How free is Freedom

‘No one can make you feel less of who you are or incompetent if you don’t give them the room to. Always strive to do your best, do due diligence, and carry everyone along with you on the process, most especially your superiors so that no one would claim ignorance and it won’t become ‘insubordination’.

MY first task at Criterion was to manage UNHCR. This is a UN refugee agency focused on saving lives and protecting the rights of refugees, the communities who have been forcibly displaced, and people without states. This global organization assists refugees in their voluntary repatriation, local integration, or their resettlement into a third country.

Yep, that is a whole lot, but they are up to the task.

So, this account was being managed by the media part of the agency before the advent of Criterion Communication and was passed to me when I resumed. The person managing the account was senior to me and GCEO instructed/advised that I always check my ideas or strategy with her before working on the brief. And that’s what I did.

Except that every time I go to this lady, there is one excuse or the other for not being available to see my slides. She has been managing the account for a while and I just wanted to be sure what I was doing aligned with the client’s style. I didn’t want to propose an idea or execution that is very different from what they used to do and how they do it. But I was always hitting a block whenever I approached her.

She was renowned for frustrating her colleagues and making them quit their jobs, and unfortunately, my deadline was ticking like a time bomb. There is no time to waste as this was my first assignment at the agency. My new friends in the agency were worried for me and advised me to do my best and send it to the client. Problem is, I wasn’t introduced to the client yet, which means the lady needs to send it with me on the copy. “Problem no dey finish” at the agency.

The good thing about working at First Primus is that though he is a Group CEO, Seni Adetu’s door is always open to every staff. That man has no iota of air around him and he would make you feel comfortable. Left with no choice, I went to Mr. Adetu’s office to explain my dilemma praying and hoping that I wasn’t going to cause a problem for anyone. That was one of the best decisions I made in my early stage at this agency.

After explaining myself, GCEO looked at me and said “Teju, you came highly recommended, and I trust you can do this. If she is not available, go ahead and own it. Thank you Teju.”

Omo, I was head over heels excited that I have been handed the baton to own my stuff! I grinned all the way to my office, and I remember my dear Tayo omo-Adebayo (that’s what I called her) was staring at me wondering if I just hit a jackpot. For me, it was a wonderful career jackpot, and there was no stopping me.

Morolake joined the agency around this time, and we worked on the project together. We were ready to go beyond just impressing the client and prove that we would be a great team winning awards and making clients happy.

The final day came, and I handed the slides over to my superior on a flash drive to save on her laptop and send to the client. That day, she was out for a meeting and came back some minutes before 6 pm and came straight to my office with her laptop to do this. After going through the slides for about 5 minutes, she said ‘This is not how we do our slides and you have used the wrong font. We have a special font and a particular way we design and arrange our slides at Algorithm. You have to redo this within an hour for me to send it today because GCEO won’t be happy with this.’

My first instinct was to scream ‘F**k you! Haven’t I been trying to show you this all this while!!!!’ Soji, the Algorithm GM at that time was standing beside her while they both read through the slides. I walked to the table she was sitting, stood beside Soji so I could face her, and calmly said ‘This is a creative agency, and the slides, templates, and font should not be exactly the same as what you have been using at the media end. Besides, I have been trying to show you this for weeks and even sent you emails without a response. I am sorry, you will have to send it to your client like that. And please, tell GCEO I said so. Have a good evening.’

She couldn’t believe it. Insubordination. I could see her struggling with deciding what her reaction should be. No staff ever told her no, not until that time and it seemed unreal.

I walked to my table, still very calm, packed up my bag and laptop, and told my dear Morolake it was time to go home. That was it. The client came back with a yes to one of the three ideas on the proposal and requested the cost.

That day, I earned my place with her as a crazy girl who is not to be messed with. And she never did.

No one can make you feel less of who you are or incompetent if you don’t give them the room to. Always strive to do your best, do due diligence, and carry everyone along with you on the process, most especially your superiors so that no one would claim ignorance and it won’t become ‘insubordination’.

Many times, I see people cry or claim being bullied by their superior, or not given enough time or room to do a task. The good approach to this is to ensure you share your ideas with them, send them your first draft before you work too much in the wrong direction, and always work as a team. Freedom to take up projects or tasks in an organization doesn’t come easily without high supervision because your manager or superior would be held responsible for any lapse or failure from your end, but you can achieve a great deal of liberty if you work hard as a team to prove your worth/capability rather than complaining and protesting.

At the agency, there is never enough time to deliver on any task. Isn’t that true about life? There is never enough time to do anything, so get used to it.

 Dare to be free without being rude or breaking the rules.

*Olateju Ogunyomi is a Marcoms professional and behavioral analyst. She left Ogilvy Nigeria in 2020 to start her own agency. She is an APCON member and was a member of the AAAN women in Advertising committee, and the AAAN Event committee. She is currently the CEO of Aspora Nigeria Limited, a Digital Marketing, Strategy, and Consultancy agency.

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