By Kasie Abone
With over 25 years in marketing communications industry, and working in leading agencies like Patike communications, Sunrise communications, Image Dynamics and MacClemm Marketing Communication, Jude Emecheta has an enviable record in the advertising sector. Today, he heads the Anambra State Signage and A6Agency. Emecheta tells Kasie Abone that Anambra is the place to be in outdoor advertising
Can you share with us the state of outdoor advertising in Anambra State?
When we came into Anambra State, we found out there was so many clutter of boards; it was really not organised. It was easy for people to put their boards anywhere. Some people will just go collect N1, N2 from them and the board stays there. So, we tried to find out why big clients are not advertising in Anambra State. Of course, nobody wants to expose his products where there is a clutter. So, the new law that set-up advertising signage and advertising industry now gave control to ANSAA (Anambra Advertising and Signage Agency. What we did was first of all to de-clutter Anambra and remove quacks.
What was happening was that the local government chairmen found out that it was good to sign an MOU with state government, organise a company for us, the company collects on our behalf and we share the money together so that we don’t allow agents from local government levels collect the money; we don’t even see the money. So, that is one. Two, the environment is so cluttered that it is better you have a company that would organise everything. So, ANSAA is a baby of local government chairmen. And then, the state government passed a law and it was signed into law 2010 and in 2011. But unfortunately, the governor then did not put his signature on that agreement. And the law setting up the agency says that the governor must appoint a general manager for the agency but instead a committee was formed and gave the job to a consultant. In 2011-2013, they couldn’t build capacity because nothing was working. They law was not protective of the consultant, so he couldn’t do much.
Governor Willie Obiano came in, he put his signature on the agency by appointing me as the managing director of the agency. What we did was to go ahead issuing papers to those who practice advertising and who want to practise advertising in Anambra State. Too many companies are coming in; investors are coming in. We are beginning to have more quality people live in Anambra which means big advertisers can leverage on this opportunity. So, basically, what we did was to say let’s take away the quacks; get the members of outdoor association (OAAN) here, have a deliberation with them and we agreed; so let’s have an inflow of outdoor advertisement in Anambra State. We came up with the vision that at least Anambra State should be one of the top three billboard destination in Nigeria. We can give Lagos State as the biggest, being the commercial nerve Centre of Nigeria; Abuja is the capital of Nigeria where many corporate bodies would like to show their faces.
Anambra has the largest number of bank branches outside Lagos State. If we have that type of money coming into the state, then the state must be viable for people to be able to pay for their goods and services. So, why won’t these companies advertise their products and services in Anambra State? Our vision is to make sure that we do enough to create that space for these companies to come here and meet their clients. The telecos are doing so well here. They are making over N200 billion in Anambra State alone. So, I don’t see why they should not advertise their products here. There is also the sentiment that Anambra State is a wholesale market. Some people say that their families buy beverages from Lagos and send them home. But form our research here, we found out that families buy their beverages here.
They buy and consume the same things here. So, why won’t you bring your beverages here and advertise in the state? The whole of Anambra State is a market so why not advertise here? We are trying to do advocacy both to ADVAN (Advertisers Association of Nigeria) and independent marketers. Within a short period of time, the governor has attracted over $3 billion investments. And when these things grow, we have all kinds of services. We are advising that people should come early enough; pay their little dues to the state; we are friendly in terms of rental charges and giving people room to pay quarterly so that there won’t be any pressure on them.
Then, there is the other problem of area boys. When you want to put up a board, someone comes and says it is my land; we are working seriously on that. We are doing so much and we want to continually modernize what we are doing here on a daily basis. We are still growing; we are building capacity. The governor has supported us with vehicles and tools to work with. And even the staff are being trained. We want to make sure that we deploy GPS, so that wherever our boards are, we will know them. So, there won’t be any reason to go for inspection. So far, we are doing so much for the agency to improve.
What has been the response of your agency’s meeting with OAAN?
Minus recession for 2016, we would have done much better. There was this commitment by many of them to deploy their billboards in the state but when recession sets in, you find out that so many of them who were prepared to do this thing did not even have products to sell. So, advertising became the fall guy; you know usually when there is a recession, the advertising is the first to hit especially outdoor. So, recession was a very big problem to advertising but we are hoping that this 2017 first quarter, it will improve. If militancy stops and there is good oil price, the economy will improve and we will have more people to advertise in the state.
What has been your experience in sanitising the industry?
Professionals were happy when we came in to clear the cluster; they said it was what they wanted. Those who even lost their boards didn’t even bother so much. They said if that was the only way to sanitise the industry, they would be there for us. Also, I want to tell you that capacity is key. As we are de-clustering the place, in the night some of the quacks will put the boards back believing that you don’t have the capacity to come back. But they have since realized that on a daily basis, we are on the road to monitor everywhere in the state. If you put up a new board today, tomorrow we will take it out.
One other thing that is giving me joy now is that some people just wake up and go and pay their bills and bring their tellers to us. Before, nobody did that. So, we have been able to make people pay without us going to them. The agency has gone that far.
You made mention of people who put up obituary adverts; are they supposed to pay too?
Yes, they are supposed to pay. We have to make sure that before you put up a billboard, it must be done by a professional who is registered with us. Every new billboard you put up, you must pay to us. People who do obituary, what they do is to tell a welder to hang the board; the welder does that and takes his money and walks away. And when the man comes and sees that his board is down, he calls the welder; the welder would say maybe ‘it’s ANSAA.’ And the person would call to say ‘why didn’t you tell me.’ We say sorry, the law says before you put the board, we must know. So obituaries, chieftaincy titles, even banners for weddings, posters; they are outdoor you must pay for them. We are having some problems right now; the politicians don’t want to pay. We are trying to sensitise them on the reason they have to pay. During the elections, we don’t want anybody to say we are pursuing them because they are not in APGA. We are telling them now to come and register their vehicles and pay for them. Someone is telling me that they have tugs. I say well you bring your tugs and we bring our police; let’s see whether your tugs are superior to police.
How friendly is payment for posters for obituaries, weddings and other celebrations given the peculiar nature of our society?
The problem is that when they put up these banners, after the celebrations they walk away. These banners stay there for months even, years.
They deface the environment. We go around removing them. We buy fuel. So, if you must celebrate and put banners and posters and leave them there after celebration, what we do is to charge you N2, 000 or N5,000 depending on the type of banner you put. Nothing more than that to help us buy fuel to remove them when you finish celebrating. Because if we leave them there, when you run through that way, you won’t like the sight. That is why we want to do permanent structures; if some people want their father to be celebrated in the next one year, once they pay the money, the structure is there for them.