Co-founder and CEO of ADE Digital (“ADE is an acronym for ‘Acquiring Digital Estates’) Michael Ebia, one of Nigeria’s leading digital marketing agencies in Lagos, Nigeria speaks about the paradigm shift in online content sharing from text to digital. He also talks about his recently launched “Free Digital Initiative” and ADE’s new internship program for undergraduates. Anthony Nwosu of IT Edge News captures this in this exclusive interview.
What is ADE Digital known for?
ADE Digital is a performance driven digital agency. As a performance driven Digital Agency in Africa, we are a hybrid of a data-led digital marketing agency and a product development company. We design, build and launch digital products and experiences to drive and accelerate business growth. We are big on innovation and performance.
For us, it is about putting the user and target audience at the center of what we do as we design and build digital experiences. This has been the strategy that has driven business growth even for our clients. When we sit at our desks every day, we are creating meaning, simplifying processes, taking out cluster in brand processes for our clients and their consumers with our organically crafted methodology (process) called BRAG™ which is a word we coined for the things we are big on: Budget, Research, Actions and Growth. Take it for what it is, but these words have been our major driver.
Even as we develop digital marketing campaigns for Nigerian businesses and brand, we are also a product development digital agency. We have built digital products and platforms such as Eventiso, Sandy amongst others. We created this phenomenon about three years ago and the team has constantly evolved to have a healthy breed of skilled experts and have a unique, thriving business model.
“ADE” is an acronym for ‘Acquiring Digital Estates’ and this aligns with our vision to continually ‘acquire’ or build unique digital ‘properties’, products, platforms, and experiences for the African market.
Why open SCAM Studios in Nigeria?
Content consumption has in the past few years revealed new indicators and trends of what might be of interest to the active digital and connected audience. Data is significantly predicting the future and has revealed a deficit of content, and we have come to understand this. So, at SCAM studios, we are looking at creating local content in all formats including 2D and 3D contents with the superior understanding that the market is aching for it.
Content formats and types have constantly evolved over the years – the market now engages more with video content in a very unprecedented way. According to the YouTube report for 2017, Nigerians consumption of the contents has more than doubled; people are turning to video for help, entertainment, education and a lot more. Creating video content with a dedicated studio is what we are looking at.
Nigerian’s are so ready to consume video content like never before. Data subscription costs have been highly commoditized by the telcos – as there has been a consistent year to year decrease in internet data costs. Data and insights from the market shows that the target audience loves to consume video content especially those that are informative and entertaining.
“We are not a conventional company and we don’t intend to become one. We place a high value on passion, on people who challenge your mind and create solutions. We also look at exposure and what drives your thinking; these things matter a lot.”
What about NBC and other regulatory bodies governing this?
The Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NBC) role has been tilted towards the control of terrestrial broadcasting. Scam Studios has her focus around developing educative, informative and entertaining content. We are launching a series that has to do with the elections very soon and with its primary driver being corporate social responsibility, I don’t see NBC having issues with this. With our series, we would teach people what it means to vote and why you should vote. These are the types of contents that we would be creating; one that pushes the boundaries of thinking, challenging the conventional, creating awareness and responsibility in the audience as well as causing a paradigm shift in thinking.
We have a dearth of skilled manpower in tech and digital industry in Nigeria, what are you doing about this?
Personal learning and development on digital skills has been a fundamental part of how we have grown our team as a company. The most experienced hands at ADE have learned to be exceptional regardless of degrees and qualifications. Over the years, we have unconsciously trained and ‘polished’ people in our quest for excellence – a lot have passed through the company to become top leaders in other firms. In the first quarter of this year, we will be launching a National Internship Program called ‘PRIDE by ADE’ to groom young, passionate tech enthusiasts in web, mobile, social, marketing, content and videos. We have facilitators, partners and industry leaders to train and educate them about the essentials of ADE. Take this as our contribution to society, to create an ocean by starting with this huge drop and hope this vision resonates in a complementary way among other brands.
Undoubtedly, education in Nigeria isn’t arming graduates with relevant skills for the future and even the best of them have had to transcend classroom to have the little they have. While this is a problem, we try to plug gaps and not cry wolf every time.
“It never hurts to streamline and cut off excesses. Save everything, it matters a lot. Profit is very important. Busy is not a badge of honor, don’t be so caught up in activities that does make you money. A great startup CEO must dream big because a lot of their employees’ future is tied to them.”
A lot of firms in the country prefer outsourcing their digital PR to foreign firms. We saw that, in the last elections. Do you feel that firms like yours can compete with foreign firms?
