Firms Target More Digital Adverts as Pandemic Takes Toll on Industry

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Emmanuel Ajufo

Raheem Akingbolu

Players in the marketing communications industry are currently at crossroads as some of their clients have indicated the decision to rejig their marketing spending in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

THISDAY checks revealed that some banks and multinationals in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector of the economy have reached out to their agencies on the need to review business relationships as people practice social distancing and also stay home.

A source within one of the leading firms told THISDAY that with most people now staying at home, companies are working towards leveraging platforms such as digital marketing, radio, and television that would better connect them with their target audience.

The pandemic caused a major economic backlash a few weeks ago when Coca–Cola Company, a major multinational beverage producer, suspended indefinitely all commercial advertising of its brands, THISDAY learnt.

The company said the initiative became necessary in view of the exigencies and expediencies of the time, adding that it wants to stay focused in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its people and communities.

President of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), Mr. Emmanuel Ajufo, confirmed that the sector is mostly hit by the pandemic, which has necessitated lockdown in most of the major cities in the country.

“One of our unique strengths is that we are outdoors where our audience is. Now that coronavirus has forced us to stay indoors, the audience we used to use as our strength has been forced to stay indoors.
“Of course, this means that our clients will look for more appropriate channels to reach their audience. To this extent, we are receiving a lot of suspension and cancellation orders.

“Indeed, our sector is seriously hit and we hope that things will normalise soon enough for the lockdown to be lifted,” he added.

He stated that outdoor operators foresaw the situation and had decided to work closely with the government to rescue the industry.

“Truly the fear of business failure is real because we know that the economy will be affected by what we are all going through now.

“To this end, we are collating our projected losses and hope to use it to negotiate and appeal to the government to give our sector our own form of palliative. Luckily for us, we are presently helping government carry the COVID – 19 campaigns.

“We hope that this service will count for something when we come with our palliative request.

“It is our strong belief that if we are able to get some support from the government, our companies will be in a better place to fight for survival. It won’t be easy but we ll pull through hopefully,” Ajufo said.

Also commenting on the development, the Executive Director, Media Investments, MediaReach OMD, Mr. Yinka Adebayo, described COVID-19 as an experienced business owners have never had before hence no sector was prepared for it.

“Without doubt, it has made nonsense of all plans and projections hence the need to urgently go back to the drawing board and restrategise whether as client, agency or media. “Even as individuals, we need to pre-order our priorities,” he added.

Adebayo, who is also the Publicity Secretary, Media Independent Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), however, said this period called for careful planning and thinking out of the box.

A former President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Mr. Bunmi Oke, called on brands to be “sensitive and sensible” about marketing campaigns, despite the challenges, adding that they have to be in touch with consumer realities.

“At the moment, brand campaigns must be tweaked to demonstrate some form of empathy in line with natural human relations during a crisis of some sort. Life for consumers in Nigeria and worldwide has been disrupted and consumers want to deal with brands that relate with them as people, at the moment and not just with their pockets!

“A caring brand will outlive the pandemic with consumers reciprocating fair play or otherwise after the storm passes and the true test of caring brands are during a crisis!” Oke said.

Another outdoor practitioner and former Director-General of the Oyo State Signage and Advertising Agency (OYSAA), Mr. Yinka Adepoju, said the pandemic was bound to affect every sector, including the marketing communication industry.

“In fact, it is another calamity that has befallen the advertising industry in view of the fact that it happened at the beginning of the year when advertising budgets are just being put together for campaigns to break.

Naturally, immediately it happened there were spontaneous reactions of budgets cutting from clients directly and their media buyers, which has significantly affected the outdoor and print media as an opportunity to see was drastically reduced and badly affected,”

To manage the situation, Adepoju said it was an opportunity for advertisers to cultivate the habit of financial prudence but a big catastrophe for advertising practitioners as virtually everything was badly affected, especially accruals in terms of turnover and operations, which may not come down except some drastic measures like laying off of staff and or increase in prices of services, which may also reduce patronage.