Threading the murky waters…MTN Nigeria and corporate bullying

In my weekly column on critiquing advertising, I touched a raw spot when I took on MTN and Glo, both ‘leading’ telecommunications providers in Nigeria. See the article below (Deceit in Blackberry Ads?). I knew I was probably biting more than I could chew, but somehow, I cared less, until the phone calls began to arrive.

A media consultant for the telecoms firm wanted to invite me for the official launch of the Blackberry.
Although with only a day notice, I promised to do my best to go, and I did. I was not impressed. At the end of the ‘show’ one of the ladies working on MTN’s media image requested to give me money (on her ‘personal initiative’ she said) to buy fuel for my car. I said, No, thank you, I have fuel. Thanks for the offer anyway. I tried not to read any meaning into this ‘gesture’. Later that day, another goon (same one hounding me all week) called again to ask if my opinion about the product had changed. I replied that what I expected was what I witnessed at the launch. He then replied that ok, they (MTN) were going to send me an official rejoinder to my article. I said fine, send it. (Note: article was written May 26; Rejoinder was coming June 6 – talk about strategizing!).

Anyway, his tone of voice told me he was disappointed my opinion had not changed and that I did not offer to write a positive review… furthermore, it was obvious the ‘rejoinder’ was prepared all along, only waiting for this moment to come forth if I did not ‘play ball’. The rejoinder came, followed by another phone call. Yes, I got your rejoinder but sorry you’re too late for press this week, you will have to wait, I said. By the way, I added, your rejoinder is too long. So I am going to publish only what has relevance to the issue at stake. He thought to threaten me (or twist my arm) by copying his mail also to my editor. I was not impressed. I also copied my reply to him to my editor. Does anybody think I live on this column? Oops! Gotta go… I will continue this… June 16th: Continuing the narration…

That MTN was rattled was not in doubt. At the public presentation of Blackberry, I got talking to one of their media consultants and he admitted to me that when they saw my article, they thought that the competition (Glo) was behind it! Imagine that! Glo that I have lambasted time without number on a number of issues. When I laughed at the insinuation the fellow defended himself with the logic that in advertising it is only the paranoid that makes headway. Now I don’t know where he learned his advertising but that is strange logic indeed. The more paranoid you are, it seems, the more you’ll be on the alert to second-guess the competition. Sorry, this time you’re wrong! Two days ago, I got a call, this time from another friend in the advertising industry (sorry name withheld). He’s the CEO of his firm, and he had occasion to support my stance. He told me how MTN had been hunting for my phone number all the while, wondering if they had got in touch.

Yes they had. Well he revealed that as a result of his support of my position, the telecoms firm had approached him with a juicy offer (Again, sorry, I will respect my friend’s confidence by not revealing more). I can only tell you that these business people (MTN and the like) can sometimes by very unscrupulous. My friend assures me though that he cannot be bought. I will like to believe him. I cannot be bought either!

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