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Expert knocks firms over expatriate marketing director mentality

By Goddie Ofose Senior Correspondent 

• X-adebija

Communications expert and Chief Executive Officer of Ashton & Layton, Gbenga X-Adebija has berated advertising agencies and corporate organisations in the country for insisting on hiring expatriate creative directors to oversee their creative output and marketing directorate.

As a result of the “Oyibo mentality,” he said, such expatriates are brought in to take charge of marketing activities of a company playing in a domestic environment, lamenting that it is now becoming a trend amongst top rate ad agencies and multinational organisations.

The trend, he said, is a return to the past where Nigeria’s advertising industry became a dumping ground for second class and some cases third class experts in creative advertising parading themselves as expatriates. This development became a factor amongst agencies, who used it also as a strategy for winning pitches.

Although the trading is gradually waning, there are top agencies who still remain faithful to the old habit, even as experts have blamed the trend on the ownership structure of such organisation.

X-adebija completely disagrees with the ownership argument, just as he believes it is not a function of the lack of adequate training of the local practitioners.

According to him: “This is not meant to be a criticism because if that’s the way they want to operate so be it. But, I think too many agencies have gotten carried away with what I will call “oyibo mentality”, they just think that a foreigner is better than a Nigerian, and I don’t necessarily think so.”

Recounting his years as spokesman of food beverages and confectioneries’ giant- Cadbury Nigeria, he said: “Because of my own pedigree, the way my career has tracked, I had to work with people from different parts of the world, so I have no issues at all with working with an expatriate, or a foreigner or whatever but the singular thing that I always insist upon is that the person must have something that is superior to what I have.

“He certainly must prove it to me that he is better than I am, because I remember in my own career the reverse was the case,” he added.

During his stint at Cadbury Nigeria, he continued, the corporate affairs department was responsible for mentoring, communications, corporate social responsibility, branding and a few other initiatives of the company in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“So in that capacity I had to go round different parts of the world actually sharing experience and teaching them, so there’s no way I am going to accept that a foreigner or expatriate is better than I am without that person proving it. It must not be because of the colour of your skin, I can’t accept that.”

He urged Nigerian firms not to just hire somebody because he/she is an expatriate, because “those people don’t release their best hands therefore most of the expatriates you see here are not top class  in their own place because if they are top class they would not allow them to leave their home base. They would not and I am speaking from experience,” he said

X-adebija said maybe it is fashionable to just have a creative director or marketing director, who is a white man at least to show some expatriate face in your top management, maybe that’s a fact, he stated.

The former Cadbury Communication Manager felt that no expatriate knows Nigerian market better that Nigerian while they can always observe, Nigerians know the real challenge and opportunity and it would do organisations a lot of good if some of these ‘white’ faces are replaced with Nigerians.

“I have spoken to Nigerians who work with those people, who feel very frustrated, there’s no way, they can understand all the concepts and everything but it has to be aligned with  an extensive knowledge of the local market, there’s no way an ‘oyibo’ man can tell me a Nigerian how some Iya alata (paper seller) in Mushin will think. There’s no way… he can’t know… how would he know? He can observe how we do all those kind of things, but there has to be a local flavour to all of these strategies and phonologies that we are proposing,” he stressed.

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