This used to be the case but this mindset has changed largely in recent years. However, it is rather unfortunate that some firms still have this mindset in Nigeria, but one has to understand the thinking behind this. The system is unsure of its societal products because they created the situation that inhibits extraordinary performance. During the last elections, we had some local or Nigerian digital firms doing great jobs in Nigeria. In fairness, there are political campaigns that engaged local agencies in Nigeria and this is an indication that agencies in Nigeria are breaking out of the labels that have been created by the Nigerian situationship.
Most of the online and digital campaigns for the Buhari-Osibanjo tickets were handled by a leading Nigerian Digital Media outfit. As we (local agencies) continually showcase excellence and great results in our campaigns, the market would grow to have confidence in our services. Today, the digital marking space has grown exponentially with more expertise (be it on the client’s side or the agency’s side), putting at the back of our minds that this industry (Digital Marketing) is basically about 10 years old, actively.
Interestingly, the industry is rapidly gaining the needed recognition that it deserved. Digital marketing and media management, budgeting and media planning have gotten better. Also, the economic situation has made a lot of firms to look inward and start appreciating indigenous digital firms like us. A typical Nigerian digital agency can win globally because the playing ground has been monumentally levelled and the expertise in Nigeria is getting better and one has to at this point say that Google Nigeria has played a major role in the development of digital skills. They have done a lot of trainings and groomed many digital professionals in our market.
In the area of curriculum, the Nigerian universities are yet to understand the concept of digital marketing. How are you looking at this?
The truth is we are not grooming the young ones for the future in Nigeria. It’s unfortunate that the situation has sunk deep and needs a total and intentional revamp to change this situation. The big question is how do we ensure that we have a system that is globally competitive? I have seen a lot of young people chasing their dreams in the tech Industry; OND holders or even school cert holders making an impact in digital space regardless of their academic disciplines. A huge number of them are even self-taught. In the tech space, degrees don’t matter as much; we place a huge penchant on skill sets, mindsets and attitude. What matters is what drives your thinking. Are you ready to create the next game changer, to disrupt? You don’t have to own a degree in tech to make a decree here and this is both a local and global truth. Although some firms might be looking at degrees but we do not, we are constantly creating opportunities for people to prove themselves. We are not a conventional company and we don’t intend to become one. We place a high value on passion, on people who challenge your mind and create solutions. We also look at exposure and what drives your thinking; these things matter a lot.
“The system is unsure of its societal products because they created the situation that inhibits extraordinary performance”
Is Free Digital initiative an interventionist program?
In celebrating our third anniversary, the company introduced her flagship social initiative, called the ‘Free Digital’, which has an overarching objective of further democratizing the use of digital technology tools and resources to improve human development outcomes across Africa. It has been an extremely exciting and rewarding three years. We started ADE Digital with a vision to create very tangible value in the digital marketing value chain. As of June 2017, Africa had an estimated 388,104,452 internet users with 31.2% internet penetration rate representing 10 % of the total world internet users. However, with digital technology development, Africa is still trailing the rest of the world and preventing the continent from taking advantage of technology as a growth enabler in a huge number of industries. The ‘Free Digital’ initiative will further help to build a network of partners that can work together across the digital space to upend this narrative.
Today, a lot of young ones are in one form of digital business or the other, what is your advice to them?
In all honesty, make sure that when you fall, don’t die. This is the best advice. Whatever you do, even though you are failing, don’t die. Always arm yourself with that winning attitude that should go with you every step of the way. Although the first few years might be tough, always have a positive mindset for the future. Don’t be so scared to fail that you refuse to try, that is the trap a lot of potential global giants have been caught in. You can’t be a game changer and be unwilling to put the first step forward. Also, you must understand the need to evolve. Keep reinventing, don’t play catch up or me too, be in the forefront when innovation happens, be there when it matters. Take Yahoo, for instance, what were they doing that they allowed Gmail to be the biggest email service in the world. The simple answer is in evolution, Microsoft refused to evolve. These things are extremely important.
Also, you need to be able to place a finger on your finances, be prudent. Don’t start out impressing when the very fact remains that there is nobody to impress. Always ensure that you reduce your operational expenditure. It never hurts to streamline and cut off excesses. Save everything, it matters a lot. Profit is very important. Busy is not a badge of honor, don’t be so caught up in activities that does make you money. A great startup CEO must dream big because a lot of their employees’ future is tied to them. You must learn to invest in the business and your staff as you grow, always have this in mind. Invest in people, research and relationships. This is important for the startup.
“As we (local agencies) continually showcase excellence and great results in our campaigns, the market would grow to have confidence in our services.”