Celebrity, Interviews

Adebola Williams speaks passionately about Red Media @ 10

FOR Red Media, a leading media company, with a focus on youth, their 10-year journey has been worthwhile, with loads of achievements, awards to their credit.

ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with co-founder, Adebola Williams on their 10 years of giant strides.


You had an elaborate 10th anniversary and summit, how would you describe it?

As we turned 10, for us in Red Media, it was important that we established ourselves solidly. Over the years, we have done quite a number of outstanding things to the glory of God.  It was important for us to begin to think about legacies as we turned 10.  Rather than just a celebration, we decided to do a summit about the Nigerian media landscape.  We wanted to assess the present situation, look at the future, answer questions on people’s mind such as what PR is all about, what is changing in PR, how do we prepare for the new tools that are coming?  The conference was to give clarity to our communication industry.  It will be an annual summit.  It is our own contribution to the evolving media industry.

Then, looking at the gala we had to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  We decided to celebrate 121 media icons.  We decided to celebrate them because they were the pathfinders.  They created the path that many of us walked.  They created the fabric many of us are tearing apart and remodeling to our own style, from Lolu Akinwunmi, Biodun Shobanjo, Kehinde Young Harry, Grace Egbagbe, Jimi Solanke, Bunmi Oke.  We brought out their stories in other to encourage the younger generation.  First Bank was our partner.  They believed in our days.  They also presented the 121 nominees alongside Red Media.

For the first time you brought together people from the media, different sectors, how did you do it?

It was a 10-year work.  People came to the event and said it was amazing.  Some were encouraged.  But it was good to hear the story behind the glory so as to have a proper perspective.  The work was not overnight.  It was years of working in the media serving other people.  Learning the ropes, building a network, grooming yourself to be of value, it was all of those years you saw that day.  It wasn’t a day’s job.

What were the challenges trying to bring the people together?

It was hard to get them and their addresses.  We had a 40-man jury.  We got their names, addresses and put everything together.  We had to make phone calls. I sat with different people, Dele Momodu, Nduka Obaigbena, many of them.  They made calls and were very helpful.  It was challenging but we got them.

Funding was another challenge but anything we set our minds to do, with or without fund, we would do.  We had some good sponsors.  Access Bank believed in investing in the media, so, they were on board.

Adebola Williams

Adebola Williams

How does it feel clocking 10 at Red Media?

Eight out of 10 businesses fail.  Having to be here is God. We thank God for His grace and favour.  I can’t but thank my partner for his tenacity, support, vision, for brilliance.  I can’t but thank my credible staff who were committed.  I can’t but thank all the people we stood on their shoulders.  Many people have used themselves as shoulder for us to rest on.  Some willingly, and some unwillingly.  It has not been easy.  Not being greedy matters in partnership, but we focused on impact.  We didn’t allow those issues bother us.  I think it was because both of us are passionate about making impact, that is why we are here today.

Sometimes, in the midst of all the distractions, we remember why we are here.  The grace of God has kept us going really.

Talking about partnership, how did you come across each other and at what point did you decide to work together?

We met a year or two before we started Red Media.  We met on a set of a TV show.  There was an argument and we were both on different sides.  After the programme, I went to him but he wasn’t receptive, I kept on talking to him.  We would pick a topic, I would say my own side and he would say his.  My side kept making sense to him. I was getting all he said, that made him pay attention to me the more.  From there, we became friends, helping each other at work.  In 2004, his boss at that time was celebrating her birthday.  His boss was Funmi Iyanda.  I volunteered to plan the party with Emilia.  We planned the party with no money.  It was a surprise party and it was a success, it showed that the three of us could do something together.  At that time, I had a partner, Emilia.  We were into media (B & B Initiative), but we went our separate ways in 2005.  We thought that, we were not optimum together, if we went separately, we might be able to do what we wanted to do successfully.  Chude was listening to us as we talked about separation.  He said we should do something together but five years after, Emilia left.

What will you say has been the greatest achievement in your 10 years of business?

