Oxygen O2Academy is one of Nigeria’s most reputable brand, advertising and digital marketing communications schools. Based in Lagos, Nigeria’s foremost brand, advertising and digital marketing communications school structures its course packages to suit working class and non-working class individuals, business owners as well as brand and marketing enthusiasts.
O2 Academy, like Miami Ad School, is a hands-on creative training school designed to bring the real everyday workplace experience of an advertising agency to every fresh graduate and talented individual with a passion for advertising.
How it all started
The school was founded in 2018 by an expert in the craft of advertising, Ozoemena Mbanefo. Mbanefo exhumes core values aimed at achieving corporate goals. His experience spans over two decades with leading advertising powerhouses in the country, among which are Insight Communications (now Insight Publicis), DDB, TBWA Concept, Bates Cosse, 141 Worldwide (now Nitro 121) to mention just a few.
As regards why he founded the school (02 Academy), Mbanefo said, “Firstly, 02 Academy was borne out of the frustration I faced when I first got into an advertising agency in 2000 as a youth corps member. Then,there was no advertising school in Nigeria, no Google, no internet because we were using feature phones then, and there was no place to get information on how to use design software like Photoshop and the likes.
“I was only doing illustrations for storyboards because I was talented as an artist. So, the guys in the studio (creative department) never taught me how to use the computer in that agency, and they were only sending me on errands. But I knew the difference between the guys sending me on errands and me was the knowledge gap.”
He disclosed that one day,he was in the toilet praying and crying, and then figured it out that God was talking to him through his mind thus, “If you are ready to enter a deal with Me, I will show you the way”.
According to Mbanefo, “I asked ‘what is the deal?’ He said, ‘you will train people for free and I will show you where you are going to get trained because it is training that you need’. Three days after, I got the idea to go to a business centre where ‘yahoo boys’ were for all-night browsing in the cafés. They were the first people that taught me CorelDRAW. May be, they thought I was going to join them in the trade. That was how I learned how to use CorelDRAW within a space of one month.
“It was while I was at Bates Cosse that God reminded me of the deal we had about training people for free and that was when I converted my two-bedroom apartment to the foremost advertising school today, which started in my living room. I started training people for free every Saturday. Only me, later, one of my colleagues at TBWA joined, a strategist, Sylvia by name and another, a copy writer Nneka.”
Hesaid they all started training people every Saturday from 12 noon to 5pm. Mbanefodisclosed that he did it for four years, then moved into a duplex and converted the entire ground floor garage to a classroom and started inviting masterclass instructors. He added that from there,he moved the school to the complex where it is currently located.
The ‘Oxygen’ Operational Philosophy
Remarkably, the name “Oxygen” was adopted by the academy to selflessly give to young people (by restoring hope) and to agencies, and this has been the guiding principle of its operations.
“We believe that you can never be celebrated for what you consume but for what you bring to the table. Everyone who works here from the staff to the students, to everyone who relates with us, readily gets acquainted with the O2 principle of selflessness.
“That is why we chose the name ‘Oxygen’. Oxygen gives, it doesn’t take back. Oxygen is about giving life. If you are not ready to give life to others as staff in 02, you are not ready to serve Oxygen. That is not to say our staff work for free, they get paid salaries, but they have reasons for what they are doing,”Mbanefo explained.
Closely following selflessness is perseverance and hardwork. According to him, “We know that if you don’t push hard, you can’t get through. Excellence is another principle this academy is built on. You find out that no matter how you want to help, if you are not good at what you are doing, no one will look your way. That was why we went ahead to win a Loerie Award in South Africa.”
Since 2007 when the school started till now, it has proven to be a leader in training Millennials and the Gen Zs. InMbanefo’s words, “Research we conducted recently shows that seven out of every 10 Millennials and Gen Zs working in the advertising industry today in Nigeria are products of 02 Academy, and this feat we are able to achieve because we focus on helping more Nigerian youths become employable. Some of them have even started their own advertising agencies, while some are working outside the shores of the country.
“For us, it’s just a way of helping the industry get to the peak that it is designed to get, knowing that capacity building is the only way we can reinvent and keep revolutionising the industry, flooding a lot of young people into the industry.”
He said many young people that graduated from the universities are not employable.Mbanefo explained that the truth is that most of the things they are being taught in schools are not of current value, hence, the need for capacity building. According to him, “And because we have seen that gap, we decided to help connect the town and gown which is, bringing industry experts to pass on this knowledge to the young people and with that, agencies and companies come to employ them. And that is what we have done successfully for the past 15 years.”
