Marketing Edge Awards @10: Credibility as Niche Strategy – THISDAY Newspapers

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Ten years after the unveiling of the Marketing Edge Awards, Raheem Akingbolu writes that the promoters of the reward and recognition platform have carved a niche for it through adherence to standard and painstaking assessment.
Like every new thing, the debut of the Marketing Edge Awards 10 years ago was received with mixed feelings. Perhaps because local recognition to practitioners in the marketing communications industry was just coming up or general aspersion towards existing rewarding platforms in other sectors, only a few people expected something different from the promoters of the award. To another set of people, who believed the Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF) had already filled the gap, any other award in the industry was unnecessary. It would be recalled that LAIF, a brain child of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) was instituted in 2006 with the aim of recognising, rewarding and fostering creative excellence in all areas of marketing communications.
But for John Ajayi, who initiated the new award as an offshoot of his wholly Marketing Communications journal – Marketing Edge, it was a well-thought-out idea, conceived, to look beyond agencies and identify corporate organisations and brand custodians, who have excelled in what they do.  According to him, the award was conceived to reward excellence across the nation’s integrated marketing communications spectrum. The awards ceremony has become the acme of events in the calendar of industry stakeholders in Nigeria and a talking point globally.
“The decision to initiate this award was basically to create a popular and acceptable industry event around our raison deter which is to promote the brand idea. Having been a pace- setter and a passionate apostle in brand journalism for quite a while, we felt we could give full expression in practical terms in promoting the brand idea. This I would say encouraged us to further expand our frontiers in creating more awareness in the business of brand management and the management of brand businesses,” Ajayi told THISDAY during the week while reviewing the award brand in the last 10 years.
Have the awards lived up to expectation? Has it actually stimulated the industry? What is it’s worth and rating in the market? These are the questions many industry players have tried to answer in the last few years. Based on feedback, it may not be out of place to conclude that the promoters of the award have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they know their onions and carve a niche in the industry. 
One major edge that Marketing Edge award has, that hasn’t been rivaled by any of such institution in this part of the world is the intellectualisation of the event through Marketing Edge Annual National Marketing Summit, which set it apart from the jamborees that characterizes similar award in this part of the world. Beyond reading of citations and receiving of plaques, the Marketing Edge award is recorded as the greatest convergence of industry legends. Hence, it is always a two-in-one event where global and local industry issues are discussed by top professionals with the aim of sharing experiences on brand management and businesses. Every year, the team creates some degree of industry intellectualisation as part of its bouquet. They instigate contemporary conversation around most profound themes that touch the heart of brand marketing business. This is one important segment that seems to excite industry players the most as it helps them to further expand the frontiers of marketing and advertising knowledge.
 Ajayi, who argued that to a very greater extent, the Marketing Edge awards has met its target objectives, said it has become an incredibly most sought-after award in the country.
“We have consistently and robustly raised the bar and improved on our standards and value additions through innovative ideas that characteristically set us apart from other “ me too’ awards. The credibility of the awards and the high expectations and excitement our awards generate year in, year out continues to encourage us and ginger us in taking it always a notch higher in terms of quality and superb execution. This has been the impetus and the elixir that pushes us up the most in creating a credible and well-respected platform for brands and advertising excellence. Nigerian marketing and advertising professionals are fantastic people who have built great and market leading brands. Most of these brands have over the years become legacy brands,”
Assessing the brand in the last ten years and setting the tone for the upcoming 10th edition, the czar of the Nigeria’s marketing industry, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo, in his terse but highly loaded congratulatory message to the team, described the job of sustaining the tempo of the award as being magnificent.  “You know I always applaud your incredible efforts. And to think you’ll be 10 years in the industry next week is just so amazing,” Shobanjo said.
Last year, the awards made a smart leap and looked beyond its comfort zone by spreading its dragnet into the public service environment. It was its 9th edition, which was a prelude to the 10th anniversary. In an unprecedented move, the award fished out two state governors; Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State. The decision to settle for the two political leaders was understandable. As at the time of the event, the Lagos helmsman, who was honoured with “Outstanding Political Brand Icon of the Year”, had just succeeded in creatively averting a calamity that would have consumed the state, following the #EndSARS mass protest and economic challenge posed by COVID-19 and lockdown. On the other hand, the Ekiti State Governor, who was conferred with the Marketing Edge Outstanding Political Brand Personality of the Decade, as the chairman of the Governors’ Forum, leads the respected group of state executives without hassles and provided quality leadership that fosters mutual relationship between the federal and state governments. 
Commending the awards at its 9th edition, Sanwoolu had acknowledged the contributory efforts of Marketing Edge in repositioning the integrated marketing communications profession in Lagos and Nigeria at large. Expressing his profound gratitude for the prestigious recognition, he said: “I say, thank you very much for your roles in making the marketing communications profession respectable. I cannot deny that our nation, our state and indeed the industry have benefited immensely from your professionalism, ingenuity, and knowledge.”
He said: “During the trying days of our stay in office, I benefited immensely from the strategic counsel of members of your trade who work with me internally and those who provide strategic counsel to me externally. Let me promise you one thing today, I have become the Marketing Ambassador of your profession amongst my colleagues in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and indeed to our government at the national level. We all need your craft.”
Speaking further, he noted that as a member of the marketing/marketing communications family, he was committed to its continued growth adding that it was the reason he was determined to build a resilient and liveable city that all stakeholders would be proud of.
Gbenga Omotosho, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State, also declared that given the planning and credibility of the Marketing Edge Awards, both the organisers and the event deserved to be applauded. He particularly commended the originator, organisers and the entire team of Marketing Edge for always organising a colourful, timely and professional Award ceremony in the country.
As the 10th year anniversary edition beckons, the organisers have indicated that it would also be Primus inter pares in the annals of awards ceremony in the country. This year, the summit will be led by an impressive selection of iconic personalities, including Guest Speaker, Tolulope Adedeji, Marketing Director, AB Inbev, West Africa; Emeka Chris Okeke, Group CEO, MediaFuse Dentsu International and Director of Dentsu Ghana; Vytautas Paukstys, CEO Eskimi; Bamigbaiye Omotola, Marketing Director, Pladis Global (McVitie’s); and Franklin Ozekhome, CEO, Identiture/founder, Tink Africa & Bschool amongst others.
However, two marketing communications practitioners have tasked the organisers not to derail in their determination to uphold excellence. AAAN President, Steve Babaeko in his review of the brand urged the organisers not to get carried away by the success over the year and avoid doling out awards to every Dick, Tom and Harry. Another practitioner, Bolaji Okusaga said “MarketingEdge awards has medium stature and needs to grow into great stature by embracing other attributes of Brand and Business beyond marketing.
In view of the divergent views about awards and the need to further raise the bar, Ajayi, who is the main driver, has promised that his team would find a way to internationalise the awards. He pointed out that the organisers are already getting promptings to make it a continental Awards. “By making it a continental award, we shall begin to call for entries from other African countries with a view to reviewing and assessing their brands and credentials of those charged with brand management. But for now, we want to fully grow the brand equity of these awards so that it can resonate very profoundly across Africa and indeed across the globe. This is our mandate, this is our projections and plans,” he added.
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