Mothers’ Day: Uncommon simplicity slayed it for Etisalat

  • By Ikem Okuhu

It was a Sunday and one of those numerous Mothers’ Day events on the Christian calendar. I am not sure I understand why this year’s event was being heavily celebrated. I am a Catholic by religious faith and I am aware the Catholics do not celebrate Mothers’ Day with other church denominations. I am also not sure the two somehow coincided. But you could feel it in the air and brands in the country also took cleverly (as usual) took the opportunity to reach out to mothers across Nigeria and to those who, for some reason are connected with motherhood one way or the other.

I am sure that for some husbands, newspapers newspaper, radio and television ads were the reminders for them of what the day represents and was enough to trigger unplanned purchase decisions on gifts for their mothers and of course their wives.

It’s a good day to sell. Being on a Sunday, and being a day set aside for mothers, who whether you like it or not, are the coordinators-in-chief of the pester power that has been agreed to take as high as 65 percent of the family income, attention will be at the very highest for both print and electronic exposures.

But as high as attention span is on this day, it just may not be enough for brands to splash any kind of message just because there are eyeballs and eardrums waiting to accept marketing pitches from brands. Creativity will always win, especially given the number of brands in the market seeking to reach each individual.

We review the print ad campaigns below in the order of who, by our assessment, delivered the strongest creative messaging to mothers on their day.

Etisalat and the metaphor of Strong connection

It was Ebubechukwu my son that drew my attention to the papers after the vendor had delivered for the day. Having gone through the cartoon sections and other pages, he had come to me with two questions.Etisalat Mothers 'Day ad

The first was why there was another picture of Buhari and what the word “Scandal” meant? He was referring to the lead story in Sunday Punch which put in retroactive perspective, the certificate issues that had befallen past Nigerian political leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari and formers House of Representatives Speaker, Salisu Buhari.

His second question was why Etisalat used a “headphone to make a picture of a mum and baby”?

It was then I took a closer look at the ad and the others in the two other papers I was able to pick up today and it struck me Etisalat may just have done something different.

As you can see, the copy is simple but you cannot afford to NOT look at the page more than twice. First, your brain shows you a headphone. But it quickly also reveal the way same headphone was “contoured” to create the face of a doting mother and an infant with both looking into each other’s eyes.

Scientists and Psychologists believe that the human eye hold the secret to all emotions, anger, sadness, sorrow, envy, hate, satisfaction and fulfillment, indifference and ultimately, love. In an elaborate article published in on March 22, 2015, the BBC referred to the eye as a “window to the soul.”

What this then means is that by constantly exchanging eye contacts, children tend to see into the souls of their mothers and vice versa and that may just explain mothers are closer to their children that fathers.

This, for me, forms the major strength of the ad and when you then see the headline telling you it’s “the strongest connection ever”, it becomes clear where this brand really slayed it all.

Etisalat is a telecom company and their business, whether in voice and data, is that of connecting people to one another and to (sources of) opportunities. It was therefore “dangerously” creative of them to place their brand in the midst of the strong bond between mothers and their children by claiming they are the “strongest connection ever.”

Very clever. And no one can take them to the Advertisers Standards Panel (the arm of APCON that vets ads) for the use of superlatives. Their claim is that happens? That they were talking about the connection between mothers and their children.

So in one breadth, Etisalat tells us the connection between mothers and their children is the strongest and as well send a message that it is the strongest connection ever. Remember that MTN used to have “Your Best Connection” as its payoff in the early days before it was asked to drop it on account of it being a superlative?

Now Etisalat which was not even in the market at the time had quietly and creatively claimed that without breaking any rule.

MTN says you’d never grow up in your mother’s eyes

MTN comes up in second place, behind Etisalat in the list of brands we assessed. They took the path of humour to send its message home and remind us all just how we can never be grownups before our mothers.

The typical mother continues to see her children as “children” even when they are grown and married with MTN Mothers' Day adchildren of their own. It is a situation we can all relate with and when you read the SMS on the phone used as illustration for the ad, you’d understand this better:


Have you gotten to work yet?

Be careful on the road.

And keep your phone well.

Greet your Oga for me

And that your fine colleague”

It is very typical of mothers in this part of the world to send their children such messages. And MTN was right when it said in the simple copy, “Mums will always be mums.”

But I have this feeling that MTN may have chosen a “weaker sex” to model the ad. You see, mums will always be mums and ask all manner of weird questions of their children. But there are typical questions they ask their sons and those they ask their daughters, especially when they are working class singles

But such questions as asked by “Mummy Yo” in this came across (to me more) like what mothers ask their

daughters than their sons. Meaning a hand that is distinctively female should have been holding that phone. And more so, those hands just do not look like a young man’s hand. A lady’s well-manicured hand with well painted nails should have done a better job.

FCMB and the poetic commemoration

I kinda love the illustration on FCMB’s ad – a mother that, like Etisalat reflected in its creative, is looking into her daughter’s eyes. The picture tells a great story of bond and love.FCMB Mothers'Day Ad

But the conservative approach of bankers to ads was a major dampener for what should otherwise have earned them our number 2 position on the day. Banks, and some other companies like MTN, have this format they bring to advertising. There is a template and all material must be made to comply and fit.

I believe this ad would have done a lot better without the ubiquitous logo taking the front row seat where the headline (in this particular case) should have been.

A sales pitch won’t work on this day, First Bank and Ecobank

First Bank and Ecobank were also busy on Mothers’ Day but I am not sure they were busy for the right reasons.

On a day like this, people just want to sit back and enjoy themselves, celebrating their mothers and wives. They do not want pitches and even if they will welcome such, not from banks.

First Bank and Ecobank Mothers' Day ads

In First Bank’s creative, a call to action is made, asking women to “Be Bold.” I am not sure there was need for the rather verbose body copy. The problem with this becomes complicated when you try to situate the copy in the context of a Mothers’ Day even and it becomes tough.

You get what I mean? There is a difference between an ad copy praising the can-do spirit of the female folk in the face of challenges, and one praising mothers for …for being mothers to their children.

And connecting them to FirstGem on a day they should be sitting back and letting themselves be pampered by their kids is just a waste of time and money.

For Ecobank, what is the agency thinking, believing the bank could sell its Marterpass QR Code on a day like this? And are great pictures so expensive these days they could not purchase one that can tell a better story?

It is clear that cost saving may have played a role here.


Mastercard is very likely to be the one paying for this ad from a cost pool it may have for marketing the Masterpass with Ecobank, Otherwise, there are better ways to “show your mum how much you care” than placing a funny-looking cartoon on a newspaper page and asking us to use Masperpass to scan and buy gifts for her.

Sales pitches don’t work on Christmas day. People would have shopped all the wanted long before. What you should do is relax with them and wish them well.

Sales pitches won’t work on Mothers’ Day too. For the same reasons.



1 Comment

  1. Interesting read! The tendency to exploit every opportunity to sell makes a salesman boring, unaffectionate, selfish and narcissistic. And such associations are what brand managers don’t want to project for their brands. Thank you for reminding us all poignantly the need to be human in our marketing, after all.

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