Raheem Akingbolu writes about the challenges of local advertising agencies in global networking, affiliations and operations
The current economy situation in the world places Africa and Middle East markets at advantage positions as a result of the saturated status of Europe, United States, Asia and other advanced markets.
But Nigeria seems to enjoy more patronage than any of African and the Middle East markets for a number of reasons.
Asides population, which makes it the biggest mass market, easy entrance has continued to attract more patrons. This is in contrast to the situation in the Middle East and a few African countries that are highly regulated.
However, the nation’s free enterprise policy is becoming a burden to the advertising industry with the fear that unbridled incursion of foreign practitioners could cripple the industry.
After years of endurance, the recent development may be the last straw that would break the camel’s back.
According to THISDAY findings, Nigerian agencies within the fold of WPP and another network may soon lose their international affiliations because the partners are looking at the possibility of operating directly in the market.
If this happens, top agencies like Insight, Prima Garnet Ogilvy, Bates Cosse, LTC/JWT, and STB McCann may be affected.
In a similar circumstance, Quest Publicis, a sister company to SO & U Saatchi & Saatchi early this year changed its name to Quest Advertising Limited after losing its affiliation with the Publicis Network.
In a related development, STB McCann recently left a bigger office in Yaba to a smaller one in Opebi area of Lagos, while another upcoming agency, ZK Advertising, had to change its name to Yellow Brick, the moment it lost the Zain (Airtel) account to a foreign network. The two agencies, like many others, are said to be facing difficult times.
Meanwhile, two renowned advertising networks, BBDO and Millward Brown, have so far, inaugurated their offices in the Nigerian market this year. This is apart from scores of foreign individual practitioners that have since infiltrated the market.
While BBDO is said to be the world's most awarded agency, Millward, an agency that had been handling briefs in Nigeria by proxy for about five years before coming fully, is owned by WPP.
In line with this trend, a source in the industry recently revealed that a former President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) is currently working with some group of foreigners to bring in another popular agency from Kenya.
Free Enterprise Status
“If the global networks succeed in severing relationship with Nigerian agencies, what will then be the hope of Nigerian practitioners, especially upcoming ones?” asked the Managing Director of Absolute PR, Mr. Ekine Akonte.
The PR practitioner, who cut his teeth in DDB and other top agencies, told THISDAY that agencies in affiliations enjoy the advantage of both local market understanding and global practice, which together are necessary in today’s market.
He said, “Beyond the Marketing Communications Industry, it is a known fact that there is global attention in Nigeria market but I still believe that an average international organisation will need the support of the local operators to understand and explore the market fully. As a result of this, affiliation will continue to thrive alongside standalone local agencies that have deep understanding of both global and local practice”.
However, if there is anything worrying some stakeholders for now, it is what looks like a gross violation of advertising practice law in the country by foreigners.
According to findings, a few expatriates, who are practicing today, entered Nigeria with visiting visa, without the registration by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), but are now handling briefs for multinationals.
It is also believed in some quarters that the window of opportunities being offered occasionally by APCON are being abused by some top local and international practitioners, who hide behind their executive class to register without any rigorous training or examination.
A chieftain of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), who is also the Vice Chairman, Advertising Standard Panel, Mr. Tunde Thanni, has said the coming into the market by international agencies is in tandem with Nigeria’s free enterprise decree.
According to him, “What I can say straight away is that our constitution favours free enterprise, which makes it easy for any agency or individual abroad that has the necessary entry requirement to enter. But the truth is that is now left for various industries to regulate practice to enhance standard and promote economy.
"The case of Ghana is a good example, it allows free enterprise but the regulation is handled in such a way that one cannot just place ad in the media without passing through the registered agencies,” he added.
Thanni, who dismissed the fact that APCON’s window of opportunity is being abused, said the council is doing a lot through its Committee on Advertising Practice Reform to look deeply at the guidelines for foreign agencies to enter the market.
As at the time of filing in this report, findings from two Lagos leading agencies revealed that pressure is being mounted on them to let go majority of their share.
A Client Service Manager in one of the agencies, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his agency’s network is demanding for 60 per cent of the equity, which is far above the initial 25 per cent.
He said; “As I speak, if nothing is done urgently to protect local agencies, the first seven leading agencies in Nigeria may be taken over between now and next year. By the time a foreign partner has 60 per cent controlling share, it will be able to appoint the MD and other management team. Under such arrangement, former owners will either be paid off or be left hanging,”
If the picture being painted by this practitioner is anything to go by, the new agencies will easily grab the multinational accounts and leave Nigerians to feed on the accounts of a few banks and local brands with lean budgets.
Reacting to the development, the Head of Department of Mass Communication in the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Lagos, Mr. Jide Johnson, observed that the aftermath of the development might be too complex for APCON and its sectoral bodies to handle.
