The doyen of advertising

He is one of the founding fathers of Advertising practice in Nigeria. Indeed, his contributions, along others like Ifeanyichukwu Moemeka, Olu Falomo, May Nzeribe, Bel-Molokwu and Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, to a very large extent, laid the foundation upon which the industry is built. Today, several years after he rose to become the chief executive of arguably the best and biggest advertising agency in Nigeria at the time, Lintas, he still holds a commanding influence in modern advertising practice, particularly in the area of training which he currently devotes most of his time to. He is Dr. Christopher Awusa Doghudje.

Today, from whichever perspective that one decides to assess him, he is no doubt an accomplished authority on advertising and public relations, both in theory and practice. Born on July 8, 1939, in Usiefrun, in Ughelli South of Delta State to a poor, illiterate and peasant farming family of late Michael and Cecelia Doghudje, Christopher’s over 46 years of remarkable practice in the advertising industry, has not only clinically lifted the name of his poor family, it has also positioned him as one of the major pillar upon which this critical sector is built.

Indeed, Awusa Doghudje’s years of dutiful services in the advertising industry in Nigeria will for long remain indelible, just as his three-year tenure as the Chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, has remained one of the watersheds in the industry.

Popularly referred to as Chris, he is the fi rst son and the third child out of fi ve children. He attended the village school until he was 10 years old in 1949, when the young Chris moved to Sacred Heart Primary School 1, Warri to fi nish his primary education in 1953.

In 1954, he enrolled at a commercial school known as United College of Commerce and in 1958; he obtained the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) certifi cate, which qualifi ed him to sit for the GCE a year later.

After his GCE in 1959, the young Chris started a teaching career in a Catholic Model School, Warri and after two years during which his brilliance and dedication to work were noticed, he was moved to the secondary school where he taught mathematics.

In 1960, he decided to have a change of environment and seek greener pasture. He moved down to Lagos where he later taught at Yaba Academy owned by Dr. S.O Onipede.

After his A level certifi cate, he had wanted to go to Foray Bay College in Sierra Leone in 1962, but because he could not raise the required fees, he had to forgo the ambition and returned to the classroom as a teacher, which he did for two more years until 1964, when he gained admission to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the present day Enugu State.

However, his admission to UNN was circumstantial. He had actually wanted to go to the University of Ibadan.

Having had his A level in History and English Literature, as well as fi ve subjects in O level, as it was the practice then, he was qualifi ed for a direct entry into the University. Hence, he applied to the University of Ibadan and University of Nigeria, Nsukka and got admission from both universities.

However, while the University of Ibadan gave him admission to read a Diploma in Educational drama with the possibility of allowing him to read English later, UNN offered him automatic admission to read Journalism.

Then, Chris found himself in a dilemma of which of the two choices to take but after seeking advice, he decided against the choice of Educational drama and opted for Journalism not only because he considered it a profession, but because he considered the UI’s admission as provisional while that of UNN was a solid one.

However, the outbreak of the civil war terminated his romance with UNN and he, along with some of the other students were transferred to the University of Lagos to continue their studies from where he graduated in 1967.

For Chris, growing up experiences was in two phases. While he had to face a tough and boring life for the fi rst ten years of his life in the village, he had a rather challenging and interesting life in Warri where he had relocated to further his education. “I fi nished my primary school in Warri, fi nished secondary school in Warri, and then taught again for two years in Warri. Of course, you know what it is like staying in Warri, the Waferian city, and the city of the comedians. It is a city whose name is bigger than its size, because when you hear the name, Warri, you think it is another small London as far as we the Waferians are concerned,” he told the Business Courage in an interview last week

Interestingly, when he relocated to Lagos, Chris recounted that Lagos life, compared with that of Warri, was just like living a larger than life, just thinking that you are even more civilised than the Lagosians. “For instance, while one could at least speak in Pidgin English, in Lagos, the language is Yoruba. Hence to a Warri man, you regard Yoruba as native while the Warri man sees himself as superior because he was already speaking something related to English language and that is the stupidity about being a Warri boy.”

