Meet Tolulope Medebem, a multi award-winning marketing communications professional and the Lead Strategist of Aster Integrated Marketing Limited, a thriving experiential agency in the heart of Africa’s biggest city, Lagos. Medebem belongs to a league of female professionals holding sway in a male dominated industry and proving the point that what men can do, women are capable of doing much more.
Born to the family of HRM Oba Sunday Olufunso Adeolu, Chief Eleyinmi of Village Headmaster and later the Alaiye of Ode, Sataloye II – Ode Remo, and a retired administrator mother from the Lagos State Ministry of Education, Medebem, hails from Ode-Remo, Ogun State. She is the fourth of her father’s eight children and her mother’s first.
Married to a medical doctor from eastern Nigeria, Medebem, has three lovely daughters, who are undergraduates. She loves travelling, reading and gardening. It is her love for gardening that led to the naming of her agency after a flower, as you will get to see in this very engaging chit chat between her and VICTOR OJELABI, publisher, Freelanews. Excerpts…
Kindly analyse the Nigerian Integrated Marketing Communications industry where you operate as a professional
The Nigerian IMC industry is a fast growing one with very great potential but the Nigerian economy is impacting greatly on the industry as our ‘fortunes’ are tied to that of the nation’s economy. How? Well, in order for the industry to grow or develop, the economy has to grow as well especially as the economy keeps impacting on our clients which in turn impacts our industry as marketing budgets are cut or reviewed (mostly downwards).
Can you narrow it down to the experiential subsector where you operate, using your agency, Aster, as point of reference?
Based on the above, as the industry grows as it currently is, (especially Experiential, which had largely remained highly unregulated until the advent of EXMAN), we might get to a point of being stunted especially if the economy does not open up enough or we find ways to make it work out (as we are trying out now at AsterIML). Bottom line, we will all need to make it work based on the realities as we encounter them.
What challenges do you think militates against experiential marketing in Nigeria, using your business as a case study and considering the COVID-19 induced social distancing factor?
Two years ago, Oare Ojeikere said at an EXMAN conference that ‘it is imperative for experiential marketers to unlearn old way and acquired new skills because the economic realities required new rule and radically different way.’
This statement, now more than when he said it, rings truer than ever.
The challenges mitigating right now are way beyond the COVID-19 induced social distancing factor as we have found ways to ensure that brands still connect with their consumers leveraging virtual and online activities or close contact one-on-one with safety measures in place. Most of our clients are currently faced with the economic impact of the lockdown on their various businesses and are thus in the process of evaluating and re-assessing before giving their attention to their experiential and marketing activities.
While they (as clients) are doing this, we as AsterIML have also devised our ways of keeping in business by diversifying some of our business models to reach out to a new consumer and client set.
The bottom line right now is changing our mindset to become more ‘open’ which will eventually improve (hopefully) on the bottomline.
What informed your decision to venture career into the IMC space and at what point in your life did you realise you were going to do this full time?
I studied Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife with specialization in broadcasting and many years ago, I served at Klink Studios, where one of my clients then, Mr. Segun Giwa (Reflux Limited) hired me immediately after. I worked with him until 1998 when I went to work at AIT. Sometime in 2000, Mr. Segun Giwa came to my house, he said he needed to discuss with my husband and then me. Imagine my shock when I realized this discussion was about me but he decided to go through Dr. Husband.
Anyway, that was the start for me and since then, there has been no turning back. There was and is always so much to learn and believe me, I enjoy every moment learning.
At a point, your were a partner at EventPlus, an agency you helped build from the scratch. What informed your decision to ‘go solo?’
Eventplus was a partnership with a friend. It was a great experience; running a partnership is an experience and this particular experience, I went through with a friend and it was great. It had its fair shares of ups and downs but the fact that we were and are still great friends made it all so much easier.
