To Live With Lynda, Or Not?

My opinion about a certain advertising blogger (@Livewithlynda on Instagram). She curates and reviews ads and seems to annoy some people in the advertising industry.

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One wonders if there isn’t something about people named Linda/Lynda that draws them to equal part media career and media controversies. Or merely knowing two namesakes in the Nigerian media space is not enough to come to that conclusion. There’s the famous Linda Ikeji, blogging-powerhouse; loved and loathed, depending on who’s judging. And there’s the Lynda, somewhat an incarnation of the former, that peddles her trade in curating and reviewing creative marketing content, especially adverts. She’s a more recent phenomenon in the Nigerian marketing and media space and so far, seems to irk a section of her audience. I know this because I work in an industry that directly provides the fodder for her reviews and as indifferent as I may seem when her name filters into office chit-chats, I sometimes pay attention. Safe to say, at the mention of her name, every Nigerian advert must bow, and every irritated advertising talent must confess that Lynda is at it again! This hysteric, like what her more famous namesake is used to, sometimes reach fever-pitch levels that some would wish that a form of retribution from a Thanos of Advertising will visit her and obliterate her and her platform. Schadenfreude has always been a human dish.

Quick caveats. Firstly, this article, undeniably, will read like a defence of her platform and an affront to those whose ego and creativity has been goaded by her methods. I can only hope they suspend their already-formed biases and hear me out. Secondly, I’m quick to admit that I personally find some of her methods displeasing and low-key, selfishly, wish that she elevates her content to a high culture standard of media aesthetics. But that may be asking for too much. And yes, as far as knowing-your-audience is concerned, Lynda knows how to serve the dinner in such format where content and captions are generated for hysterical engagements and sometimes arousing indignation. It nods to the new age journalism style of arousing cynicism, optimising irritation, and amplifying tension to guarantee clicks and shareability. The jury is out on whether this tactic will build a cult-following.

The most significant criticism of her platform is one that questions her “authority” simply because she’s considered an outsider. I don’t know the extent of her connection with the advertising industry. Maybe she currently works in an ad agency. Maybe she’s a former ad agency employee. Or just an advertising enthusiast who, by fate, stumbled on a blogging niche.

The argument of being an outsider offends the senses and seems misdirected. It implies that only industry folks can review and curate content from (and for) an industry that typically and quite ironically creates content for public consumption. It stands to reason that an industry with such inherent capacity to influence purchase decisions and shape cultural narratives deserves gatekeepers. Whoever has so elected to be the gatekeeper should be encouraged rather than disparaged. We may fault her method, but I see no wrong in her existence. There’s a difference between wishing that she does her reviews at a certain standard and questioning her authority based on membership or connection to the industry. To trivialize or be affronted at the existence of her platform is to interfere fundamentally with someone’s freedom of expression.

There are only a few domains where it’s somewhat risky to give non-practitioners access to express technical views on industry-specific output. I speak of Medicine, Pharmacy and the likes. Even the exclusivities of these domains may still be scrutinized by non-practitioners for social benefits or if their operations threaten social orderliness.

On the one hand, this reminds one of how some people angrily responded to the success of Toke Makinwa’s book. For them, it was profane that a supposed sensational book by a mainstream celebrity would rank favorably than “serious” book on the best-sellers list. The same way it offends some “intelligent” people that films of a certain slobby standard enjoy widespread patronage (and profit) than film of a certain elevated aesthetics. We can’t legislate these things. If we must critique them, let’s do so with a measure of honesty that primes them towards improvement. And as an industry (and society), there’s always the open option to provide alternative platforms if we are discomfited by how our arts and content are being handled by certain curators or creators. Maybe then, the alternative can become the new standard, and then everyone and the society wins. After all, healthy competition is a necessity of capitalism. However, this may sound like being politically correct, I’m not a supporter of gagging creative expressions or public opinions merely because they fail some supposed “intelligent” stress-test. For every Tyler Perry, there’s a Spike Lee. The arc of progress (and criticism) should tilt towards standards.

I’m willing to bet on the fact that if the industry maintains a protectionist view, denigrating outsiders, this could be another Linda Ikeji’s case where some mainstream journalists and public relations experts, feeling entitled, being arrogant, sensing that their exclusive club is under attack by an intruder, intensely obsessed with her alleged crimes of plagiarism that they were distracted from noticing the weight of transformation that was happening to the media landscape. Linda Ikeji was a necessary and symbolic symptom (probably at a deserved personal cost to her) to everything we now know as digital publishing in Nigeria. In this vein, Lynda the advertising blogger is not necessarily a threat to the creative talents getting angry over reviews but a worthy competition to a space where the likes of Brand Communicator thrive. It’s only a matter of time — if she’s media and business savvy, and with Providence on her side, that advertisers will start ranking her higher for public relations and sponsorship purposes and start attracting promotional budgets her way. Even so, if she’s a good spin doctor, she can control narratives and make her detractors look like jealous noobs.

Here’s my charge to Lynda. In growing the niche she’s carved for herself and serving her followership, she should operate with a degree of elegant and moral obligation to review and curate with factual reporting and depth. It would be a service to her primary audience and a worthy contribution to the marketing industry. And, I suppose, given the criticism from some corners, she should be aware that her audience includes advertising and marketing nerds that are used to getting chops from Adweek, Adstasher, Creativity-online, Adteachings, Lürzer’s Archive, Brand Communicator, MarketingEdge etc. etc., which, I believe, have conditioned them to filter content with a certain “qualitative” expectation. It might help to see more nuanced reviews, proper creative and production citations, latest works, and in general, cleverly packaged content that confirms the platform’s knowledge of the marketing and new media landscape. (As a creative with a love for entrepreneurship, I look forward to seeing how she will capitalize on her equities and influence to create a successful media empire. Of course, within ethical boundaries).

Let’s only hope that in talking about these things, stakeholders with good intentions across the value chain of Nigerian’s marketing landscape will invest their time and energy to elevate the industry.

Chris Ogunlowo
November, 2019.
(This was first published by MarketingEdge Magazine)

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