It is often said that the 80s and early 90s kids are arguably the most privileged crop of contemporary TV viewers in Nigeria and the reason may not be farfetched. Colour TV transmission didn’t make its way to the Nigerian scene until the mid-70s and the TV gist only started trending following the active participation and viewership by the 80s and early 90s folks.

One of the factors that catalysed this revolution was the art of advertisement – both on radio and television. Little wonder why Nigerian comedians occasionally enjoin their audience to chant the lyrics of old digital ads. Besides, if you randomly conducted a VOX POP in any part of the busiest Nigerian cities and asked members of the audience to recite the lines of radio/TV ads they listened to while growing up, you might have a possible 5 out of 10 individuals singing the same songs. This may equally strike some nostalgic chords in your memory provided you belong to the aforementioned era, but have you actually noticed how there seems to have been a continuum of these ad components till date?

It’s quite simple; you get a shot of a group talking or if you will, a panoramic view of a popular suburb, play contemporary music in the background, insert cameos from celebrities, get them to talk, walk, dance and dress in any way you want them to and voila! You have your ad. Alternatively, you could get a popular voice-over artiste to do the job of rendering a narrative in the most dramatic manner while you display all kinds of images and videos along the line. However, some indigenous brands as well as the foreign ones operating in Nigeria appear to have evolved and are currently applying more creativity to the production of ads. By so doing, they are giving a new concept to digital ads thereby transforming it into what it really should be – pure art.

On the other hand, radio ads still appear stuck in the vintage era with invariably little or no improvement whatsoever. The well-known brands that have applied and still apply art to radio ads sometimes have the concept lost on Nigerians who are famed for having “no chill”. To put this into perspective, an average radio ad lasts between 30 – 60 seconds, with the exception being special announcements made by the government which has the voiceover artiste talking so fast that you would think gunmen would barge into the recording studio any minute thereon. Hence, an average Nigerian expects to capture the relevant info being disseminated in a radio ad within the opening 20 – 30 seconds unless you are announcing the steps to winning free tickets to attend a popular event.

Summarily, the time invested in an artful radio ad preempts its length which in turn falls outside the mental tolerance of an average Nigerian listener who feels there are more important things to be done than listening to sonorous radio ads. However, this is not meant to discourage top brands from making artful radio ads. A good way to start would be to experiment ways by which art could be rendered in a radio ad in about 30 seconds. Then you could have your content reviewed by digital marketing consultants and can rest assured a listener who is compelled by the opening seconds of your radio ad will most likely be patient enough to listen till the end regardless its length.  No matter how artful or drab your radio ad might be, it could still record full listenership provided your target audience is stuck in a Lagos or Port-Harcout traffic, in which case they would be forced to decide whether your radio ad is fueling or alleviating the pre-existing misery that has been brought upon them by the traffic snarl.

For TV ads, it’s an entirely different gist but let me mention some ads which are in my opinion among the best TV ads of all time. Well, maybe not necessarily but they deserve special slots in the hall of fame. First, who in a bid to demonstrate the precision and accuracy of steerings has Jean-Claude Van Damme do the epic split progressively with each leg resting on the side mirror of two moving freight trucks? The answer is Volvo, and did I also mention that they had Enya’s Only Time playing in the background? Of course someone later went overboard by having an animated Chuck Norris re-enact the same feat in a Christmas ad though in this case, moving trucks were substituted for moving airplanes. Anyway, it could only have been Chuck Norris and probably Jet Li. Secondly, the TV ad by Sussex Safer Roads emphasizing the importance of embracing life and always wearing seat belts is purely magical. Here’s a spoiler though: the video could make you cry.

Although I am not in any way implying that brands in Nigeria should start churning out ads that bear more emotional appeal, it is only important to produce a compelling video that seamlessly communicates vital information. The models in the Sussex ad did not speak a word but with the help of limited motion graphics and remarkable body language, they delivered what has been adjudged by critics and reviewers as one of the best TV ads of all time.

To this end, indigenous and foreign brands operating in Nigeria have a long way to go in order to meet international standards. Simply put; the radio/TV ads climate in Nigeria is largely devoid of art and it speaks a lot of the advertising and digital marketing agencies operating herein. The producers of the MTN TV ad featuring Falz The Bad Guy displaying a sci-fi-themed explainer did a brilliant job of subtly marrying the elements of action with drama, comedy and most importantly, art. And if the concept (not words) depicted in the video eludes you, then it’s safe to assume you only watch ads leisurely and not meticulously, in which case it will be fairly understandable.

It is just important for businesses to know that value proposition and brand equity can be bolstered by a simple and yet complex touch of class – the art of ads.


  • Adesegun Damazio, Brands Advisor at Zenera Consulting.