According to him, “Though I don’t totally agree that the networks could envisage taking over the business from their local affiliates but if eventually they do, I think it is going to raise some issues.
"One, if foreigners form the management of, let’s say 70 per cent of top agencies, how prepared is AAAN to admit foreigners? If that is solved, will they be allowed to occupy the association’s seats in APCON?
"Again, if this is solved, then what policy will they (the expatriates) be advocating on the board of APCON. These and many other will need to be deliberated upon in the days to come,” Johnson added.
To this end, the advertising teacher urged Federal Government to strengthen the regulation of the industry, adding that the situation could kill the push for local content in communications and campaigns.
Pointing out that foreign practitioner cannot just come to countries like Malaysia, Brazil or even Ghana to open advertising shop, he said there was a need for local practitioners to re-oil their creative mechanism to be able to compete well on the global stage.
A former AAAN President, Mr. Kola Ayanwale, lamented in a recent interview with THISDAY that the advertising industry was facing some challenges as a result of weak regulation.
He said “We are yet to get to the promised land as a result of few hitches but I am optimistic that things would still be alright. A major problem that we face is that of regulation.
"Brazil's advertising is thriving now, not because they are magicians but because they are supported by their government by law, and their incomes are guaranteed by law. And there are certain things you cannot do by law in Brazil. Hence in terms of power of advertising, and in terms of great work, Brazil is beginning to take over from UK, and US.
“I know that APCON is working on what it calls ACAPR (APCON Committee on Advertising Practice Reform), right now. My prayer and hope is that by the time ACAPR is tried as an APCON decree, a few of our practices will be regulated well.
“Let come down to West Africa, we all know what happens in Ghana and some other places. You cannot walk into any media house in Ghana and say you want to place an advert; they will refer you back to the agency that created that ad. But here, it is a different kettle of fish altogether. Even the provision of APCON decree is being manipulated.
“People now resort to hiring or recruiting media people and house them in their companies. If we have effective regulation in our industry, it will help immensely. The other point that is hindering the industry is cash; there is absolutely no enough cash to run the business.” he stated.
Caption: Mr Otis Ojeikhoa
'Insecurity Affects Growth of Experiential Marketing in Nigeria'
Managing Director of Footprint Communications, Mr. Otis Ojeikhoa spoke to Raheem Akingbolu on increasing patronage of experiential solution in today’s market
Focus on Experiential Solution
In every life endeavour, there is always what we call evolution, which revolves around a particular time, when an individual or group takes a particular step in achieving a positive development.
Experiential is not all that new in the Nigerian marketing communication landscape, except that it has been redefined in recent time, with more understanding and more professionals, who are ready to handle things differently to add value to what their clients bring into the table.
In those days, there is direct mailing which is a leg of experiential marketing. These days, consumers have become more sophisticated and segmented, which tend to make business owners appreciate the need to approach the market through various approaches, depending on which class of the market one is targeting.
To me, experiential is an offshoot of advertising, which also tries to create awareness for brand and appeal to consciousness of consumers.
Role in Positioning Strategy
Like I said, primarily, experiential create awareness but beyond that it create a bond between consumers and brands. All marketing solutions do different things; if for instance, a business owner intend to reach let’s say thirty million consumers in a day, experiential may not be the tool to achieve that but Radio, Television and newspaper ad may solve the problem.
But if the target is to communicate a brand’s message to a particular set of people or area, then you turn towards experiential means. In short, experiential makes it easy for consumers to interact with brand or have firsthand experience about it.
Experiential marketing is the only true marketing tool that can answer all the brand questions. It may not be all of them at the same cost, but it will basically tick all the boxes. Experiential marketing is experience of the brand. It is marketing by lifestyle and marketing to the consumer by experience.
A lot of brands that use experiential marketing to sell their brands give the consumers the opportunity to understand their brand more. Experiential marketing is selling the brand using human experience of response, sense of sight, smell and taste and hearing to drive the brand messages.
Consumers cannot interrogate other messages but they can engage with experiential communication and get the feedback which enhances their propensity to buy if they understand. Experiential marketing is basically marketing a brand by driving understanding of the product through human senses.
Challenge of Competition
Competition is an aspect of life that tells a man or an organisation that there are other names in the market place that are doing what you are doing. In business, you cannot possibly do without competition because with it you are permanently on your toes, thinking of how best to solve a problem and be unique.
One of the advantages of competition is that it makes you think differently, it makes one to be innovative and it makes one to be creative. In our industry especially, where there is little or no entry barrier, one has to be on top of the game to have competitive advantage.
Here, someone can wake up tomorrow and carry a laptop and say he has started offering experiential services. In this type of market the best approach is to daily be involving ideas, which I can say has been our core strength in the market.
Personally, I often restrict myself from talking about my clients but to answer the question we have embarked on many mouth-watering events, which have positively impacted on our clients.
