Baba Oladeji: How Architecture Can Win Like Advertising

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Gone are the days when Architects had the ears of decision makers, when Kings appointed Architects to shape their empires; when through architecture: Stonemasons and later Freemasons influenced mainstream thinking. Today, Architects are on the periphery of the boardroom only called in when the decision-making is over. However, unlike architecture, advertising has been able to navigate the murky waters of state & capitalist patronage and yet retain the quality to be called a creative endeavor, where its practitioners are accorded a boardroom status for creativity. For us to regain the status we once had, I suggest we learn these two lessons from advertising:

Speak the Language of Clients & Save Esoteric Language for the Schools:
The privilege we once had was because Kings understood how architecture was a symbol of power. To regain that privilege and the right to sit in the boardroom, we must learn boardroom-speak. We must communicate how architecture can transcend building to provide value such as create alternative revenue or cause cultural shifts in organizations. We should develop concepts but not whine about them, instead we must talk about how these concepts meets the client’s bottom lines: is your architecture helping them with brand positioning like GTBank, is it to make housing more affordable like Affordacity. In learning from advertising who end all esoteric talk: of storyboarding, of ideation, of wordplay in their schools and offices, we must also leave our esoteric language: of concepts, form, texture, scale to the schools of architecture and our studios. Our communication to the client and general public must be a language that promises certain results without losing its creative essence.

Stop tying architecture to only building
We have all come to understand advertising as an activity that can shape consumer perception in almost any field including politics, religion and sports. Likewise, we must view architecture not as an activity to just shape buildings but as a way of thinking that shapes everyday life: be it buildings, environments, economies, cultures, or nations. For if architecture were building, why is it that it is applied freely to represent articulated solutions in fields like software, events and security. Why is it that today we have event architects, business architects and security architects.
We must be able to argue that the way the ‘Saka don Port’ ad wooed customers from Etisalat to MTN is the same way the iconic architectures of GTBank or the signature pan roof of Oando filling stations have achieved brand positioning for both organizations and earned them repeat customers.
We must engage the inherent ability of architecture to solve complex problems with concepts, strategies and goal-setting. We must apply these articulated solutions to religion, politics, entertainment etc. And in due course there will be a cultural appreciation of the role of architecture in shaping daily life.

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