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Opinions Fri, 22 Apr 2016

Standing up for Jake : Ghana’s quintessential advertising man

These were the early 90s. Our country had started to show signs of recovery under Rawlings’ Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).

There were not too many job openings then, but one could feel a certain buzz in the economy. The media industry for which I had been trained was enjoying unprecedented freedoms. It seemed only a question of time before one could find a job in the sector.

Then armed with a complimentary card endorsed by the renowned Prof. P.A.V. Ansah and addressed to a certain Kweku Mensah Bonsu, I found myself in the reception of the Ad. Agency called Lintas. It was a rainy July morning and I was dripping wet from slushing through the rain without an umbrella; hardly the image to cut if you wanted a job in the country’s Number One PR and Advertising firm.

Welcome to Lintas, the centre of excellence in advertising in Ghana! And thus began nine of my most eventful and life changing years of working with the man we simply called Jake.

As we made the usual familiarisation rounds of the Agency and its different departments, there was one very unique personality who stood apart from the rest of the directors. He would daily thunder up and down the narrow, winding steel staircase that led to his office and the creative departments upstairs. No one needed to tell us Jake was the man in charge here. His sheer size and presence said it all.

Meeting Jake

Our first direct meeting with the agency head is still fresh in my mind. Four of us internees (including Barbara Davies, Likem Senaya, and George Sagoe) had assembled around the desk of Betty, his Personal Assistant. We were ushered into the rather large office of big man Jake. Everything was large here: The executive desk behind which the man sat; the man himself, beefy and broad-shouldered with an equally large extended hand which completely made nonsense of my own skinny paw as he rose and shook our hands in turns.

In clipped Queen’s English he said brightly “Good Morning my friends. Call me Jake. Welcome to Lintas. Please sit down,” he ushered us into the chairs opposite and without ceremony, gave us the good news.

We had a job! I had a job! Just like Joyce Brandful, Dan Quaye, Dan Kermah, Sackey Sowah, Peter Agbeko, Gerry van Dyck all of whom were already in full flight as advertising and research executives in the agency. And also like Charles Vandyke, Ivan Quashigah, Chris Omaboe, Walter Djokoto, Don Obilor, Helen Selby, Albert Coffie, Black Coffee, Collin Charles, Eric Kwakye and many more in the “Class of the 90s” who later joined our ranks.

This is how Jake threw each one of us a lifeline – drivers, cleaners, secretaries, researchers, writers, designers, accountants, media planners, account managers, producers … not to mention the endless chain of third party suppliers and service providers who daily trooped in and out the Ad-vantage group under the stewardship of Jake.

Dedication to duty

Jake was the consummate, quintessential advertising man. He had a knack for inspiring great ideas that entertained as well as motivated millions of Ghanaians to patronise the goods and services that made them feel good – Star beer, Gulder, Guinness, Frytol, Key soap, Lux, Sunlight, Royco, BMW, Honda, Shell, Secure, Protector … And how did he manage to do it?

Jake had little patience for indolence and trashy work.

He would huff and puff in holy rage over any form of sloppiness that threatened the bottom line or the client relationships. For all of the years that many of us had the privilege to work for him Jake was Lintas and Lintas was Jake. You could never have seen the difference.

In our mandatory Monday status meetings, I clearly recall one-liners such as: “Please give me a good reason why you chose a certain line of action; “Promise less to the client, deliver more”; “Our agency is as strong as its weakest link”; “Lying and falsehood never works in advertising”; “Spend the Client’s money as if it was your own money ”. “Immerse yourself in the Client’s business”; “The best loyalty you can demonstrate to the client is to patronise their brands”.

What you earned from Jake was much more than a pay cheque. He was simply a joy to work with and to work for. He had no problem squeezing his big frame into your small second hand car to go for lunch anywhere. He gave you the big stage to play your act. And once you earned his trust, Jake’s hands were off you. His only bother being as always: “has the client paid up yet?”

You prepared our minds so well before your ultimate journey.

Only two years ago at the funeral of one of our fallen colleagues, you sold us an idea. You thought it would be great to organise a reunion of all the old hands of Lintas in your house during the New Year of 2015. In the spirit of oneness and ever, the boss who kept open house, this reunion actually happened. It has only now dawned on many of us that you were merely saying goodbye for the last time to the people you so loved!

Prank

And many months before it happened, you also unwittingly let off a panic rumour via social media to the effect that you had passed on. Of course, you were still very much alive and well! But it was such a well-timed prank!

So as you can see, rather than shed tears of shock and of loss, we have elected to celebrate your life, a life which you generously shared across your work as the best advertising man Ghana has seen in our generation. You taught us the timeless values of teamwork, hard work, excellence, ethical behaviour and service to Ghana. Our duty is to uphold these values in our work, in our lives and in our families.

Thank You Jake, Till We Meet Again. RIP.
Columnist: Emmanuel K Mwinila-Yuori