In a move to help grow the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) industry and produce more professionals, Oxygen (O2) Academy, Nigeria’s premier advertising school also unveils an online advertising school to enable more individuals to access quality training with just a click of a button irrespective of location.
Commenting on what inspired the establishment of the online school, Mbanefo explained that the initiative had been in the plan for years with the intent of connecting instructors or facilitators with global students but the spread of COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the process. He added that it is a video-on-demand platform where students log in after making payment and can continue to watch from anywhere, and can stop anytime whether due to lack of data or any other reason.
“The 02 Academy online school has two categories of certification. The Oxygen Brand Experience Certification Online is the one you get when you have covered all the courses online. The other certification which is the TBE regular is the one you get when you complete the entire course modules for the discipline you want to go for and has also attended the one-month compulsory on-site internship at the academy and has passed the 02 Academy final.
“The full 02 Academy Total Brand Experience Certification will be issued to the candidate upon his or her satisfactory performance in the exams,”Mbanefo explained.
Unlike many schools that pride themselves above others in education sector, O2 Academy sees itself as a collaborator in building the youth and giving them a secure future. “I don’t see competition, rather, I see collaboration because the biggest competition is collaboration. Interestingly, I see them as partners trying to achieve the same cause. We are on a mission to help more Nigerian youths become employable and employers of labour and so, we just need to look for ways to work together and that is what I am in for,” he said.
Through dint of hard work and tieless dedication, O2 Academy has been able to win aLoerieAward in South Africa. The school picked bronze award in the Student-Facebook Challenge Category at the #Leories2018 Awards in Durban, South Africa.
The work was created by the trio of Chimdi, Yemi and Alicia, all students of O2 Academy Lagos, and won based on the creativity of their work tagged “Give a Soap” which they crafted for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (IFRC) for their cholera campaign.
The awards were judged by over 170 regional and international industry leaders, including international jury presidents Fabian Frese, Ian Mackenzie, Nicolas Courant and Sebastian Padilla.
The Loeries is a proudly not-for-profit company that promotes and supports creativity by helping marketers, agencies and consumers appreciate the value of fresh thinking, innovative ideas and outstanding execution.
Mbanefo, in his comment,disclosed that the way the school won the award was simple. “What we did was, we got into the Loeries archive and downloaded over a thousand ads that had won awards from 2010 to 2019, about nearly 10 years. We got all the ads and started studying them and breaking them down. It took time but we triumphed eventually. I always say that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but see the person who has done it. Somebody said, ‘ride on the shoulder of the giant’,” he explained.
Mbanefodisclosed that one of the things we lack in the country is research. He explained that our research culture is very poor. “We donot check things out. There is nothing we want to do that somebody has not done. The helicopter was created through Dragon-fly and God created Dragon-fly and people got inspired with that. So, we just got the concept and looked at the local relevance and added the concept that we sent in. It was not just one ad- we put in about 15 and that one won. Telling our story with the glocalisation concept is very key,” he submitted.
Other accomplishments and quality
Recently, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON)accredited 02 Academy to function as an ARCON Examination Centre, thus making it the first advertising school to become an ARCON examination centre. This implies that Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria will award the Professional Diploma in Advertising (PDA) certificate to candidates after the PDA examination at 02 Academy.
Interestingly, ARCON Professional Diploma in Advertising (PDA) Certificate comes with three (3) benefits:
Any individual that earns this certificate will be recognised as ARCON Associate Member, recognised as an Advertising Practitioner in Nigeria and will have a corporate licence to practise advertising anywhere in Nigeria.
O2 Academy is also certified by Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), and for more than 15 years, it has been a training ground for people learning the rudiments of advertising, art direction, copywriting and digital marketing.
Some of the courses O2 Academy offers include Digital Marketing, Content And Copywriting, Art Direction, Strategic Planning, Filmmaking and Video Production and Corporate Communications.
Students at O2 Academy get to work on real-life briefs which help to prepare them for life outside the school and in the industry and help boost work confidence in them. This school does not take the teaching of the students with levity, and to achieve higher standards, the school authorities have top industry experts who instruct the students on certain industry know-how to aid work growth. This also affordsstudents opportunities for mentoring.
Future of O2 Academy
Certainly, O2 Academy is determined not to rest on its laurels in order to achieve greater heights. The school, with its visionary motivator, a teacher and mentor to hundreds of Nigerian youths, believes in creating ample opportunities for every willing heart not out of charity but because it is the common good. Mbanefo’s goal is that the lives of six million youths will be transformed in the country through the Oxygen platform, that is why he has, through the academy, created programmes aimed at impacting lives. His vision is to see the school transform into Academy of Arts University.