Ayeni Adekunle | Innovator 25 EMEA 2021

Ayeni Adekunle

Founder & CEO

BlackHouse Media


If we want clients, and the world generally to take us seriously and continue to invest in us and what we do, then we must urgently innovate around everything we do."

In March this year, BlackHouse Media, founded by former journalist Ayeni Adekunle in Lagos in 2006, became an African trailblazer, as the first Nigerian PR agency to open in the UK, launching in London and Edinburgh under the name BHM Qomms with the aim of helping clients explore bilateral opportunities between the UK and Africa. Agency growth across Africa has typically been driven by affiliations and acquisitions by agency holding groups from Europe, the US and Asia, so Adekunle’s bold move is notable. He is also a force for good in the industry: in the past year he has created two global holidays meant to promote the understanding and importance of influence and PR: Global Day of Influence, which will be held annually on November 22, is his call to the PR industry and beyond to study, inspire and use influence for good, for example by breaking through disinformation and promoting leadership. And Global PR Day, which will be held on July 16, will be devoted to raising the profile of PR to avoid misunderstanding and misinformation.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
Less innovative.

Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative?

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Data, analytics and measurement. I'd also add team and account management, including work practices, as well as DE&I.

Who most influences how innovative a brand's engagement is? 

How do you define innovation?
Using new thinking, knowledge, ideas and tools to drive outcomes that solve small and big problems in smarter ways, save time, transform businesses and industries, or even create new ones.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Can't mention any without offending anyone. But I've seen plenty, especially from small brands and little agencies. And I love the ones that push the button of advocacy, sustainability, or just give voice and power to vulnerable, helpless people.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Coca Cola, Paystack, Innocent, Heineken, Emblue, Zebra Stripes, Wadds, Magna Carta, and many more.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
When we launched the first mobile PR application in Africa, and drove a campaign 'PR is Dead' to draw attention to new ideas and thinking in the industry.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Steve Jobs, John Ugbe, Steve Babaeko, Elon Musk, Paul Kagame, Shawn Carter, Scott Galloway.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Reading a book, a long-read article, taking a walk, or just sleeping.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
If we want clients, and the world generally to take us seriously and continue to invest in us and what we do, then we must urgently innovate around everything we do, from learning and development to reporting; and even our entire business models. The world is in trouble and we need to transform ourselves in order to demonstrate that we are exactly what the doctor recommended.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I'd be writing and teaching. Or working as a music journalist.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
The series Breaking Bad was the drug I didn't think I needed. And the book, Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity, which was a gift from Stephen Waddington, opened my eyes to a lot of things.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
Early morning between 5am and 8am. Emails are quiet, there are no meetings, and my brain is on fire.