Analysis: Why MTN got it so very right on the Saka ‘I don port’ ad

by Wilfred OkicheSaka-ynaija-300x158

Beyond all the entertainment and shock value though, what exactly does Saka bring to the table? Are his fans and followers going to ‘port’ with him to MTN or are they just going to move on when the hype dies?

An interesting new chapter in the telecom brand wars was opened yesterday with the debut of a commercial by industry giants MTN. This followed the earlier launch by the NCC of the new initiative; mobile number portability (MNP) which allows consumers the freedom to migrate from one network service provider to the other and retain their old numbers while doing so. In other words, the consumer inches one step further to becoming king as they bypass the tedious process of getting another SIM card and changing numbers.

Uploaded on YouTube and aired across major television stations, the video did not take long to go viral and this popularity had more to do with it’s content than with the portability service it advertises.

It starts so deceptively humdrum, it’s first few moments – a pair of tapping feet, zooming up to reveal a man on a barely-lit stage, clothed in a shade of green and bawling about the goodness of MTN – could be easily dismissed. Stay a bit longer though and the goodies start to unravel.

The lights come on. Green man changes to yellow man as he Teleports – Jumper style- and is revealed to be comic actor Hafiz Oyetoro a.k.a Saka, a.k.a the dude hitherto known as the face of many ad campaigns by MTN rivals Etisalat.

There is more. He continues singing manically, eyes fully dilated, feet moving merrily and utters what is probably the most direct and damaging line of the whole 46 seconds advert, ‘’I don upgrade go MTN’’

Brilliant marketing and creative coup?  Below-the-belt sucker punch? Or just another manifestation of the slogan “All is fair in love, war and business?”  It is probably a combination of all three viewpoints. MTN takes the fight right to Etisalat’s doorstep stopping just short of forcing their way into the house.

In an insight filled article posted on Kennybrandmuse.blogspot. com, the author, who claims to have been on the creative team that worked for Etisalat to create the Saka image says the character had already been constructed . Hafiz Oyetoro wasn’t a star appearance. He simply auditioned for the role just like many others and emerged victorious. He was consequently engaged on a contractual basis, did his work and was let go. In other words, he was treated as one would a model, paid to do a job and move on to the next.

He did.

Which is where Etisalat may have erred. The man’s popularity has soared since then. He’s become a household face, winning an AMVCA for his role on the sitcom ‘House Apart’ and was warmly received as he accepted his trophy. He had become almost as synonymous with the Etisalat brand as Funke Akindele is with Globacom. He deserved the star treatment, a renegotiation of terms. Why everyone else realized this except the hot shots at Etisalat will remain a question that will haunt them for a while. Or maybe not. (They may or may not have signed on actor Hakeem Kae-Kazeem).

The brilliant minds at DDB, MTN’s creative agency simply capitalized on the obvious and saw gold where Etisalat saw chaff. Now if only they would extend their talent to those tepid Wizkid and Tiwa Savage Pepsi ad campaigns .

Seriously though, the drama raises some important questions. In endorsement dealings with celebrities, actors and models, how do brands recognize when a performer has become a significant part of their family – either by public acceptance or improved returns on investment? How do they know when to reinvest in the brand? Is public acceptance good enough?

Are there legal issues involved, how are these contracts drawn up and signed? Shouldn’t someone conduct a survey on the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement on a brand, do they really work? Facts and figures would be helpful. In good time too as the next major celebrity ‘porting’ just might be averted.

In the meantime, let the brand wars continue.

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