Steve Babaeko has been featured on Adweek's list of the 13 global creative leaders in 2019.
He is the only Nigerian on this exclusive list of international icons, which honours people "whose ideas are advancing advertising worldwide."
Meet Steve Babaeko
He is the CEO and COO of an ad agency called X3M Ideas (X3M is pronounced ‘extreme) which he started in August 2012 after working in the industry for over two decades.
Seven years later, it has turned into one of the biggest agencies in the continent. The agency now caters to the needs of some of Africa's biggest brands including telecommunications giant Globacom Limited, Dangote and Multichoice.
The agency's latest work is the World Cup campaign for Go. "Go is an African telecommunications brand. We told the story of African participation in the last World Cup using iconic African football players from the past," he said.
Babaeko's agency has since ventured outside the country by expanding to Lusaka, Zambia; Accra, Ghana; and Johannesburg, South Africa, and South Central Africa.
Explainging his decision, he told Business Day: "The continent is not going to grow unless we take our destinies into our own hands and shatter those barriers to be able to trade with each other, create values and reduce poverty."
"I think if we have more money, these are the big ideas we have for the continent. If this continent takes its true seat in the comity of continents, you even find more people travelling and coming to display their skills and helping us to develop the continent. But we have to be drivers of our own destinies," he added.
Babaeko's global achievements
He was recently chosen as one of the jury members of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which will be held from June 17 - June 21, 2019. This is a huge deal considering he is probably the first Nigerian agency head to sit on this panel.
Reacting to the news, he said, "I am really excited to be going to Cannes this year. I am going to be on the panel that will be talking about the authentic African story. It is something I am excited about. I don't know how many Nigeria CEOs that have had the opportunity to be speaking at that level. As usual, I will be flying the flag of Nigeria that you see in many works."
Prior to this, he was a jury member of the world’s oldest advertising festival, the New York Advertising Festival in 2018. He has been invited back this year.
The agency head has also won several local and international awards including the Marketing World Awards and various categories at the Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival.
Babaeko on Nigeria's advertising industry
He has expressed his faith in this country saying, "Nigeria is the next big thing to happen on the continent as far as advertising is concerned. At the Cristal award, where I had the privilege of being a judge, Nigerians did well. A Nigerian agency won a top prize and X3M Ideas (his firm) won 17 or 20 awards there."
His advice for aspiring creatives is to "Check your ego at the door. If you don't, it will be crushed sooner or later."
He also encourages agencies to think global.
In his words, "Any part of the world where you are, you are global. In that digital space where you put your ideas, everybody will see what you are doing. This is why I can be here and the New York Advertising Festival, which is probably one of the oldest advertising festivals in the world, will call me or any other Nigerian to be a judge. All they need to do is to Google top advertising or creative agencies in Nigeria and names will pop up. If you are doing the right thing, there is nowhere you can hide. The world will see you."
Apart from running X3M Ideas, he is also the founder/CEO of X3M Music and the Vice President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN).
He is also an associate member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), and the Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF).