In the next few weeks, Mr. ‘Lolu Akinwunmi will be 60. He is the Group CEO, Prima Garnet, Africa, a world-class advertising and marketing communication group. Prima Garnet is the Nigerian office of the Ogilvy and Mather agency, headquartered in New York, USA. The advertising industry in Nigeria has received a major boost and professionalism as a result of this partnership, propelling other leading advertising agencies to pick a queue from this kind of strategic partnership, positioning the Prima Garnet Ogilvy as a global brand.
He is a 1980 graduate of the University of Lagos, started his career in 1982 with Lintas where he cut an edge for advertising and creative arts. Having worked with Lintas for six (6) years, he moved to Promoserve Grey as Executive Director, Clients Service & Media and in 1992, ‘Lolu took the bull by the horns to start his own company, Prima Garnet Communications.
Over the years, working with his numerous associates, he has moved the company from a humble beginning to a conglomerate, overseeing a group of companies; Prima Garnet Communications, 141 Worldwide, Media Share, Cutler Ogilvy PR, Lampost Experientials, etc. He is also on the board of Premier Music.
He has attended several professional courses locally and out of Nigeria, amongst which are: the Unilever African Marketing Course; Ogilvy Senior Management Programme (SMP 10), and several local and offshore management programmes and courses in advertising and management.
He commands depth and professionalism in the advertising industry endearing his company to national and multinational clientele like Unilever, Coca Cola, Nestle, Motorola, GSK, First Bank, Airtel, KLM, South African Breweries, Guinness, Mnet/MultiChoice, Shell, etc.
As a result of his passion for transformational change in Nigeria, he was appointed in 2009 by the then Honourable Minister of Information & Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili as Pioneer CEO, Nigerian Rebranding Project Business Support Group (RPBSG) – Office of the Federal Minister of Information & Telecommunications.
He is a Fellow of APCON and the Nigerian Marketing Institute. He is a past President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) 2007 – 2009. Lolu Akinwunmi has presented many professional papers in marketing, advertising and general management
He was also appointed by President Jonathan on the 27th of September 2010 as the current Chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, the Parastatal under the Ministry of Information, charged with the responsibility of supervising and managing the advertising practice in Nigeria in all its ramifications. He loves reading, music, amateur photography, travelling. He is married to Josephine, a lawyer, and blessed with 2 boys, Tosin and Seni. Last Wednesday, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spoke to this successful advertising man. He spoke about his career and turning 60. Read on.
As you turn 60 what has changed about Lolu Akinwunmi? What has not changed?
The first change is the physical. I certainly don’t have the same look I had ten years ago. The next is my world view. I have learned and unlearned many things. I have learned from successes and failures. I am more sober. I am more adult. Wiser in many ways.
How have you been able to maintain your youthful look and physique at 60?
So many. A key one is about people. I am very trusting. However certain events of the last five, six years have shown that it is futile to trust anyone completely. It’s not even a case of someone being bad or good. It’s about th fact that man is inconsistent especially under pressure.
Youthful look? Now you have made my day! But seriously I think nature has just been kind to me. There are of course things I do and which I don’t do. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I exercise regularly and watch what I eat very seriously. There are three rules. Don’t eat it if it’s too sweet, too salty or contains too much fat. Even if you drink, do so with moderation.
When you look back at your life do you feel fulfilled professionally? At what stage are you now in your career?
Very interesting question. I feel fulfilled because I have been all a professional can be in Nigeria. AAAN President, APCON Chairman. Pioneer Secretary and later pioneer CEO of Rebranding Nigeria. I am also a member of the AAAN board of trustees. I have had the privilege of working in GradeA agencies and now by God’s grace run good agencies.
But I also know that if I was operating in a more sophisticated economy I could do more because I would be better challenged to do more. But I thank God.
In what stage am I? I am open to new investments. Now I have the time and laecture part time in Universities. I also have time for Consultancy. But I am still alert and have the energy to do new things; to do more.
You have had a good marriage and lovely kids. How did you balance out these roles?s
There’s never been a conflict. I manage my time judiciously. When the children were young I ensured I had time for them and even regularly went on vacation with them. They didn’t come early; first one came nearly eight years into the marriage. But I was deliberately involved with their education, their subjects, teachers etc. I am a family man.
You have also developed the spiritual side to you. I know you are also a Pastor. How did it happen?
Grace of God even though my late father was an Anglican Revd. God called me in His time and gave me the grace to yield. I have also had the privilege of being mentored by men of God who showed passion and were patient with me.
I was ordained a Pastor in Bethel. First as an Assistant Pastor in 1990 and a full pastor in 1995. I gave my life to Christ in 1987.
Whats your take on Nigeria and its many challenges? I know you worry a lot about Nigeria from your occasional writings.
Nigeria is a nation that has all the ingredients to make the nation work. I got to know more when I was the Secretary to the Rebranding project and also the CEO. Our big challenge is th loss of values. We weren’t always like this. For me, growing up, it was a sedate country that worked.
What will make us work is a total overhaul of our values. It’s a long project and it’s going to be painful. Changing attitudes will be tough and met with resistance. But it’s doable.
I prepared a document on real change and was hoping I could have an opportunity to set up tha structure to implement. It would have involved all Nigerians from kindergarten up. It’s also long term. Part of our problem is government wants to go through an attitudinal change in three months using th mass media. It’s a joke and it won’t work. What we need is a complete re-education and the media content is restricted. I still have the proposal. It’s ageless.
Whats your view about the transformation the Advertising industry has witnessed in the last 3 decades?
It was inevitable and we had enough warning. Advertising is global and trends move from continent to continent. Agencies used to be monolithic. Then splintering commenced. Media was spun off to produce media independents. Etc. Soon all we will have will be strategy and account management.
No one can sustain the old monolithic structure. It became too expensive as margins reduced. Clients demanded more cuts. Today the agency that will survive must be lean and mean. The agency must invest in relevant technology too.
Specialization is the order of the day.
Now, Google is competing with agencies. Andersen and others are doing the same.
was born in Ijebu Ode because my mum was on posting there as a nurse. A few months later we moved to Ibadan and I virtually grew up on Ibadan: primary school. Secondary education was in the great Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro. A Levels was at the Ibadan Poly and then Unilag fo my first degree.
I am an only child from my mum but have half brothers and sister.
Growing up was good. It was communal so today. I had a very happy time growing up. Middle class parents.
What has kept you going all these years and still counting?
My faith in Christ. Doing what love doing professionally. A happy family. My wife is a lawyer. We are a very close family. The Bible guides and helps me.
I believe in social advocacy. I am active in the social media. I love debates. Intelligent debates. I love humour.