Mohammed VI is the King of Morocco.
He recently visited Nigeria on the invitation of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. The king was looking to deepen his country’s business footprints with and in Nigeria. It already has at least one and that is the Titus Sardine franchise managed by Ekulo Group.
Perhaps to show the august visitor that the Moroccan brand in Nigeria was playing in the big league in kitchens as that this is driven by high-end marketing communications, Ekulo Group rented at least three unipoles in strategic locations on the visitor’s route in and around Lagos.
A visiting King will likely arrive via the Presidential wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. So one huge board was rented a few metres after this point. Very strategic board than can be seen on the stretch from the GAT to MM2.
Another was rented along the International Airport Road just after the Hajj Camp. There is yet another along Awolowo Road in Ikoyi.
It did not end with these. Along the stretch from Anthony Bridge of the Oshodi-Gbagada Expressway, all the streetlamp poles had lamppost signage on them.
For a campaign designed solely to welcome the king of the country where Titus Sardine comes from, it was a very bold and expensive project. If you are one of those that believe no honour accorded a king can be considered too expensive, then this qualifies for that “honour fit for kings” we always read in literature.
But then that is where it ends.
This campaign is ugly.
I have examined the three boards I have been able to see; I have thought deeply about all the lampposts signs, some of which were so hurriedly put up they hung precariously like they are just out there on a call to reluctant duty than to engage the passing public.
A copy like never before!
Let us begin to examine these boards from the copy. Matter of fact, apart from the variations in models on the lamppost versions, the copy on all of the materials is the same.
“Titus: Gives you the strength to realize your dreams.”
That is the headline. Then there is this other one at the bottom of the board. It says: Titus makes you stronger, healthier and smarter.” Whether this is the body copy cannot be determined by its position on the boards. But these guys are not done. At the left corner is a can of Titus Sardine with a message on top that reads: “Life is better with Titus.”
I am aware, having been at the unveil of the payoff for this brand a couple of years ago that “Life is Better with Titus” is the payoff for this brand. So what are all these copy elements doing on a billboard meant to pass a message almost instantly to passengers in speeding vehicles? Or are we all expected to stop and read all what the sardine has to tell us before making up our minds about the traffic we would have caused in the process and the place we are headed?
Back to the copy. I am not sure the person that designed the ad realizes that billboards are outdoor material and that you do not use white lettering on white backgrounds on the copy even if you have to use some form of shadows to lift the letters off the plain background. It is the toughest thing to read and the passenger in a passing car has no luxury of straining his or her eyes in the few seconds he or she has to interact with the material.
You use the type of colour and lettering that will make the exposure to literally jump at you. Even the green colour chosen on some portions of the copy is so dull you just do not want the engagement. But perhaps, Ekulo was playing the patriotic card as a good corporate citizen and needed to highlight the “Nigerianness” of the brand. And Funke Osae-Brown, film critic and publisher of The Luxury Report thinks that “even the green colour gives you the impression that the advert is about Milo which had done a similar creative with someone standing on a ball like this in the past.”
Now back to the headline, “Titus gives you the strength to realise your dreams.” I am not sure I get this. Even in my Primary Science classes in elementary school, I was told fish was a source of protein. And I was also told protein has no relationship with energy. So how come Ekulo’s fish by the name of Titus has capacity to give strength, and in this case, strength to help people realize their dreams?
And which dreams are realizable with just “strength” in this technology age when being smart and working smart is the mantra? Or are we talking about Wrestlemania and WWE here?
It becomes more worrisome when you also look at the variety of concepts and adaptations on the lampposts exposure. In addition to the football star, there are other concepts which had a singer, a doctor, a model and a mother.
So if we assume that a footballer needs more “strength” than skill to realise his dreams, what has realising a dream as a doctor, singer, model or mother have to do with being strong?
Advertising explores emotions and connects to these emotions to be able to sell. But how can anyone associate fish with energy and the realization of dreams? It is impossible. And worse still, it is very misleading. Which is why there are question marks around how the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), an arm of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) was able to vet the message and allow it pass?
Ike Ezugwu, an advertising practitioner raised this question. “APCON guidelines are directed at removing offensive, deceptive and unethical areas in ads. So how did a fish claiming it gives energy pass through vetting procedures at APCON?”
APCON has not had a council for as long as can be recalled so it is possible even the ASP has been asleep as well.
Funke also wondered why the imagery of a woman cooking meals for her family was not explored? But as much as I agree, I will say, without holding brief for Ekulo and Titus, that someone was trying to not be couched in the ordinary.
In trying to be extraordinary however, Ekulo placed a footballer as main image. The footballer may stand for an aspiring professional but how we can connect this fish to his dreams and accomplishments remains a mirage.
If you look at the campaign, you will also notice this stray plate of food positioned rather languidly on the left side of the material. I do not know what it is doing there when you already have the tin of sardine on the right. And as Funke observed rather comically, it is hanging in there like the “sacrifice often placed at crossroads.”
I remember I was present at Sheraton Hotels in 2014 or thereabout when Ekulo relaunched this brand with a campaign that was no better than the one just released. I still remember there were issues about the copy which the General Manager did not quite agree with.
I also remember the agency that handled that relaunch claimed it was a subsidiary of a well-known leading agency in Nigeria at the time. I can almost swear this poor job was done by the same agency. Their signature is all over the material.
King Mohammed may have come and gone but the memory of his visit may fade a lot quicker than the boards erected to herald his visit.