The True Story Behind Saka’s ‘Porting’ From Etisalat To MTN
Well, as a Professional, I wouldn’t want to respond to the Saka menace going on in town but then I keep getting emails upon emails from students, clients, fans and friends. People keep asking me several questions; why on earth did Saka port?
Relatedly, I went for a Strategic meeting with the Executive Board Members of a renowned bank, and the story came up again. In fact, they played the commercial and applauded the sheer brilliance of MTN. I actually heard one of the Excos saying ‘I’m going to port immediately.’ So I asked them: what worked for you in the commercial? Majority of them said ‘we just love this Saka man’
There’s nothing as powerful as that cultural connection and that humanness factor we display as brands. As I watch from a distance the recent Saka phenomenon I can only bow to this timeless advertising principle. Culture eats Strategy for breakfast. Hats off.
As the Creative Director who was privileged to have created the iconic Saka for advertising, I watch as this device takes on a life of its own and how it is gradually becoming a major case study in the history of Nigeria’s advertising. However, before I go to major brand lessons this should teach us, I shall quickly correct some insinuations flying round in our ad circle. Ad people can be their own worst enemies. Don’t take my words for it. Go see Mad Men. However, it’s good to have a first person point of view to this saga.
For the record.
First, Saka was not a celebrity used for etisalat. Rather, he was a character we at Centrespread designed for an ad campaign that has come to take on a life of its own. When we did create the character bible, we needed a talent that could act the role and he came in for the casting like any other person. Looking at the screen test later on, we had no doubt that Saka was the man we were looking for. You must give credits to etisalat to have approved of our direction and choice. It really was not their ‘type’ of advertising. So, it was not a case of celebrity endorsement, it was a case of characterization. In Wendy’s ‘where is the beef’, the miniature old lady has become a phenomenon because of her characterization and Wendy wouldn’t dare joke with that.
Secondly, we must also quickly correct the impression that the ‘funny’ man was looking for money, hence porting to MTN. While it is a fact that all of us on this planet would want to be better paid for our talent, I know personally, that Saka gave his very best to us on etisalat’s campaign. He was not signed on a contract. He was paid like any other 3-month model arrangement. He was not paid the proverbial gbem. For the brand then, it was more of a tactical usage. He didn’t fit their typical advertising look and feel. Remember etisalat is the hip, classy and swag brand. Like I said earlier, we must credit them to have approved of the Saka idea in the first place. Although it was beginning to look like this was a devise that etisalat could own, going by the results it generated, Saka was treated like any other cast. I am very sure Banky W got more handsomely paid than our beloved Saka. Far far. But where is Banky W today? He ported also. That is what you can refer to as celebrity usage. Saka was not treated as such.
The author Kenny Brandmuse is the creator of the popular Saka character in telecom television commercials. He is with the Orange Academy in Lagos