Business Decline, Unemployment Looms as Advertisers Reject FG’s Advertising Industry Standard of Practice

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Raheem Akingbolu
The Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) of the economy, the media industry and the local advertising agencies may experience another phase of downturn if the federal government directive on new term of engagement as pronounced by the Advertising Practitioners Council Of Nigeria (APCON), is not allowed to stand, APCON registrar, Dr. Lekan Fadolapo has predicted.

In an interview with THISDAY on the rejection of the implementation of the new standard of practice by the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), which the advertisers claimed was an unconstitutional attempt to infringe on the rights of private entities to determine their contractual terms, Fadolapo said the body was, by the action, trying to weaken the Nigeria economy as well as frustrating many local businesses.

ADVAN had recently issued a statement supporting the plan to create a Standard of Practice for the advertising industry and echoed its willingness to be a part of any initiative towards the development of industry best practice, which will facilitate business and economic growth but was quick to point out that the Supreme Court had in many decisions, pronounced that the rationale for freedom of contract is founded on public policy: i.e., parties of full age and competent understanding are deemed to have the utmost liberty of contracting, and that their contracts when entered freely and voluntarily must be held sacred and be enforced by courts of law.

To this end, the sectoral body as principal benefactors of advertising services stated that its role and input with regards to the Advertising Industry Standard Of Practice (AISOP) by the regulatory body has not been fully onboarded, thereby declaring that the current AISOP is void of critical elements that protect the rights and interest of the ADVAN community.

“It is the submission of ADVAN and all its members, that the current AISOP does not serve collective interest, but rather permits unfair authority of certain parties over others and creates an unfriendly business framework, “the body stated.
Reacting to the development, Fadolapo told THISDAY that the federal government’s directive was simple and straight forward and that the development became necessary, following the approval of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed, for APCON to develop an equitable and acceptable frame work in line with the Federal Government’s reformative plans aimed at accelerating the pace of economic recovery post pandemic era, enhance gainful employment, overhaul the institutional and regulatory framework for the Nigerian advertising industry in line with best practices.

“It is rather sad that ADVAN has chosen to be a stumbling block in the move to rebound the marketing communications industry and make it strong enough to contribute well to the economy. The position of government is that terms of engagement must be of international standard. Over the years, the issue of media debt has remained a reoccurring development which government is trying to solve once and for all. If followed to the latter, the new directive will make it impossible for multinationals to owe their agencies and media companies more than the agreed days of payment. It will also encourage payment of pitch fee to agencies and will make local agencies and the SMEs viable. On a final note, to forestall unnecessary downsizing among the agencies, AISOP must get a buy in of all stakeholders,” Fadolapo said.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Media Content Owners Association of Nigeria (EMCOAN), the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) have declared full support for the new code of conduct and urged APCON to go ahead with its implementation.

President of AAAN, Steve Babaeko, while welcoming the development, noted that he can now heave a sigh of relief, adding that it is long overdue. “It is a good one coming from APCON; I think it is long overdue. As the president of AAAN, these are some of the things that keep me awake, where members complain on some of these issues that the law has tackled. I am looking forward to the enforcement and execution of the laws,” Babaeko said.

As a major stakeholder in the Media Broadcasting Ecosystem, EMCOAN said its members have carefully considered and reviewed the AISOP Policy document and believed strongly that proper implementation and monitoring would go a long way in charting a new positive course and better opportunity for the Content Owners, other Industry stakeholders and the Media Advertising Industry in general.

The association assured APCON that EMCOAN and all her members would not only comply with this new guidelines of AISOP, which is ensuring globally accepted best practices and standards in the Industry, but would also support with stakeholders orientation and publicity of the benefits of AISOP to the Media Advertising/Broadcast Industry as a whole.

“EMCOAN will avail the registrar and the APCON team the needed support to ensuring proper implementation and compliance with the AISOP policy within the rank and file of the stakeholders in the Industry. This is important because if there are no serious measures to check the violators of the new policy, things will go back to “business as usual”, hence, proper orientation, implementation and continuous evaluation will be key to ensuring the success of the new AISOP guidelines, “it stated.
However, a Marketing Communication scholar, Dr. Jide Johnson has called on APCON to deepen its stakeholders’ engagement before the implementation to get the support of all.

“It is a known fact that the businesses of top players in the marketing communications industry and other vendors working for multinationals are on the decline following rising debt profile of media buying agencies and multinational companies and all stakeholders have consistently called for proper review of terms of engagement. This is why one is excited about this recent development. However, I think APCON should tread with caution and deepen its stakeholders engagement as some of the conditions can only apply for quoted companies and not just any dick, tom and harry in the Nigerian marketing environment,” Johnson said.