For Red Media, it would be for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a local communication company, headed by young people was appointed as the sole communication agency for the presidential campaign. It has never happened.  The man cooperated with us, we were able to give direction, we were able to implement our ideas. The ideas sold the candidate, of course, had other things, winning several accounts, the Blackberry account, the Guinness account and so on.  They were very exciting. The Future Awards is another great achievement for us.  When we opened YNaija and it became a force to reckon with in two years, it was exciting.

Would you say the presidential campaign was your big break at Red Media?

We have had several breaks, very high profile clients, multinational companies patronizing us.  But, his was peculiar.  We took a candidate that had failed three times, we fought institutions, we fought 16 years monopoly, we were also dealing with a man who was in his 70s.  How do you teach an old dog new tricks?  We had to and it worked.  The level of challenges made it the most exciting and the biggest thing in our career.

Red Media is focused on the youth, is it because it is owned by young people?

Red Media is the company to reach the largest network of youths at any point in time. That was our first unique selling point. When we started the company in 2005, we had the milliena.  Milliena are the next generation after X, they are the generation ‘y’, they were the internet people who have huge opportunities and possibilities in front of them but they used to come together and identify their pals.  We did that in 2005, through the Future Awards.  We gathered young people together, gave them a definition, young professionals.  By 2010, we formed Enough is Enough.  We went to the National Assembly to demand for the rule of law to be kept.  That day, people in government realized we were not after money.  There was a new use of the internet that day. They saw the power of advocacy the internet could do.  We had the president joining social media, other government officers also followed.

We also organized the first presidential debate.  We had the youth wing of Occupy Nigeria.  Those are the kind of achievement the Future Awards brought.

Red Media has built on the youth.  We are the centre of the young people.  We push them to doing more.  We created more attention.  That is why it is easy for people who want to reach them to come to us first.

Partnering someone in business is not easy.  How has it been working with Chude?  How do you share responsibilities?

We identified our strengths from the beginning.  He is the manager.  I am a people’s person. I talk to people on how to get things, strategise on how to raise fund, market the company and all that.  That clear understanding helps.  When I have my moment, he moves on.  When he has his moment, I also move on.  Partnership is a marriage.  No marriage is perfect.  Every marriage has its excesses. Once you know your goals, and your visions are the same, it is easier.

What are the major challenges working together?

We fight but we still make up because we understand that we are in this together and we want to make a success out of it.  Our foundation is God, our faith, vision and passion has kept us together.  We are afraid of failure, so, we must keep it far away.  Failure is not an option for us.

Some assumed you were a Jonathan man because of what you did during the Centenary celebration, but some people were taken aback to see you work with Buhari as well.  What do you have to say about that?

In 2014, when Nigeria celebrated the centenary and they chose to celebrate 100 young people, it did not mean we were anything to him.  We had a platform, he had an office and there was an association.  He used our platform to celebrate 100 young people.  People just told their story.  Right in the middle of that, there was a big fight between Jonathan and Amaechi.  After the Centenary celebration, we went to Port Harcourt to work at another event for Amaechi.  For us, we are creating platforms for national relevance.  We had a relationship and we didn’t take it for granted.  What about if we were friends and after a while, we wanted to stop being friends, is there a problem with that?  In 2011, I voted for Buhari, I even took a picture while voting for him but I was afraid, I had to speak to some of my mentors who convinced me he was a good man.  He lost but I was happy I did it. During the elections, young people had a choice and they made their choices.  Those you thought belonged to somewhere and moved to somewhere else also made their choices too.  At the end of the day, it was all about values and visions. I don’t think it is right to judge a man for his vision.

You have achieved so much in 10 years, what is the projection of Red Media in a couple of years?

For us, we want to own the African continent as a media company.  We want to build a media brand that will tell the African story.  We want to be part of people’s story.  We want people to say, it is because of our platform their stories have changed positively.

What are your plans for the Future Awards this year?

I don’t want to unveil the plan now, just wait for it, it will definitely take place in Lagos this year.  It will be a grand celebration, a worthy 10th anniversary.

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