campaign to demonstrate its return on investment?

Sure, impact assessment is achievable in outdoor. It all boils down to sales indices, before and after. For instant,  Following the near death of Trophy Lager Beer in the market, International Breweries Limited, thought it right to consult SUB Consulting, we were very young then. Our brief was to identify the market and make available

30 numbers of 48 sheets boards in the South West, and at the same time conduct a superlative brand activation spanning over 30 towns within the same region.

Within 8 months, Trophy’s sales rose by over 300%. The records are there for verification

Tell us more about techno-branding?

It’s simply the adoption of technology as a framework for brand strategy. Web and mobile apps advertising, electronic billboard, virtual monitoring systems, name it

What does it take to build a successful techno-branding company?

To build a successful techno-branding company, one must embrace technology and be willing to submit to training and retraining. Secondly, there is also the need to invest in technology. If need be, build apps to make the job easier. Thirdly, market yourself, your brands and the products. If you have a good techno-branding products such as apps or tangible technological platform, put it in the market place and earn revenue from your innovation.