Mr. ‘Lolu Akinwunmi, Chairman, APCON
By Lolu Akinwumi
Advertising continues to play major local and global roles in determining choices for consumers from what soap to use, what cars to ride, what countries to visit, what airlines to fly, and lately as we all saw during our national elections and the just concluded American elections, who will govern us. The profession continues to mold perceptions and help offer choices.
According to Acts 55 of 1988 setting up APCON, the Council is mandated to perform the following responsibilities: Determine who are advertising practitioners; determine the standards of knowledge and skills to be attained by persons seeking to become registered as members of the advertising profession and reviewing those standards from time to time and secure in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the establishment and maintenance of a register of persons entitled to practice as advertising practitioners and the publication, from time to time, of lists of those persons;
Other functions are; Regulate and control the practice of advertising in all its aspects and ramifications; conduct examinations in the profession and award certificates or diplomas to successful candidates as and when appropriate and for such purpose and perform the other functions conferred on this Council by this Act.
The Council has over the last two years worked to fulfill this mandate. If you permit me, I will like to mention a few of the activities of the Council during the period:
The Council successfully implemented the 5th Code Review following an industry-wide consultation through the APCON Committee on Advertising Practice Reforms (ACAPR). The implementation will commence from January 1, 2013.
One of the mandates of the Council is to regulate and approve the various syllabuses and standards for the practice within higher institutions, which award diplomas and degrees. During the period, we accredited ten institutions of higher learning including the Pan African University/Lagos Business School. We also organised various stakeholders' seminars/workshops and three executive programmes.
Apart from the fresh inductees today, we have added nearly 500 newmembers through students’ registration, nearly 800 Associate Members, 60 upgrades from Associate to Full Membership and 11Fellowship Awards. We also worked with the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria on streamlining membership registration.
Advertising Standards Panel
Vetting and approval of advertising materials is one of the core responsibilities of the Council through the ASP. During the period, vetting application rose by over 55%, and compliance level by over 70per cent. I am happy to report that even the various national political parties send their materials in for vetting.
NAFDAC-APCON Enforcement Collaboration
One of the biggest challenges we have is the spurious exposure of uncensored tradomedical advertisements promising unsubstantiated reliefs for various ailments and diseases. During the period, we commenced discussions with NAFDAC for a collaborative relationship, which will soon ensure that all tradomedical advertising materials are simultaneously vetted by the two bodies. In this regard, we will like to appeal to the Hon Minister of Information to help us facilitate this process by soliciting the support of the Hon Minister of Health, so that the joint venture can be put in place within the shortest possible time.
We have continued to work very closely with the Consumer Protection Council in ensuring that sales promotions are honest, are not abused, and deliver all the promises to the consumer.
Again, we also went into a partnership agreement with the International Centre for Alcoholic Policy (ICAP), Washington, USA for the effective management of communication materials on alcohol beverage. Through this channel, APCON and the beer sectorial group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria successfully hosted the first international seminar and conference two months ago, which involved delegates from many parts of Africa. The Beer Sectorial Group of MAN also sought our assistance and support for the provision of technical support for the setting up of it Self Regulatory (SR) Secretariat. APCON intends to soon hold a similar summit with the telecoms operators and other stakeholders within the industry to review overall communication and especially tactical campaigns and promotions.
APCON also initiated and hosted various media and brand journalist fora as well as an interactive session with the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks, ACAMB, with a view to updating them on the expectations and responsibilities of APCON.
We had a joint intervention through an Outdoor Forum involving the OAAN and other regulators and stakeholders. Following the summit, the Council formally met the Lagos State government to solicit its support through LASAA so that the practice can operate with minimum casualty. I am happy to report that the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, on behalf of the State Governor, and the MD of LASAA were very warmly receptive of the APCON and OAAN teams and the requests we presented.
In 2011, APCON was invited by the Ghana Advertising Association (GAA) to advise and help them set up their own regulatory body. During the trip, we had an opportunity to meet and present to the members of the Ghanaian parliament with oversight function for communication, as well as a large group of Ghanaian practitioners. The process is in progress.
Support for Government Policies and Activities
APCON also continues to actively interact with the office of the Hon Minister of Information, offering the support of Council and our members for government policies and activities. We are happy to report that the relationship with the office of the Hon Minister is very cordial, and use this opportunity to thank him for his support for APCON.
With effect from January 2013, APCON will be implementing the new 5thCode of Advertising Practice, Sales Promotion and Other Rights/Restrictions on Practice which mandates all practitioners, be they Nigerian or foreign to comply with specific requirements. The Council has embarked on a series of sensitisation and consultation meetings with all sectorial groups and stakeholders so that the takeoff will be effective. I also want to use this opportunity to thank the Hon Minister for helping to facilitate the police support for effective monitoring and implementation. Let me also thank the national assembly members who have the oversight function for APCON for your immense support, especially when the registrar and I visited the National Assembly. We will continue to count on this support from the Hon Minister and the members of the National Assembly so that APCON can continue to function effectively.
Expectation from foreign agencies
Let me in particular use this opportunity to ask for the support of foreign agencies and practitioners that need to operate in Nigeria. Prior to now, such agencies and individuals were largely unregulated, believing that for as long as they registered their agencies with the Corporate Affairs Commission, this was enough to make them practise. Just as is done in many parts of the world, even after doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, engineers register their companies or obtain visas, they still need to submit themselves for professional accreditation before they practise. In line with the government regulations through APCON, it has become necessary for Nigerian and foreign practitioners to submit themselves to appropriate vetting and control just as is done in many countries and professions.
Let me reiterate that as part of government, APCON fully supports foreign investments and welcomes qualified practitioners from other parts of the world. However, also in line with government’s policy, APCON is also committed to ensuring that through best practices the interests of Nigerians are protected by the quality and content of advertising messages that consumers are exposed to. APCON will also ensure that in line with local content policy, jobs that Nigerians have the capacity to do are not given away to foreign practitioners. Where the skill is not locally available, APCON will want such foreign agencies to demonstrate proof that they are interested in and committed to quick skills transfer to Nigerians.
Expectation from Government
I will also like to use this opportunity to convey Nigerian practitioners’ worries to government. Because the government is a signatory to many international protocols, many aspects of businesses have been thrown open such that investing foreigners can own these businesses 100per cent or own controlling interests in them. While we are supportive of this in many areas, we strongly feel that government should take a serious look at the issue of foreigners owning controlling interests in communications and media related businesses like print and electronic houses, outdoor and advertising and related businesses.
We feel concerned that the issue of public communication has very serious cultural and security implications and the control of the channels should be of serious interest to government. We want to add that whoever controls the channels of communication for broadcast, print, advertising etc., will control what messages Nigerians and foreigners living in Nigeria receive. We are persuaded that at this point of our development, such sensitive issues should not be allowed in the hands of foreigners.
We do not believe any foreigner can communicate better or in more public interest than any Nigerian. We therefore appeal to government and the members of the national assembly to consider an urgent review of the the law as it affects this very sensitive area and effect the necessary amendments such that foreigners will not control the channels of communication in Nigeria.
*Excerpt from Mr. ‘Lolu Akinwunmi, frpa, Chairman Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON)’s paper at the 2012 Fellows Night of the council recently.