Man behind Bates Cosse, award winning advertising company
By Nike Bakere (e-mail:
Friday, July 16, 2004

• Funmi Onabolu
By Sun News Publishing

"I went into the University to read law, but my father actually came to the campus and almost physically pulled me out of the class. His views being that lawyers are not very honest people" says Funmi Onabolu, the Managing Director of Bates Cosse, the company that won this year’s City People Awards for advertising.

Onabolu started out as a broadcaster with the Nigerian Television Authority Abeokuta, at the presentation department of the station in 1979. "Immediately after my youth service, I was pretty sure that what I wanted to do was broadcasting. Before I graduated, I had done vacation jobs at OGBC twice, I was casting news, I was also presenting programmes and I enjoyed it very much. So, I was pretty sure this was what I was going to do, on graduation it was the first thing I went for. While working with NTA Abeokuta I was also freelancing also with OGBC."

After a short while, he felt the need to gravitate towards Lagos where the action was. He became one of the pioneer staff at Lagos Television Channel 8 in 1980. "And on coming to Lagos, I broadened my interest, I started out in production and presentation. I honed many skills working at LTV 8, because of the shortage of hands it really trained you to do many things. In a few months; I could edit very well, I had to present, produce and edit my own programmes twice a week. And I was casting news along with Shakirat Bakare and Jide Adekusibe. At that time, the station had just started the three newscasters thing, and our boss, Taiwo Alimi, was a fantastic man that I have a lot of respect for."

The graduate of Literature in English of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife says he would have remained in broadcasting, if television stations were privatised the way they are today.

"But, I got to a level of frustration that was unbearable for my innate ambition, I thought that there were many things that could be done, maybe better and quicker. I remember wanting to do programmes and documentaries that were in my head and the station didn’t have money to do some of these things, I had to use my own car and resources to go and record things that I felt were fundamental enough, like the Osun Osogbo Festival. I only got the camera from the station and that was it. “I felt why would British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) with all their crew come in to make fantastic documentary, only to come and sell it to us or play it back for us. Why wouldn’t we be able to document our own

circumstances, heritage and culture?" He left at the end of 1981, after two days of working in a research company he knew clearly that he was not cut out for it. "I had to be doing something that was extremely creative, challenging, my adrenaline had to be pumping at a really high level, for me to function well. And I thought marketing communications might do it, so I applied to a few advertising companies. I was looking for an advertising company, where I would have a long time career and prospects, I had offers from top advertising companies in the country, but I opted to go into Insight Communications, which was very young at that time, just about a year old."

For 14 years, he worked for the advertising firm and over the years rose from a Client Service Executive to Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. For six and a half years he ran the company before he left in 1995 to start his own agency, Bates Cosse.





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