Boko Haram bomb attack in Kaduna
Raheem Akingbolu writes on the marketing communications terrain in the last six months, and how regulatory challenges and stifle outdoor practice
Marketing communications practitioners, like other Nigerians, entered year 2012 with a bang over the Federal Government pronouncement on the removal of oil subsidy, which threw all business owners into shock.
As an industry that thrives mostly on the business of clients, practitioners were confused as they were not sure of what would be the effect of the removal on their businesses.
Despite the consultation between labour leaders and government that made the latter shift ground, the first two months in the year still witnessed series of consultation and fresh strategies. However, following the readjustment, business picked up again and the rest became history.
Looking back on the impact of the development on advertising practice, the Managing Director of Noah’s Ark, Mr. Lanre Adisa, said the subsidy removal didn’t affect ad business negatively the way the global recession did few years ago. He however said six months may be too short to weigh the pros and cons of the new oil regime on their businesses.
“As things are, the situation is still something to be watched, we should not forget that Nigeria is a resilience economy, therefore practitioners should continue to be watchful and be on top of the game in their approach to briefs in a way that it would help their clients,” he said.
Insecurity in the North
From any angle one chooses to look at it, the entire business terrain in the Northern part of the country has appeared muddled in the last six months, and the most-hit has been the out-of-home practitioners who have since lost many sites to violence.
The problem has also caused some business owners to halt activities, which is daily taking its toll on all aspect of marketing communications, especially experiential, PR and the outdoor.
Worried over the development, the President of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), Mr. Charles Chijide, had in February called on the Federal Government and individuals in the country to quickly arrest the spate of insecurity in the country.
He told THISDAY that foreign investors and multinationals were reluctant to do business in the country as a result of insecurity, posed by the members of the dreaded Boko Haram group.
According to him, brand owners, whose outdoor materials were destroyed in some parts of the country, were living in fear and being careful about further investment in out-of-homes.
He said; “the spate of insecurity in the country are giving us concern, especially when we consider the huge investment that is eluding the country as a result of reluctance of business organisations. From our findings, we have realised that Nigeria will rake in billions of naira in 2012, if a conducive environment is provided for business”.
To this end, Chijide called on government, political and religious leaders to find a lasting solution to the menace, adding that business could only thrive in a peaceful environment.
The last six months also demonstrated that the Nigerian market has become a hub for global business activities. In the advertising sector, where there has been apprehension that entrant of foreigners might pose a serious threat to local practitioners, more foreign investors, including two global agencies, came within the period under review.
Five years after WPP-owned marketing research company, Millward Brown, first attempted to set up a full operational office in the country, the marketing communications company in February officially berthed on the nation’s marketing communications landscape.
At Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, where the agency’s Nigerian office was inaugurated, its promoters admitted that the market had a lot of offerings. Its Managing Director, Mr. Soumya Saklani, said the market was too big to be ignored by any focus organisation willing to explore Africa.
Barely three months after, world renowned advertising agency network, BBDO, also joined the list of world’s leading agencies that were keen about exploring the market.
Prior to the unveiling of the agency in Lagos, some creative effects were created as a build-up to herald the final arrival.
Aside words of mouth used to create awareness by patrons of BBDO, the new entrant displayed its readiness to capture the market through its association with Caesars Group, one of the most successful marketing networks in Nigeria with hands in advertising, Media buying and other legs of marketing.
In the last six months, there has been movement of accounts from one agency to the other.
For instance, CentrespreadFCB beat IMS Advertising Limited and Bate Cosse, owned by the former president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, Mr. Funmi Onabolu, to clinch Keystone Bank advertising account. The same agency also got part of Etisalat’s ad account from 141 Worldwide.
There was also the movement of the Media buying accounts of Coca Cola and Cadbury from Universal McCann to Starcom Media and Media Com respectively.
Also the multimillion naira PR account of Etisalat moved from Corporate and Financial to The Quadrant Company, while the Nigerian Breweries media buying was also consolidated in the hands of the managers of Starcom Media.
The Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), a statutory committee charged with the responsibility of advertisements to conform with the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice & Sales Promotion and Laws of the Federation, also wielded its big stick few months ago.
