When Steve Babaeko left his job to start a small ad agency in August 2012, he was putting everything on the line to pursue a new dream.
Today, exactly six years later, the agency, aptly named X3M Marketing Ideas, operating out of a model office space in the heart of Lagos, is staking a big claim in Africa’s growing Advertising industry.
X3M Ideas boasts of a clientele swelling with some of Africa’s biggest brands in Africa including telecommunications giant Globacom Limited, Dangote, Multichoice, and FrieslandCampina WAMCO among many others.
2012 was not a very fascinating year for Nigeria, the world’s most populous Black nation with a GDP worth 375.77 billion US dollars (in 2017) representing 0.61 percent of the world economy according to a World Bank data. The year was marred by political unrest, high inflation, economic instability and a devastating flood that caused property damages worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Albeit, during such trying times and against all odds, X3M Ideas stayed afloat.
The agency’s financial statements in the last five years shows a relatively stable company with very high growth potential.
Typically, most businesses die within the first five years of inception, but X3M Ideas has been able to survive this critical period and made profit in each year except for 2014 when it made a loss, due to the loss of a few key clients.
In 2015, the agency turned around the tide to protect and expand its profit margins. “We acquired more clients, increased our prices to offset the rise in input costs and streamlined our cost base. As a result of these deft moves, combined with the good revenue growth, we significantly increased our profit,” said Folahan Salam, Head of Finance at X3M Ideas.
In 2016, it was apparent from all economic indices and forecast that the year would be challenging for the Nigerian economy due to the unrelenting fall in crude oil prices globally. Brands were cutting down on ad spend, yet the agency, during this time, significantly increased its profit as it had become the preferred choice for brands looking to make the most of their marketing budgets.
Six years on and with over 50 awards locally and internationally, including a remarkable haul at the just concluded African Cristal awards in Morocco, X3M Ideas has shown great promise and is definitely at the forefront of Africa’s New media industry.
Putting The ‘R’ in CSR
At the heart of X3M Ideas’ operations is its deliberate investment in socially viable projects.
The agency is helping to rebuild High schools in Nigeria as it has continued to build and renovate schools in its host state -- Lagos -- and other parts of the country.
X3M Ideas notably went out of its way to lend a helping hand to the Boko Haram-ravaged Chibok community by providing over 300 units of classroom furniture to the Chibok Girls Secondary School in 2017.
In addition, the brand, through its well defined and cohesive CSR strategy, is also leading the way in how brands can tackle social problems with creativity.
A clear demonstration of this is the brand’s unique “Horn Free Day” campaign which sought to educate Lagos residents and curb the menace of indiscriminate use of car horn in the busy city. The campaign was so perfectly executed that the Executive Governor of the state at the time, Babatunde Fashola, specially recognized and commended the agency.
"I am particularly pleased with the X3M Ideas group, a non-governmental organization, for taking ownership of the Horn Free Day Campaign," remarked Babatunde Fashola.
To support the Lagos State government’s effort at fighting the rise in cases of depression and suicide, X3M Ideas also launched a self-sponsored anti-depression campaign tagged “Look Beyond” which won a Gold, one Silver and two Bronze awards at the 2018 African Cristal Advertising Festival.
Building a Pan African Legacy
The brand is making inroads to other countries in Africa with a mission to consolidate the African Advertising business.
Just last month, the agency launched X3M Ideas SA (PTY) Limited in Johannesburg, South Africa; the first time it is venturing into a foreign market in what it calls the South Central Africa project.
The South Central Africa project covers five territories in South Central Africa; South Africa being the starting point from where the operation is going to be spanning out to Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
“It is a South Central Africa agenda; we are only starting out in South Africa. One of the reasons we had to do this is that our clients are moving in that direction. Some of the clients we work for already have footprints in some of these markets. We will be living a bubble if we don’t do the same,” said Steve Babaeko, X3M Ideas Group CEO in an interview at the Group’s Corporate headquarters in Lagos.
“I was in Lusaka weeks ago and on some billboards were Dangote cement creative materials we developed in this shop. Access Bank is also already in Lusaka in Gambia. We are already providing quality services to them in this market; we can transport some of these services to other parts of Africa.”
“Also, there are certain best practices already available in Nigeria within the marketing communications sector which we know will be useful in South Africa. The vision is to leave an indelible print across this continent, so, we are taking it region by region, starting from South Africa.”
Looking to the future
The future definitely looks bright for the 6-year-old agency. Led by a industry veteran and charismatic CEO, Steve Babaeko, X3M ideas is very much in good hands.
Steve has more than twenty years of experience in advertising and is one of the leading figures in the industry, recently clinching the Vice President position of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN.
He was also a member of the New York Advertising Festival 2018 grand jury and one of the keynote speakers at the just concluded 2018 International Advertising Association conference.
With a team comprising of some of the best creative heads in the industry, a portfolio that includes some of the most successful ad campaigns on the African continent and a good fiscal management policy, X3M Ideas definitely has a great future.
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