Tidy little messages in little shared Spaces
by Adam Brnch
Adequate accessible sanitation service remains one key feature and a distinguishing factor between the world's rich and the poor. It is often a shocking first impression like what the air smells like when you step off the plane for the first time in Lagos, or a pleasant welcome when you settle into your comfortable suite at the Envoy in Abuja. Sanitation shapes perception and tells immediately without room for doubt; what the order of priority is for a person, a family, an establishment, and even a nation. Making sanitation work in Nigeria is an insanely laborious endeavour, but doesn’t have to be so; given the numerous lessons learned from New York, London and Paris. Yes, these three cities all have a history of foul odour and street-level sewage unlike any Nigerian city has ever seen in common. But I digress, this article like my previous entry, looks at the role of Marketing and Marketing Communication can play in Nigeria as we approach SDG6 and attempt to end Open Defecation by 2030.
Thinking in the Loo.
The implications of modern myth for behaviour change campaigns.
The internet has helped dispel a lot of false ideas and dismissed a multitude of wrong assumptions passed around as common knowledge for decades. “Humans only use 10% of their brains”, “People need to drink 8 glasses of water daily”, “the modern toilet was invented by Thomas Crapper”, “the great wall is visible from space”, “Bubble Gum takes 7 years to digest” and other such facts that are anything but factual.
The idea that the Toilet was the best place to think, is one of those ideas that seems so true, especially if you’re like Joe Garza, a blogger on Medium who submits the toilet is his fountain of literary stimulation.
The pseudo-science that supports the emergence of brilliant ideas in the solitude of a bus station lavatory or the locker room at your local gym finds one of its numerous origins in the philosophy of controversial Japanese inventor and media personality Yoshiru Nakamatsu, or Dr Nakamats as he is popularly known in his home country. The eccentric 94-year-old inventor even has a 24-karat gold private toilet constructed without nails he calls “the calm room” where he does his critical and creative thinking because it blocks out television and radio waves which interfere with the alpha waves emitted by the human brain. Whatever truth there is to this, and other similar claims is yet to be fully established. But here’s what is interesting; like the many other misconceptions and myths, we hold to memory, the main reason people tend to believe these lies is simply because they “want” to. They make interesting topics for small talk which in turn makes for interesting agreeable conversations and in the colourful world of advertising and content creation, this is a good thing.
Without any empirical evidence in support of or against the controversial idea, moments of solitude during a particularly hectic day do well for the active mind. It is not uncommon to slip into a calm and introspective state when the noise quiets down and one can clearly hear one’s own thoughts. These moments are tiny and fleeting, yet priceless little nuggets of inspiration. Speaking from a creative perspective in an era of dwindling attention spans and insanely competitive content on Tik-Tok, getting precise messaging across to the intended target is increasingly daunting (plus I just downloaded an add blocker while researching this piece so… yeah.).
Pardon the intrusion; Washroom advertising, dwindling attention spans, message retention and an impending sanitation disaster, a tie-in strategy.
Out-of-Home advertising is fast approaching a precipice where the need for innovative solutions must be explored. In an election year like this one, OOH records get smashed in the face over and again. And while we eagerly await the numbers, it is worth recalling earlier projections predicted Nigeria’s rise as an Entertainment and Media powerhouse valued at $10bn by the end of next year with a $419mn hinted to come from advertising revenue. The untapped potential of Washroom advertising will prove instrumental to positioning FMCG brands where efforts at meeting the country's numerous SDG6 challenges present the most opportunities. The country has already been voted the host nation for this year’s World Toilet Summit, set to coincide with the annual World Toilet Day in November. But in full view of one of the worst economic downturns, since 1999 and bleaker projections in a slower than predicted, post-covid recovery further worsened by Putin’s war in Ukraine and a flurry of failing policies, Nigeria’s sanitation challenges cannot receive the attention it needs without viable, financially sustainable models in effect.
Enter washroom advertising, a viable alternative that has proven a formidable avenue for big brands such as Sony, Uber, Nintendo and Unilever since ’97. The medium is especially effective for long-form, visually strong graphic and detailed photography.
Washroom advertising if done right can present the much-needed turnaround in the fortunes of Nigeria’s ill-fated public sanitation industry. In the faces of a reading audience (in as many Nigerian languages as possible) socially charged ad campaigns will find a comfortable place in gender-specific formats and content, while providing the much-needed revenue to keep these facilities open, hygienic, and accessible for much longer than the 3 months following November 15th after a successful PR execution, usually a block of toilets donated by your favourite brand of domestic disinfectant.
Communication for Social Good; Marketing’s Role.
There is an urgent need to take social marketing seriously in Nigeria. Behaviour change is not as intuitive as it sounds, and that is because the moral soundness of an idea does not guarantee its popularity or necessitate its broad acceptance and success, especially at the bottom of the pyramid, where attitudes and preconceived notions are immensely difficult to change. One reason is the further widening gaps between the rich and the poor, but there is so much marketing has to offer, global brands have through their marketing and policy directions, demonstrated commitment to doing good with remarkable results around the world. The Nigerian situation doesn’t have to be different because people respond positively to well-crafted and consistent information where the aim and benefits are immediately visible, and participation is easy and rewarding. Tidy Nigeria presents such avenues for behaviour change-driven marketing at the community level proposing unique value for every stakeholder along its distribution and value chain. Chiefly to engage Nigeria’s brands leading the conversations around a plethora of social issues ranging from physical abuse to the quality and access to potable water domestically, using shared spaces for a truly up-close interaction in the quiet solitude of “The calm room”.