Osibo Imhoitsike: Different is good

It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.

Canadian advertising, please say hello to Osibo Imhoitsike, group account director at One Twenty Three West. While studying economics at university, Osibo was intrigued enough by his marketing modules to begin a career in marketing, starting with client-side roles in Nigeria in 2006. But he gave in to the adrenaline rush of agency life in 2008, and hasn’t looked back.

Does he have BIPOC role models? Yes. He loves working with Mooren (Mo) Bofill at One Twenty Three West. “I not only get inspired by her approach to work, but I also truly appreciate her commitment to diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the lens,” he says.

For Osibo, the thrill of seeing campaigns go live never gets old. But he also loves those times where clients can directly link the work to their business growth, especially when it happens with smaller businesses. “At the end of the day, that’s why we do what we do,” he says.

When dealing with bias, microaggressions or plain racism, Osibo draws on a range of responses, from simple conversations, to helping people understand unconscious bias, to a good old-fashioned calling out. “There’s a lot of discernment required in picking the right response,” he says. “And now with maturity, I tend to see things a bit clearer.”

Osibo wants to see an intentional approach to correcting the imbalances that exist in all verticals—creative, strategy, account services—at all levels. He recalls Director X saying that representation isn’t just having BIPOC creatives creating great content, but also having them present when business decisions are made. It struck a chord for Osibo.

Audiences are vastly more diverse than the industry attempting to influence their behaviour, and having more BIPOC voices in the room is the only way to keep our messaging relevant, Osibo says.

Because he sees their struggles, and is a relatively recent immigrant himself, Osibo is making himself visible so immigrants and Black talent can see that there is a way into the industry. Osibo wants to be a voice that keeps Black experiences and realities in the conversation when engaging and mentoring younger talent.

He’s also quite keen on STEM Education for kids, and supports a friend who is doing great work across Africa with an initiative called StemCafe.

His advice for young Black talent is to acknowledge that their different perspectives and experiences are valid. “Own your difference… use it to stand out, because advertising needs that POV. Different is good,” he says.

For work he loves, Osibo shares 123w’s campaign for Real Canadian Superstore, because it celebrates and welcomes diversity and that resonates for him personally. And, from his previous role in Nigeria, he shares his Proudly Made in Aba Campaign, because it drove awareness and investment in Aba, and shows how advertising has a real impact on people’s lives.

Gavin Barrett