Marketing Communications Operators Groan as Recession Bites

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By Raheem Akingbolu

Players in the Nigerian marketing communications space are currently concerned about the performance of the sector since the economy slipped into a second round of recession in five years.

But despite the fear expressed that the industry may be facing a ‘twin crisis’ as the challenges inherited from many months of lockdown were yet to abate, top industry leaders who spoke to THISDAY cautioned brand owners from doing away with advertising.

President Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Steve Babaeko, told THISDAY that before the recession, many developments in 2020 have already stressed the business environment.

Among others, he listed; COVID-19, #EndSARS protests, insurgency and decline in oil revenue as some of the challenges the economy has contended with in the last 10 months.

“Before we got to this stage, there have been a lot of developments that have had negative consequences on businesses –not only within the marketing communication landscape but in the overall business environment.

“One thing must be noted; marketing businesses thrive when other businesses succeed. We entered the year and confronted a global pandemic which led to months of lockdown that redirected the workings of marketing communication agencies.

“Consumption pattern changed and creative agencies had to re-jig to help their clients talk to consumers wherever they are. Meanwhile, some agencies lost businesses due to the dwindling fortune of their clients. Just as the market was heaving some signs of relief, the #EndSARS protest broke and crippled some businesses,” he said.

Babaeko, who urged Marketing Communications practitioners to henceforth adopt the Boys Scout Motto, ‘Be Prepared’ was also of the opinion that the fall in the oil revenue, first as a result of a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and overproduction, which sent the oil prices on a downward spiral, also weakened the nation’s economy.

The AAAN President though admitted that navigating through business environment at a time like this may be tough, he is optimistic that brand owners would still work closely with the marketing communications agencies to sustain their businesses.

Registrar, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Dr. Lekan Fadolapo, also agreed that the recession may compel some businesses to cut expenditure, including research and advertising. But he was quick to add that some smart businesses would leverage on the period to give their brands visibility through advertising, public relations and other legs of marketing.

“During an economic downturn, it may seem logical for organisations to cut off expenses because in those times, saving is much more important than spending. But on the other hand when the companies cut back advertising expenditures, they become less visible to public. Businesses should be aware of the opportunities that a recession can provide.

“Since the rivals reduce marketing efforts, there may be an opportunity for the businesses to come clear on the eyes of its target market by maintaining a strong advertising campaign during a recession.

“There may not be a better time to advertise than this, since many others’ tendency is to reduce advertising spending. Thus, when advertising aggressively in the economic downturn, an organisation might drive and maintain awareness, build a greater market share, with a more solid brand image,” Fadolapo stated.

Also speaking on the challenges ahead, the Chief Executive Officer at Media Edge, a Public Relations firm, John Ajayi, also admitted that it is a challenging moment for all but pointed out that innovative players in the marketing communications industry would excel.

“With the lessons we took home from the months of lockdown on the new ways of doing business, I think agencies will only require buckling up in the area of creativity and innovation.

“Advertising and PR firms should endeavour to support brands in terms of thinking on how to get the consumers to buy. In my view, the survival of marketing communication firms hangs in the balance and it is only those who are innovative that will survive the storm,” Ajayi stated.