Let me give an example. There was a time a client, who thought a particular product was not doing well and approached us to endear it to the market. The brief was to speak to about 30,000 consumers and engage each one of them in discussion about the brand for three or five minutes.
In a short time, we grew beyond the target and later sent sms to those we interacted with to get their feedbacks. Our expectation was that a few people would react but we were surprised to receive calls and sms messages from several consumers, who passionately expressed their feelings toward the brand.
At the end, the brand in question became accepted in the whole of Lagos. With the initiative, we shored up its market share from zero level to between 30 to 40 per cent of the total share in the segment.
Hitches in the Industry
One, there is general challenge, which all the players in the marketing communication industry are daily contending with. There is infrastructure problem and shrinking in marketing budgets of many companies, which has reduced billings on the general outlook.
In our own industry, the major one at the moment is the insecurity in the North, which has made experiential marketing difficult to explore in that region. There is constant fear of the possibility of attack of both the field workers and ad-hoc staff on parade. As a result of this, we are suffering in silence and daily losing millions of naira.
Like I said at the beginning, the entry level to the market is low and that makes it open to all sorts of entrants both trained and untrained. Individual practice therefore reflects the standard of the operator.
You have a mix of those who are experienced in marketing communication and above the line agencies who are experienced. But where you have untrained experience, the standard will be a challenge but not to say that it is declining. It is a growing business.
Measuring Experiential Solution
From every brief or work that comes your way, the client has some objectives; therefore, experiential marketing is measured by the level of achievement against what was set as objective at the beginning of your activation.
For example – a client’s set objective in market activation is to sample one million people and the experiential marketer should spend at least 2-3 minutes with each person and get feedback from such a consumer.
If at the end of the activation, I am not able to either sample one million or spend 2-3 minutes with each person educating the consumer on what the brand is all about, then I have not achieved my objective. Another client objective could be to communicate with the consumer, who must buy and if you speak to 10, the client wants to get 50 per cent conversion of sales.
If at the end of activity, you get 20 per cent conversion, you cannot say you have achieved the result. Objectives should be set at the beginning and at the end you measure the result versus the target. I had a client who said it is concerned about moving unaided (spontaneous awareness) from 35 to 50 per cent.
This can be done through research. For you to achieve this, you as an experiential marketer must do certain things that will make the consumer not to forget the brand easily. Brand managers have different objectives.
Again, like I said earlier, it is part of advertising; the only different is that in our sub-sector, you are selling the brand using sense of sight and other senses. You need to understand the way the consumer behaves or respond to a particular message. Your level of acceptability for one message will be challenged depending on space and time.
Experiential marketing has always been done in FMCG, one would have expected, for instance people in the public service to be deploring it as well.
Without any contradiction, I can assure you that it goes beyond the MMCG. Some experiential marketers have clients in government and other sectors. Experiential marketing is across segments and sectors. In telecoms, there is high net worth individuals who occupy about 2-3 per cent of the population and still the brand targets them.
We create platform for those people to be engaged. We can bring these high net worth people who are successful but have hunger for more success and want value added to their business. For them to remain that wealthy, they need to work harder. They pay attention to people who can make them sharpen their swords.
Objective on Entry
In our company profile, there is an opening statement. Others normally start with vision and mission statements most of which are basically not founded on market reality. People just write stories. What we did before Footprint was formed was to look at the market and we asked ourselves what gap we can fill in the marketing communications industry.
This gave rise to the reason Footprint was established in 2007. Since then, it is glaring how much we are able to achieve some of the objectives. It was a joint venture between ESP and Lowelintas.
Afterwards, it was bought over by a South African firm. Today, it is a full subsidiary of Macro of South Africa. On the gap we came to fill, I cannot say we came to fill any gap. Ideas are not residual in one person’s head.
No one has the creativity of ideas. There is something certain about us. For the fact we want to be a leading agency through delivering creatively well-thought through process and well executed processes, we also wanted to be responsible for what we claim we can do.
There was a gap in the market where agencies could say that they will do certain things and they don’t have any accountable measurement or guidelines to hold them to those deliverables. We are the first in holding ourselves accountable to the claims on deliverables and we challenge the clients not to pay us to the percentage of what we did not deliver from our commission.
Performance and Deliverables
This is part of the gap we saw in the market. There were not any standards of measurement. But for instance, this year, we have been to six pitches and we won all of them. That is how you measure creativity and cutting-edge ideas. We have gone with compelling ideas to clients that make them raise budget, sometimes, three times.
In the next five years, our core objective is to be stronger in the system. We want to make impact in terms of our ability to support our clients and grow our business. We have actually grown tremendously from where we started.
In the next five years we must have grown our business, employ more people and give support to our clients, be relevant in the Nigeria’s economic landscape and expand to other economies. We now have business presence in Ghana and we will consolidate. We have been here for a long time as an international business with local relevance.