On ‘going solo’, I honestly saw an opportunity to ‘do me’ and I grabbed at it. There was that ‘need’, to do things right, correct or should we say in a certain manner. Not saying I’m always right but hey! Having worked over the years (almost 20years), I have worked within all kinds of establishment, with different kinds of people (bosses, colleagues and partner) and somehow, it just seemed like the right time to ‘expand’ my horizon, focus on those things that I truly and personally believe in and here we are – AsterIML.
What informed the choice of name for your current agency?
Don’t laugh o! You could smile a bit but honestly, I needed something different. I love flowers and during the thinking process, I came across the aster, a unique daisy-like wildflower that’s known for its star-shaped flower head. Aster depicts love, wisdom and faith. With a rich history in Greek mythology, it’s said that the aster was created by the tears of the Greek goddess, Astraea. Thus, the flower was named after her, with aster meaning star.
Regrading the company, ASTER simply means one; A-Star (a team of professionals hopefully delivering A’s always, not in a prideful manner but knowing and understanding that they have something to offer and in offering, would always ensure A star quality) and two; it’s a specie of flower which is known as a symbol of patience.
After choosing the name, we ran a series of insider tests with friends and family regarding it as well as our colours and here we are today.
How does the name affect your business operation?
Like I said earlier, one; as a team of professionals, we strive to always and have hopefully so far, always delivered ‘A’ quality outings for the clients and brands we work with, knowing and believing we have something to offer and two; right now, facing the pandemic, the faith element of our name and logo has to come to the fore, as business is at a point where faith is what makes every day possible for us and has made it.
What stands you from the pool of the others in the experiential subsector?
All agencies have their strengths but one of the things that has worked for us so far is partnering with our clients. We entrench ourselves in their business, we know what they want and we build a relationship that transcends ‘contractual’ as we don’t just give them what they want. Together, we agree for the best results.
What operational philosophy, vision and mission drives your agency?
The vision at AsterIML is to provide the clients with results-oriented experiential experiences, public relations and total marketing support.
Our methodology revolves round listening, thinking, designing, refining and execution.
A constant key statement for us at AsterIML is ‘you are only as good as your last outing’, thus the need to constantly keep reinventing ourselves as well as our offerings is always present. But we are never deviating from the essence of the business – passionate experiential marketing professionals with integrity.
I consider us as being innovative and forward thinking, always in search of every opportunity to ensure that our clients succeed.
As one of the foremost award-winning female professionals in this space, what advice do you have for new entrants into the IMC industry and generally to young ladies who aspire to reach the peak of their chosen careers?
Now better than then, when no one gave you any chance and you needed to work very hard for anything and that has been my watchword always – work hard, focus and pray.
There will always be challenges but as with all challenges, these would be the time and opportunity to make the very best of the situation. Over the years, within IMC, more and more women have broken and are breaking through that unacknowledged ‘glass ceiling’ through sheer determination, skill and qualification.
I always end my advice to the younger ladies with this Yoruba adage – You don’t stop to dance to every drum along the way, meaning focus. So, my basic advice would be to remain focused, innovate (think outside the box) and do what you believe in.
What initiatives are we to expect from your agency for the rest of the year?
2020 hasn’t exactly shaped out as initially projected but we look forward to making things happen soon. As part of our contribution to the society and in-line with SDG goals 5, 10, 17, we launched the Nurture2Nature initiative in March 2019 with the aim of hopefully ‘catching them young’.
Nurture2Nature is an initiative directed at young ones to hopefully get them to think and develop as human beings without gender bias or conceptions. According to Mandela, ‘It’s in our hands to create a better world for all who live in it’ and that’s the mission. The project as indicated by the title is an opportunity to nurture young ones and assist them to develop a nature that serves them for the future, developing human beings for a great life, not male, not female but human beings who care for and understand one another. There are currently 12 schools signed-on and we hope to get it restarted soon.
In five years’ time, what are your projections for your agency?
It is our hope and belief that we will continue to provide innovative connections between the consumer and various brands / products. In growing these brands, we would hopefully be building and developing a bigger and strong AsterIML brand.