Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Switch On the Naija Craze

SOLA Kuti is a silent, smooth operator who is crazy about anything Naija, and he doesn’t deny this. “People accuse me of always being behind the scene, I disagree less with them because I am cool with that and it makes me put in more into my work, which speaks for me.”
He modestly refers to himself as the Creative Director of Switched On, but Sola is more than that, as an apostle of the true Naija identity, Switched On and its other stables like Be Wise, Naijatalk, Howfar, and Reload, all starts and ends with him.
The Switched On brand launched two years ago focuses on the Nigerian youth market, their dreams, fears, aspirations and common youth trends internationally. It is not only targeting the youth but also documenting their thoughts and breaking the conventional barriers associated with a wider audience. Gradually becoming one of the voices for Naija’s youth, Switched On continues to be a medium to share and exchange ideas, learn from their peers and the older generation, but is not stopping at that, the brand has a vision to accurately capture the youth market; a market which Sola has tagged Generation N. “This is because we understand and embrace the plight of a new generation of Nigerians who aren’t afraid to ask why and take destiny by its horns.”
The first print edition of Switched On, launched in 2006 and edited by Zahra Mohammed, was tagged the ‘condom in my wallet’ issue, which is essentially about letting young people stay alive by preaching the C of the ABC on HIV/AIDS. While noting that there is so much double standard in the fight against HIV/AIDS by concentrating on abstinence as the way out, Sola informs that the society tends to ignore and often times, neglect the most important factor, particularly among the youths, which is aggressively campaigning on the use of condoms and safe sex.
“This is one of the double standards we want to correct. We can’t afford to close our eyes to the fact that young people are sexually active, while we rant on about abstinence. We must talk to them not the way the older generation will talk to the youth, so they can open up and share their innermost feelings. That is exactly what Switched On is all about, creating the platform, where young people can identify with other young people and really get to address the needs of the Generation Next.
“There was one of our readers who called me one day and said, ‘my girlfriend is pregnant and I am coming to the office to see you.’ I said fine, you could come around. Eight hours later, he called me again that he has sorted it out and I asked him what happened. Sure, the answer was abortion! In eight hours, he found out the girl was pregnant, an abortion was done and she was back home. In older times, before you could think of such, you will spend about a month thinking of your life. So, with this, we want the young people to stay alive and also play safe.”
How does Switched On hope to capture the Nigerian youth space? The brand is already arresting the youth’s attention with its irresistible publications. Switching over from the print magazine to an interactive online magazine. “On September 8, 2008, the online magazine, www.switchedonnaija.com, was re-constructed and re-launched. And with this, it has given Nigerian youths in Diaspora to keep in touch with happenings back home and also an opportunity for youths all over the world who are interested in knowing more about Naija youth and what is on their minds. The website has sections from the Omonaija, Wey Dem, Talk Am, All Africa, Downloads, What’s New, Gallery, Lifestyle and the Blog. Through these sections, we bring to fore the issues and the mind of thought of the average youth. We also try to look into the lives of those who influence these youths, one way or another, either through music, art, career, photography, fashion, business, etc. Our website also tries to focus on young individuals who are trying to carve a niche and thus, make a name for themselves in whatever industry they find themselves. For representativeness, we have contributors from different parts of the country who provide us with pictures, articles, news and information about the youth in their respective areas. Furthermore, we have a section All Africa, which provides for other young Africans to tell our viewers what is on their mind and for others to know their culture and emerging youth trends in their respective countries.”
Howfar (1960 – date) is a timeline booklet, “published yearly on our progress as a nation through the eyes of the youth. This was born out of the fact that Nigeria has evolved from one decade to the other since our independence and thus, has brought about a fluctuation in the embracement of our identity as a country and people.” The booklet is given out freely to students, brand managers, multinationals, bars, clubs, partner airline operators and corporate organizations.
Reload is Switched On’s monthly e-book which delivers informal but insightful research on youth market observations. The Reload has become an avenue to further understand young people in Nigeria. It also serves as a channel for corporate brands to properly plan and sustain huge marketing budgets while attracting these sets of young Nigerians.
Switched On’s publication is its website, which aims at properly documenting and representing Naija’s youth, thereby winning credibility within their circles. Sola says the website aims at guiding young minds by breaking patterns such as double standard communication and open up partnering opportunities for institutions, groups, and organizations interested in the Nigerian Youth market. “We are interested in building a lasting relationship with our viewers; both individuals and corporate organization. We are open to discussions ranging from content, advertisement, interviews, strategic partnerships, symposiums, career talks and even campus activities.”

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