Monday, January 26, 2015

moving to a new home.

Dear Reader,

Having had the pleasure of of writing here for the last 8 years it has come time for me to find a new home where to ply my trade. It has been a wonderful journey; one of wonder, discovery and a whole new side to things I never thought possible. I learned, I loved, met new friends, made great enemies and on the whole grew to a place where I felt my writing could contribute to something bigger than myself. 

Because of the inevitable curve that growth demands, I’m moving to a new home, slightly more spacious, and easier to locate on the interwebs. All the posts will remain the same, and the link and tags will eventually all be migrated as well but it’s neater, more minimal and it feels tighter.

I will try and not be all over the place with my writing as I look to focus a little more on advertising and technology as my core areas but of course with the occasional story on society and my thoughts on that. It is definitely a new challenge and I’m thankful to the ever-patient and graceful Collins Mugume for goading and pushing me into this step and hosting me. 

If you are looking for me you will find me at; the home of the #beastmode.

See you on the other side.
Unlike the fish in the picture above, I haven't settled into my new home yet

Sunday, November 9, 2014

THE NILE BREWERIES PITCH: 10 Things I Think It Means To The Industry

Quick summary of the issues at hand

We all know it is coming. It was rumoured and whispered in hushed tones all of last and this year. Yeah, I’m talking about the break-up of the Nile Breweries stable of beer brands. Apparently word in the grapevine was that the stable has been on its way to breaking up for a long time but was held together for various reasons but the leadership at the breweries was steadfast in keeping all the 10 brands under 1 house. Since some recent shakeups at the Jinja-based brewery though that plan has been fast tracked.

So what would it mean for the industry? Here are 10 things that I think it means for the advertising industry:

1.       Moringa Ogilvy will NO LONGER be host to all the 12 NBL brands.

2.    The brands as broken up above have the high impact brands and the premium brands. The high impact brands (Club Pilsener and Nile Special) are the more preferred to stay at Moringa because they have more recognition and will most likely have higher budget allocations.

3.       The mass brands like Eagle and Chibuku won’t be in a hurry looking to move since almost no agency will want to take them by themselves. They only make economic sense once paired with other higher revenue brands.

4.       The Premium brands might be split individually between agencies i.e. Castle Milk Stout, Redds Vodka Lemon, Nile Gold and Castle Lager, Castle Lite, and each be handed to a different agency. Or all be distributed to one house to handle that portfolio.

5.       The pitch is made harder by the fact that no Uganda Breweries beer brand is handled creatively by any Ugandan agency.(Bell is in SA , Tusker lager is at BBDO Kenya, Senator is in Kenya, Guinness sits in the UK & SA, the Diageo Reserve category is with Owen Kessel in SA)  So EVERYBODY is coming to take a piece of the pie.

6.       Uganda Waragi (EABL’s premium Ugandan spirit) is handled at Metropolitan Republic Uganda. Whether this will preclude them from the pitch is definitely a question answers are wanted to.

7.       In terms of media investment, desire to achieve economies of scale and the continued bullishness of the Uganda Media Owners’ Association are going to continue driving consolidation and the search for savings. The same way EABL will be looking to consolidate all their buys and investment under the Dentsu Aegis Network affiliate Carat Media in Uganda. So this makes me think media buying and investment might go to one house as well.

8.       There are concerns about PR and digital for these brands since across the region margins are shrinking and costs are being cut, it will be important to find more effectiveness and target audience penetration; the things that PR and Digital deliver well on. Obviously there will be infinitely more PR & digital agencies than listed above so expect that to be a hot category.

For the level of investment, you'd think they could have done more.
9.       The experiential and events division will remain mostly the same – undifferentiated and not breathtaking. The thing is the experiential element does carry a lot of potential because it creates the take-outs that brands actually want consumers to have. Smell, taste, sight, eventually leading to recall. But innovation in the category has been little and uninspiring - largely because of a large cost of reach per individual and the nasty practice of brand managers taking half the budgets as kickbacks. Eventually leading to things like the “Club MegaFest” or rather "MegaFlop" and“in-bar activations” or rather  "in-bar ways to pay campus girls". Maybe a renewed focus will allow the brands to focus better on the goal in mind, and the agencies too.

10.   There is the thorny question of the talent that will get sacked because frankly the brands they were working are no longer there to be worked on. That’s all fine except the recent set up of J.Walter Thompson Uganda has already pilfered and pillaged the industry of any excess talent thereby making me think there will be space to absorb these people in the industry. Or maybe the newly acquiring agency will be generous enpugh to pick them up. There is of course the possibility that they won’t be let go, we don’t’ know!! But all things come to those who wait – or some Club copy writer once wrote.

There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered around the pitching etiquette in this town. Clients have to stop inviting everyone in town t pitches because its a waste of time and money. Someone with authority is even mooting the idea that clients should pay for agency to attend pitches - but they'll get round to it when they do.

