Office Lives: Chris Ogunlowo, Creative Director, SO&U
Chris Ogunlowo is a Creative Director at SO&U Limited, an M&C Saatchi Africa affiliate agency. He has created many high-profile campaigns, some of which have been featured in major global advertising compendiums. Chris ran a startup agency until 2016, alongside a group of highly talented creatives with whom he created some very daring campaigns. He has worked with a wide range of clients including British American Tobacco, MTN, Unilever, International Energy Insurance, Coca-Cola etc. in agencies across Nigeria, Kenya and the United Arabs Emirates. He has been part of the Grand Jury for the New York Advertising Festival Awards and judged the AD STARS awards in South Korea. He was recognized as Nigeria’s Creative Personality of the Year 2019 by the MarketingEdge Magazine. A thought leader on Creativity, Media, Literature and Pop Culture, he speaks at conferences and universities. He is currently building a team of pirates determined to find the smartest solutions to Nigeria’s social problems. Chris also manages Brainwavesdaily, a social media platform where he shares self-generated creative, original and viable ideas on a wide variety of socioeconomic problems. He is obsessed with dogs but has never yet owned one.
When did you start advertising? How is the working day of an adman different when you started compared to today?
It has been more than a decade now. Quite a lot has changed. Evolved seems to be a better word to describe the changes. Today’s adman contends with more media platforms in relation to new consumer behaviors and economic realities. The concern of the creative adman used to be about craft only. Now, one has to deal with how ideas and craft manifest differently on new media formats and the speed with which one creates or responds.
How would you describe what you do to my 76-year-old aunt in Ekiti?
I make beautiful noise about products so people can discover and buy them.
How do you start your day? When does it end? And how?
Pretty hard to tell. My mind seems to work round-the-clock, sometimes, even while I am asleep. I have not figured how to slow my mind down. Generally, my day starts as soon as I am awake. I tend to use the early morning energies to attend to important projects. My day sometimes ends with lazying in bed with a book or surfing the Internet.
What makes your adrenaline flow, the thing you like most about the job?
Clever ideas excite me. The chase for them thrills me. This is one job that constantly feeds the creative mind with endless adventures.
What do you insist on doing yourself, what things do you always delegate?
This depends really on specific circumstances. I enjoy the process of ideating so I am likely to insist on being part of it. I delegate depending on the nature and scope of a task.
Creatives are said not to be good business people. Is this a true stereotype?
I am tempted to argue that it is a myth that creatives are not good business people. But I am familiar with the evidence that supports the notion that being a creative and being a businessperson is a curious combination. The freewheeling nature of the creative temperament is bound to clash with the strictures of business demands. I suppose the way to deal with this is to first recognize this tedious truth, accepting it as a fundamental reality before going ahead to finding the best approach to combining both. I am currently not pursuing any creative business in the strict sense. But when I was, I was able to find how best to complement the two sides in order to get the highest good possible. Proper balance is about the individual’s ability to negotiate through it all, including going out of one’s creative comfort zone to learn how to be disciplined and structured in the business sense.
Your creative technique – do words come first or images? Which is more effective in reaching and persuading Nigerians?
It typically depends on the nature of the task I am working on. I spend time on concepts which is really an exercise in abstraction, before figuring how best to concretize a solution – either through words or images or a combination of both or whatnots. As in every audience, you persuade Nigerians through a powerful universal truth and convey it in the most compelling and relatable Naija way.
Your best work so far?
I am yet to create it.
Talk us through a typical pitch process to win a big account.
The general process is that a client sends a brief to shortlisted agencies and they go to their trenches to cook the best ideas that make them possible favourites. It is usually not as simple as I present it. There’s usually adrenaline, late nights, anxieties, fun etc., in-between.
Globacom. Some advertising people say it is challenging and others say it is an exciting account for a creative to work on. What is Chris’ take?
Every account has peculiar challenges. An agency’s attitude towards an account tends to determine and define their experience of the account. My agency’s approach to the brands we serve is to embrace challenges that come with every brand and find how best to ensure brands fulfil their promise and live up to their highest potential, regardless of perceived challenges.
Do you work on weekends? How often?
Well, the job sometimes requires it. The frequency varies based on situations. I try to avoid working on weekends so I can attend to personal concerns. But I lose the battle sometimes because the job is the jealous type.
What is the most notable creative you have worked under? And what creative would you like to work with?
I enjoy every creative I have worked with. Everyone is unique and gets to bring individual flair to the table. But the one I ultimately wish to work with lives in my head. It resides there as a perfect companion, one that compliments my worldview, style and creative temperament. I long to work with creatives that relatively come close to the avatar ( J) in my head.
Please, say something about the quality of talent coming into the profession?
The profession is being blessed with talents of varying qualities. New entrants bring a freshness that combines the restlessness of youth with new media forms. But I believe there is still some work to be done in ensuring that these qualities are combined with a devotion to craft to avoid falling into the trap of style-above-substance.
What will you be doing at the typical 1 pm in 2026?
Most likely walking a dog in Florence, Venice or Nairobi.