This, it did, by dragging six Advert Managers, one Managing Director, one Head of Communications, and one advertising practitioner to APIP for various offences of breaching the Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion Laws of the federation.
The Advertising Practitioners Investigating panel (APIP) is a statutory body charged with the duty of investigating professional misconduct in advertising practice in Nigeria.
In a statement from the Corporate Affairs Unit of APCON, the practitioners were said to have exposed advertisements without the approval by the statutory body; and thereby violated article 21 of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion.
The article states that: “All advertisements except those for public service announcement, goodwill messages, obituaries and vacancies shall be presented for vetting and approval by the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) before exposure.
“It is mandatory for all media houses to demand the ASP’s Certificate of Approval, which are issued for all approved advertisements before placing any such advertisements (details and modalities are available in the Vetting Guidelines published by the ASP)” the panel had stated.
One major challenge that has remained an albatross for ad practitioners is the problem of poor regulation. Over the years, the fallout of the complex regulatory system has created bottlenecks for all sectoral bodies.
However, while local agency owners are facing the challenge of not being properly protected by government, outdoor practitioners are daily contending with the problem of multiple taxation arising from the sudden interest of state governments in the affairs of the practitioners.
As at the last count, not less than seven states have set up parallel regulatory agencies, which are competing with local government and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON).
Lagos State government started about eight years ago when it established the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA), which almost threw out most practitioners out of the market.
Oyo and Kano States established similar agencies recently, promising that they were inaugurated to bring about standard. States like Kwara, Ekiti, Ondo and the FCT had also done so in the past years.
Oyo State House of Assembly in April passed the bill that established the Oyo State Signage and Advertisement Agency into law and from the day the bill was passed into law, it became an offence to practice outdoor advertising in Oyo State without being duly registered by the agency or comply by its lay down rule for practice.
After necessary framework and modus operandi, the newly-established agency commenced the demolition of dilapidated and broken-down billboards as well as removal of torn posters on major roads across Ibadan, the state capital.
Though, the man in charge of OYSAA, Mr. Yinka Adepoju, a former Vice President of OAAN, seems to be cautious about operation of the agency, but the next few months will show if he will protect the interest of his members or not.
The same quest to restructure and control the industry and its attendant challenges amongst states in the country has also led Kano to hire a Lagos firm, Chris Parkes Marketing Service (CPMS), owned by an expatriate, to manage the state’s Urban Planning & Development Authority.
Like the situation in Lagos under Mr. Makanjuola Alabi as LASAA boss, the Chris Parkes approach has begun to set tongues wagging because of what observers perceived as a fire-brigade approach.
In Kwara, members of the state Coalition of Business and Professional Associates (KWABPA) in May appealed to the state government to look into the operational workings of the state Signage and Advertisement Agency in order to boost business development in the state.
The spokesperson of the group, Mr. Dauda Adebayo spoke in Ilorin during the roundtable organised by the management of Jos Business School for the KWABPA and the State House of Assembly.
He said the way the agency was charging the business outfits in the state on the erection of signage on their business premises was greatly affecting the growth of business in the state.
As an experienced industry player, a former president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Mr. Kola Ayanwale, rated the last six months average in terms of marketing activities and patronage, but expressed hope that the next six months would be better.
“Sincerely speaking, to say the industry has not achieved anything in the last six months will be onslaught on the level of success that has been so far recorded by some agencies,” he said.
The top practitioner also stated that the recently inaugurated APCON Committee on Advertising Practice Reforms (ACAPR), which all sectoral bodies were said to have subscribed to would change the face of practice in the next six months.
Inaugurating the committee few months ago, the APCON Chairman, Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi, had enjoined the committee members chaired by Mr. Willy Nnorom to take a detailed look at its terms of reference which include: Review of current conditions for entry into the profession as they affect Nigerian and foreign practitioners and propose corrective measures where required.
The committee is also expected to ensure that local and foreign practitioners are properly registered with and certified by APCON before being allowed to practice in any advertising-related agency or company in Nigeria in line with the practice in other recognised professions.