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Ghana 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Torgbor Mensah, Executive Director of DDP Outdoor Ltd., on partnerships, client portfolio, and expansion on the continent.

Torgbor Mensah
BIOGRAPHY
Torgbor Mensah, is a graphic designer by profession and an entrepreneur with over 35 years experience in the advertising sector. He is executive chairman of The Great Argon Holdings, the largest Integrated Marketing Communications Group in Ghana. He has other business interests, such as digital printing and real estate and has won numerous accolades and recognition for his entrepreneurship.

How was DDP founded and how did it evolve into the largest player in the outdoor advertising market?

I started DDP 44 years ago. I was a young graphic designer having worked in advertising for a few years when a lot of people started giving me work for designing logos and school crests and I saw an opening. There was a need for an independent graphic design studio where people could advertise their brands. I started my small graphic design operation using my mother's table where she used to sell Gari (a local staple food), and by demonstrating what I could do, my clientele began expanding. Mr. David Wilshire from the UK approached with an opportunity to do a job for BAT, and things took off from there. Last year I invited Adenia Capital, a venture capital company, into my business, because we are the biggest advertising group in Ghana. We have eight advertising companies in various sectors in our group, with DDP being the first and the biggest. We already have offices in Senegal, Benin, Togo, and offices for others in DRC, as well as partners in Cameroon, Gabon, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

Why did you choose to invite partners into the company?

We need strong financial support in order to expand outdoor advertising across West Africa. We already have 2,000 billboard spaces in Ghana, and it is common in Africa for the business to die when the owner dies. In order to keep the business alive and expand our borders, I invited the capital group to come into DPP. As we are creating DDP International, we are starting offices in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon and we are starting by installing signs in Senegal. What we do is first class, using the same technology as seen in Dubai, Johannesburg or anywhere in the world.

How has your client base changed over the years?

I do not know of any fast-moving products firm that does not work with us, from Nestlé to Airtel. We deliver a service that is first class, and our prices are competitive. I believe in the Coca-Cola concept of selling a good product worldwide at a fair price. Coca-Cola is one of the most important drinks anywhere in the world, as it is one of the cheapest drinks to buy. This is the whole idea behind our company, to solidify the immediate association between outdoor advertising and DDP.

What is your market split in terms of large and small clients?

Luckily for us, it is the major players who always advertise big. If we work for MTN and provide 200 billboards, then Airtel want to outdo them and Vodafone will want to outdo Airtel. We also have food advertisers like Nestlé and Unilever, which want to be seen. They have been in the marketplace longer than the telecoms firms, which came in 10 years ago. Telecoms firms now control 60% of our market because everybody wants to communicate; they want to be everywhere, and the others cannot match them.

What are the main challenges to expanding regionally?

DDP is part of the Argon Group, which is our holding company. The companies in this group across Africa are specialized in media buying, and I use those companies in Senegal, Togo, Benin, and Côte d'Ivoire. We already have offices there that buy media for other companies to leverage, and we start there with DDP. We have to use the local people and give them shares so that it becomes a local business. We are all from West Africa, but we cannot go to Cameroon as a purely foreign company from Ghana, we have to use a Cameroonian partner to set up a company.

Nigeria is the biggest economy on the continent. Are you looking to enter that market?

We have been invited by two Nigerian companies, and one has offered for us to buy them outright. We are currently working all over West Africa, installing billboards in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Liberia. Companies can come to us with a West African campaign, and we have the capacity to implement it with 100 billboards, from Dakar to DRC. We are hoping to migrate signs as is done in the UK or the US. There is no single outdoor company in West Africa with that aim.

What are your long-term expansion ambitions?

We want to finish with our expansion in West Africa, as we do not need visas. We have available to us the West African regional bank, and it is easy to travel throughout the region. Traveling to Cameroon entails a more extensive visa process, so we want focus first on consolidating our business in West Africa. We already have links in Central Africa; we have offices in Chad, Cameroon, and DRC. We have experience establishing companies in DRC. It will be easy going there, as we have established ourselves.