He recalled that when he newly came to Lagos, before he joined Yaba Academy as a teacher, “I went to Apapa to look for a job and after the interview; I didn’t know where to get bus back home. But the Warri pride in me prevented me from asking people. I told myself ‘how can I ask somebody for my way when I am from Warri? I didn’t t bother to ask anybody, so I kept moving around. You know Apapa, you can move from Whalf road to Marine road and turn back again.. So, I kept on moving up and down until I was very tired. At that time, I had to swallow my pride and asked someone, ‘how do I get to Surulere?’

While growing up, Chris says he didn’t really have anyone in mind as a model but he admitted that he had some form of respect for the late Nnamdi Azikwe whom he claimed every young man at that was attracted to as a result of his big grammar.

“Then, when the era of politics came and there was one man who was blowing big grammar, everyone wanted to be like him, and that’s in the person of Zik. His West African Pilot as well as Weekend Catechism had a lot of infl uence on many. Even my own teacher, there was no day, he wouldn’t buy a copy of the West African Pilot. So as a child, I read the West African Pilot from Primary school to secondary school. So then, we used to ask ourselves, ‘can one ever be like Zik?”

In 1967, after leaving Unilag as a Mass Comm graduate, Chris, along with many of his colleagues had looked forward to working as journalist in different media houses in the country then. But things took another dimension as he instead started his professional career at Lintas Advertising Company.

“As you can see, I am a trained journalist but I didn’t practice. Shortly before graduating from the Unilag, the school registrar, Chief A. Y Ekeh wrote to newspaper houses, radio stations as well as all other media houses including advertising agencies to consider us for employment. However, surprisingly, Lintas wrote me to come for an interview. Oglvy Benson and Mathers (OBM) also wrote that I should come for interview. But my contemporaries like Tony Momoh didn’t apply for job and he went back to Daily Times since he had left Daily Times for the University, hence he had to go back to work there. Tunji Oseni went to Skecth, and all these were based on the letters written by Chief Ekeh,” he said.

When Chris got to Lintas in 1967, little did he know that the agency would prepare the ground for him to becoming one of the commanding voices in the advertising industry.

Today known as Lowe Lintas, which was the fi rst advertising agency in Nigeria and indeed West Africa started out as a small poster service in 1928 with the name West Africa Publicity Limited. It fi rst changed its name in 1964 from West Africa Publicity to Levers International Advertising Services [Lintas], emphasising its role as an in-house agency of Unilever.

Lintas worldwide became independent of Unilever and with the indigenisation decree in Nigeria, Lintas passed into wholly Nigerian ownership with Sylvester Moemeke as its fi rst Nigerian Managing Director, and subsequently the fi rst and present chairman.

In line with the trends toward global advertising, networks,-Lintas has seen a number of name change. In 1995, it merged with Ammirati Puris Lintas and four years later, in 1999, it merged with Lowe, a highly creative agency that Frank Lowe fl oated in 1981, with $15 million billings that has grown to about $15 billion billings. In 2002, the Lintas name gave way to the Lowe blue box logo, with the new name Lowe Worldwide.

Lintas has since 1950 serviced OMO detergent and has been servicing Star Larger since the brand came to Nigeria, Maltina’s sales have been on the increase since 1976 when it came under Lintas’ watch while the much talked about award winning Pears Baby lotion was as a result of its relationship with Lintas since 1971.The key soap and Panadol accounts are few of other many brands Lintas had nurtured as mega and premium brands.

For Chris Doghudje, starting out as client service executive effectively puts him in charge of the Unilever account which was then known as Level brothers. “Whether you like it or not, Unilever was home of marketing, many people who became executive directors or marketing managers were trained by Unilever,” he said.

During the time he was working on the Unilever account, he got so much exposed to marketing that he admitted that “If you are working on the Unilever account, your exposure to marketing is very high. Working in the Client Service Department, my experience came from rendering service to companies such as Unilever, Nigerian Breweries, Cadbury, Guinness, First Bank, and WAMCO among others.”

