I attended a showcase of old Nigerian advertising. The venue is a simple and idyllic corner of Victoria Island called Miliki. I’ve heard about this place but never had an excuse to visit.
I got there late. I only saw a few people roaming and some of the framed works were already on the floor.
What struck me first was a beautiful throw pillow that sits at a corner of the reception. I love the design and its bold pidgin headline. Errrm, I stared at it and wondered if it can become mine by some luck.
I walked into the inner hall and saw framed and old Nigerian ads: all of them - black and white, illustrated visuals, and heavy with texts. They aren’t as conceptually compelling as some of the modern ads but they look interesting. They must be the best of their era. The Tango ad strikes me as weird because its headline will cause commotion in modern Nigeria. “Go Gay With Tango”. Such headline would be suicide in a homophobic 21st century Nigeria. The brand and brand managers would have serve 14 years in jail, or more. But those were the days when certain words didn’t evoke sexual suggestiveness or orientation.
The Omo ad is another case study. I’m surprised to see that the brand has consistently used the same creative technique of show-and-tell & comparisons, as it does today. The difference these days only includes big budget executions that sometimes use a celebrity and activations of women demonstrating the product’s benefit. The creative technique and storytelling remain. And even digital execution, I think, reinforces this style. Intriguing.
I’m not sure I would have loved to be in advertising back then. I can’t stand those plenty-plenty texts. (Gosh knows I hate to write body copy and go to lengths to condense headlines to their barest or just create visual-only ads, and quit for the day!)
Shout out to those behind the exhibition. It’s impressive that some folks recognize the importance of archiving some of these commercial and cultural materials.
This post will not end until I mention the throw pillow again. I miss that throw pillow! :)