When we learned that Bola Adekoya was a self-confessed karaoke aficionado, well, it was love. When she’s not belting out the classics, the up-and-coming Droga5 account manager works on PUMA. Having started out handling its lifestyle strand, Bola now also dabbles in sports and performance. Her biggest challenge… ‘learning to say football instead of soccer’. We caught up with Bola to find out more.
LBB> You’re a Brown graduate – what did you study and did you aim to go into advertising?
BA> I had an inkling I wanted to go into marketing but not advertising specifically. In college I studied Public and Private Sector Organizations (I don't think it exists as a concentration any longer) rolled up into Organizational Theory. I was originally planning to create my own major but then I realized that all of the classes I found interesting could be applied to a pre-existing program. That’s what I appreciated about Brown – the ability to take full ownership over your academic experience.
LBB> When and why did you finally decide that you wanted to get into advertising?
BA> I was a marketing intern at Fisher Price during the summer, before my senior year. One day, towards the end of the placement, their advertising agency came in to share a rough cut. It was one of the most fun and interesting meetings I had attended whilst there and it seemed to be the highlight of everyone's day. That's when I realized that maybe I was on the wrong side of things.
LBB> As a Brooklyn girl with roots in Nigeria and the Barbados – are you particularly close to either of your parents’ cultures, and if so how does this inform your approach to work?
BA> I’m pretty close to both cultures. Both are big on respecting your elders, being considerate and thinking before you act. If anything, I think I’ve learned the importance of knowing when it’s best to listen rather than speak and to be open to learning from others, without ego coming into play. Own what you know and learn what you don’t.
LBB> You started out at McCann working on HumanCare products – what were the key lessons that you learned and how have these earlier clients informed your current approach to your work?
BA> Pharmaceutical advertising is challenging in that not only do you need to make the story simple and compelling, but you have to do so in a FDA-approved manner. You can state a simple fact about a medicine, but if there’s a chance it can be interpreted the wrong way, that fact cannot be stated in a consumer-facing piece. It’s a balancing act and I'm glad that I got to experience it. There’s little production but a lot of strategy. I'd like to think I'm a bit smarter for it.
LBB> When did you join Droga5 and how have you found the culture within the agency?
BA> It's fun, challenging and fattening. Everyone is passionate about what they do, and nothing is too tiny to care about. Droga5 is that way across the board - regardless of department.
It’s definitely a cool place to work, but I’d like to think we were all the slightly awkward, dorky kids in school who were totally oblivious to what was considered cool and appropriate.
LBB> You’re currently working on PUMA – what are the key challenges when working on a lifestyle brand like this?
BA> It’s a global brand and the perception of it is different wherever you go. The key challenge – and it’s not unique to us – is honing in on the universal insight that will allow the work to resonate wherever you are.
More pointedly, PUMA has a strong heritage in football and has made some impressive acquisitions in the last couple of years. We’ve sponsored Usain Bolt and the Jamaican running team for years. We know how to do sport and do it well, so one of the biggest opportunities we have now is reclaiming PUMA's position as a credible and proven brand across all performance categories and to reinforce that we’re more than a strong lifestyle offering.
LBB> What Puma projects have you particularly enjoyed working on and why?
BA> The latest PUMA Social campaign [http://bit.ly/H7mAKz] was one of the most exhausting and fun experiences. We shot over two weeks in LA. The creative chronicled a group of friends during a night out, and on some days we’d shoot from mid-afternoon into the wee morning hours. We captured some really great print work from it and the film piece, ‘Better Out Than In’ was stellar.
LBB> What moment in your career are you proudest of and why?
BA> My last few years working in pharma were among the proudest. It’s not glamorous, but you can’t help but feel like you’re doing some good when you’re working on diabetes medications or HPV vaccines that can help prevent cervical cancer.
The upcoming work we’re doing for PUMA Performance is on my list as well.
LBB> You’re a karaoke fan – and we’re in no position to judge. What’s your signature karaoke song and why?
BA> Jamie's Got A Gun. I love the randomness of it.