Apparently having observed that he was performing very well on the Unilever account, in 1972, OBM, another big advertising agency in the country then poached him from Lintas to run the Cadbury account. However, Chris, stay at OBM was cut short in 1988 when he had to be recalled back to Lintas to run the same Cadbury account when it moved back from OBM to Lintas. But when he got back to Lintas, due to his tested competences on the job, he was not only given the Cadbury account to run, he was also given back the Unilever account he was running before he left the agency.

Chris’ coming back to Lintas yielded fruits as he started rising until he became managing director in 1985. “I actually had the highest number of accounts as a client service director. Two-third of the accounts in Lintas was under me,” he said.

As the managing director of Lintas, he is reputed to be one of those who had strived hard to nurture the Lintas brand to its present enviable position in Nigeria.

Today, Chris seems to have shifted his pursuit away from core advertising to career advancement through education. Interestingly, his interest in the educational aspect of advertising did not just begin. It dated back to his days in Lintas.

As he recalled, while he was employed by Lintas, as an advertising man, he became interested in the educational side of advertising. He had served as a secretary to the education committee of the then Advertising Agency Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN) now known as Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, (AAAN) for over 12 years, up to the level of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) from where he earned his alias ‘The Professor.’

“Since the time I started working at Lintas, I showed interest in the educational side of advertising. And if you show interest in something, then the onus is on you to read more about it. Otherwise, it was just journalism that we did. We didn’t do any advertising. The nearest to advertising that we did was in Public Relations and we were taught by practicing PR people. We were taught by the number one person in PR called Sam Epelle.

“Then, Epelle, who authored the only public relations book available as at that time, was the public relations manager of Nigerian Railways. From the side of government, Pen Malafa the director of federal information services was also at hand to teach us Public Relations, while an experienced Englishman from the United States Information Services handled Public Relations Theory. He was a graduate of Cambridge University and had been in the diplomatic service for more than 30 years,” he recalled.

He remains one of the few of Lintas brands whose prowess and respect for ethics can hardly be faulted when it come to advertising and has been the most respected judge of advertising, advertisers and advertising agencies.

Chris was appointed by the Federal Government to head APCON, the umbrella body that regulates the practice of advertising in Nigeria between October 2007 and July 2010, the appointment which was viewed by most of his colleagues as well deserved. A fellow of APCON, Chris became the third Lowe Lintas alumni to head the body after the likes of Sylvester Moemeke, Olu Falomo, and late May Nzeribe.

Chris tenure as APCON chairman witnessed a watershed as he constituted a Debt Reconciliation Committee known as ASCOMDI following accusations and counteraccusations spanning nearly a decade by media owners – Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), and Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) – that the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) owed them over a billion naira.

Doghudje, a veteran and Fellow of the industry had stepped into the fray forming the all-parties stakeholders’ reconciliation committee made up two representatives each from all sectoral bodies in APCON. The committee’s term of reference was straightforward: determine the total debt profi le in the industry, investigate the claims of all parties with a view to identifying the true debtors and true creditors, and design an amicable solution acceptable to all parties.

The committee toiled night and day, sieving through documents dating as far back as year 2000 and after four extensions and postponements of the deadline for the submission of claims, ASCOMDI wounded up its sitting; then followed several months of collation, compilation, verifi cation, and clarifi cation of ambiguity.

On Thursday, May 27, 2010, APCON held a press conference to present the report of ASCOMDI to all sectoral bodies, the media, and general public. Of interest was the report by ASCOMDI that N766.6 million (out of the claimed N1.145 billion debt) was traced to non-AAAN member agencies! For better understanding, it was discovered that there are media buyers and independent producers and marketers who go directly to media houses to buy slots, spots and spaces.

The ASCOMDI Report of 2010 proved that 75 per cent of media debts are traceable to non-registered Advertising Agencies

As a matter of fact, three years down the line, while the issue of debt still abound, many have been calling for the resurrection of the ASCOMDI, a legacy left behind by Chris Doghudje.

After he resigned from Lintas, he set up Zub Bureau Limited, publishers of Adnews, a monthly publication spreading advertising knowledge and information. The fi rst edition of the publication, which today is an authority in the advertising world, appeared in February 1993. For about 20 years now, he has been publishing Adnews.

Doghudje is an adjunct faculty member of the school of media and communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, where he teaches Advertising Planning.

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