In the end, we can only be prepared. May the best man win.


Monday, November 3, 2014

@QATAHARRAYMOND: TO ANSWER YOUR CHALLENGE: A treatise on my view towards power and religion in Africa.

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number that are not good.” – Niccollo Machiavelli.

Following up on that offer to explain my understanding of power and its place in modern society as a means to bringing clarity on the role of religion in the political landscapes I want to first go back to the textbook definition of power.

  1. 1.
    the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality.
    "the power of speech"
    "the power of speech"
  2. 2.
    the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
    "the idea that men should have power over women"

Its clear that power in its simplest from, and for the purposes of this treatise has to do with ability. But to be specific, I’d like to stay with the second definition as it is of the most import in the argument I’m going to lay out.

For millennia, mankind has grappled and jostled with the idea of a deity. As far back as 10,000 years ago Chinese historians record the presence of deity figures to whom was attributed the control and dominion of the universe around them. The younger religions (speaking purely of the nascent Abrahamic religions here) have claimed this to be false and stand by their 6,000 year old theory of creation.  The origin of and creation of deities is of little concern here. What matters is that they exist and people believe in them. The world as it is today is divided into denominations who believe in one form of deity or other. If you believe that mankind created God to explain the unexplainable world around him, you are probably right. But also if you believe that God or a deity created man and let them evolve over 65 million years and then at some point gave them understanding you are also probably right. Why? Because it is all a subject of belief. What you believe shapes your outlook on the universe, the world, the continent, your country and eventually your neighbor.

Which brings me to the task at hand; you argue that religion is in fact inextricably tied to the political culture of countries; effectively making the argument that religion and its associated vagaries will affect the political upheavals in countries if indeed politics is the study of how people live together.

I argue that it doesn’t. I argue that elements like greed, corruption, social inequality, graft, cronyism and political disruption/instability are more in effect when and where social upheaval occurs than are the forces at war are of different religions. In a report from the Instituteof Economics and Peace a question was polled “How much conflict has religion caused in the world?” The report came back with 14% of conflicts in the world in 2013 were motivated by religion alone (although religion mixed with other factors brought the figure up to 60%). Why is this so? Because the very nature of upheaval and conflict in itself reflects a sense of anarchy, an element that no religion condones. How could it? How would it then control its faithful? Anarchy portends, disobedience, disorder, betrayal, defection, lawlessness and deviance. All undesirable outcomes.

I also believe that the elements above central to social disillusionment. How? Any role that religion might play is mostly as a spark in igniting an existing dissatisfaction and fueling an already underlying current of rage. For example, the Rwanda genocide has been said to have been aided and fueled by religious elements, but closer analysis reveals that the root causes were more socio-political. Therefore, if a society is disgruntled and disillusioned therein already exists the recipe for a fire. It’s simply which causal agent will provide the spark.

Secondly, you argue that the politics of a country will often revolve around its religious inclinations. You are even willing to say that it is difficult to define the political culture of a country minus its religion.
I submit that the political cultures of most countries (African in this case) present largely variegated religious demographics. While these groups disagree occasionally, the political culture of most African countries exists outside these religious faculties. This is not to denigrate the role leaders and influencers play in these societies. However there are more examples of social cohesion for the purposes of uprisings, upheavals and rebellion around non-religious grounds like corruption, election reform or the lack of it, injustice, tyranny, etc.
Alternatively, consider the “peace time” activities of most African countries like appointments to office, election to office, patronage, resource allocation, development prioritization and other aspects of political culture most of them will be done with considerations that are not principally or primarily religious in nature.

If on the other hand you were to consider the “culture of honour” posited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” you will find that in societies with the honour culture; a culture signified by revenge killings, reprisals, honour killings, and family honour being protected, created a code. A code that makes society shun the likely peacemaker; the element of reason. In such a society you will find that religion could find a place in shaping and even enforcing a society’s own self view where people will steer clear of idle threats (if they make a threat, they will see it through), feeling bound to their word and a blunt and brutal approach to the realities of their environment.  In these cases, the factors that shape these kinds of society are more societal and environmental than religious. For an example, I’d like to use the Dinka tribe of South Sudan and northern Uganda whom people have said are, in their natural habitat, very trusting, generous and welcoming but also lethal, decisively swift and unrelenting about slights against their honour. They could Christian, Muslim or even Jehovah’s Witnesses. It doesn’t change who they are.

If you approach this from the “Spiderweb economic theory” first broached by Malcolm X and later honed and refined by Chika Onyeani in his “Capitalist Nigger” where the idea of ‘trading like the Jews” is discussed and broken down, you realize that while the Jews did in fact trade within their communities, the complex interwoven nature of their societal setup makes it impossible to separate from their economy and religion. A rather unique social glue. The theory basically states that the closely knit Jewish community buy from Jews, will try as much as possible to keep their money circulating within their community and that way they help each other develop and build their community as a whole. This approach for you would of course raise the questions of the impact of a shared history and a communal sense of persecution they all share which further strengthened that historical bond. And going down that route would lead you down the inevitably precarious path of separation of church and state – which in that world is a slippery slope.

