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Advertising and Brand Building

The funniest ad war I have seen in Nigeria

Well, we all know about the Cola wars between Coca Cola and Pepsi. That’s a global fight that caught the limelight and is talked about in all B-schools I guess. People go “oohs” and “aahs” over the tactics Coke and Pepsi used to gain an upper edge.

Let me regale you with a similar story in our own backyard in Nigeria. Brand wars are not common, but once it is triggered, things get a bit too competitive. Personally, I don’t prefer doing this for any of my brands. But about a decade ago, two of the telecom brands: MTN and Etisalat went head on and gave us plenty of entertainment for a while.

It started with this simple ad that MTN launched. The ad was nothing spectacular, just going through its motions, communication was about doling out some freebies.

Then Etisalat decided to take a dig at MTN.

So, Etisalat had hired Saka, a popular comedian as its mascot and used him in their advert. As he was shelling out goodies to Etisalat customers, in the 22nd second, you can see the man wearing a yellow cap, with a goat tagging along. That indicates MTN. Etisalat creative team thought it was a good idea to show MTN users moving towards Etisalat due to its freebies and promotional offers. Little did they know that this was akin to lighting a fuse to a bomb in its own camp.

This is when it got exciting and exploded in entertainment.

MTN just took the battle to another level and left no room for Etisalat to reply. They went downright to poaching Etisalat’s main man in the advert, Saka, and made an advert about porting numbers from other users. Symbolically establishing that even the brand ambassador ported to MTN. Sad part for Etisalat apparently was that they didn’t feel it was important enough for them to have a contract with Saka or any clause to prevent such poaching.

So, in the advert, Saka, who was evidently an Etisalat user (wearing green clothes), does a funny dance to the catchy tune and sings about porting to MTN. They even show the green clothes changing to Yellow. They just killed it in the advert.

As if that wasn’t enough, MTN buried Etisalat with further campaigns on social media, many of which went viral. It was hilarious! Many users took to the internet with their own versions of the Kirikata dance to that MTN song and MTN leveraged on the craze with some contests to fuel the fire.

The first one below is my favourite. These guys used Yellow well well!

Etisalat couldn’t come up with anything to beat this. And MTN was the clear winner. That’s one loose end tied by the team. The agency that pulled it off was DDB Lagos.

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