Having explained this I feel I must tie this all together with how it all begun; with power. Religion carries the ability to influence, to mollify, to invigorate and even instigate people. That is its power. This power however is given to it by people’s choice to believe for without the choice to believe religion holds no power over anybody and therefore would have no ability influence the political culture of a society in any way.

In a faithless state the power to influence political culture would reside in and with people who had resources, means, money, access to resources, information, state machinery, influence, an ear of the leader, leverage over politicians, blackmail, intellectual superiority, physical excellence and a host of other attributes that you could name. People with these or access to any of these attributes would wield power because they could lean upon them to influence events in their societal sphere of influence; to protect themselves from the machinations of others, to advance individual interests, to gain advantage over rivals and; sometimes, to just even the playing field.

This theory seems to operate in the highly amoral and evolutionary arena of “kill or be killed” and is safeguarded by the old political adage “have no permanent friends or enemies” and would appear idealistic upon first sounding. But upon closer scrutiny, you will agree with me that this scenario is more real than ideal. It is one in which we live every day; sworn enemies coming together to fend off common threats; an estranged couple uniting to defeat an erstwhile ally now turned deadly foe, a national Christian prayer overnight presided over by a confessed animist president, a bishop who has sworn an affidavit changing his name so he can remain in power past his retirement age, a national army caught in 3 wars across the region juxtaposed against the housing condition of the Police Force, and other examples. That is the reality we live in. Those with the ability to move the pieces WILL move them. Irrespective of what they believe.

Over to you

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Righteous Indignation; Things That F***ing Piss me Off and Give Me Hope

Last week, the Ugandan social media was awash with the #UGBlooggers7days [collated by the dutiful and obsessive Joel] hashtag. A conversation that started with a one Raymond’s insatiable greed for Ugandan reading material thereby plummeting the whole blogosphere into a blogging frenzy. Suffice to say I’m glad I was there to suggest the 250 word limit because certain people were talking 600 and 400 words as a minimum. And that had its own deliciousness. Savour it

More interestingly, in the course of last week, I read a post by SamiraSalwani where she explained a phenomenon called white privilege and colonial mentality. From thought provoking to downright alarming at the state of affairs in my country. I couldn't believe my eyes as I read it. More, I couldnt believe the directness of it all. It was as if she was being fueled by that calculated methodical anger you get from serving a revenge ice cold. Under the surface but seething. Cold. Calculating. Then I realized that the ghosts I was imagining as racial anger was her razor sharp intellect.

Throw yourself upon it and die.


Die cut up in pieces from it.

Die with your ignorance bleeding from every crevice in your body.

It was not only sharp, it was steady and abiding. Diamond hard. Never goes blunt. So I looked up several of her other articles. Yeah, diamond hard intellect. But I digress.

“White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people in the same social, political, or economic circumstances.” - That is how Google describes it.

This is what Samira had been talking about. How Ugandans or Kenyans were more likely to treat people of Caucasian extraction in more privileged ways; quicker service at restaurants, more attention in service queues, etc because of the colour of their skin. Because of a perceived superiority.

No sooner had that storm subsided than Simon released the mother of all hailstorms. The blog post can be read here. At 11:00PM he was livid and frothing at the mouth. Imagine a bull mastiff with rabies and an itch. Tearing into the New Vision and its editors. Asking pointed questions and causing uneasiness all around. He was taking names and no prisoners. 

But what he did do was raise once again the question of how a colonial sport for which every single element (riders’ kits, horses, saddles, jumping bars, etc) had been imported was able to get a page and a half of coverage in a country where our national netball team, which is going to the world cup by the way, couldn't even afford to buy water last week. I swear I think I saw a swear word in Luganda.  

And as if the night would not end just like that. At one 1:00AM someone posted this scan from a newspaper advert yesterday. An advert for several jobs and an administrative assistant. The admin assistant had to be a foreigner!! What the f*** were they thinking? Can you be more disrespectful than that? How dare you?!! Is this your father's house?!!

Now I was frothing at the mouth. I wanted to say something. To write to these people. To say to them they couldn’t be so stupid. You can’t feel that untouchable and hope to get far ahead. Then I realized that it wasn't just me. Its like all the media I had been exposed to had riled me up, had made me think of all the opportunities that people had missed and all the mistreatment people suffered because of this stupid white privilege.

But also I felt a sense of relief as I dozed off.


Because my anger was a sign. A sign that there is a new wind sweeping across Africa. People were questioning these “practices”. And they won’t stop because the awakening was happening. Yes, the good jobs might continue going to the less educated less experienced white people and their lackeys. The projects will end and they will have to go back home, or not. But us here, we are building our country. One brick at a time. One step at a time. And hopefully through blogs like this, one story at a time.

I'm off to lunch