Ahead 50% Revenue Surge, Marcom Practitioners Advocate Adequate Regulation, Accountability

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As players in the Marketing Communications industry prepare for a boom in 2022, they have advised political office holders and politicians to use the year to tell their stories through registered local professionals ahead of the 2023 elections, Raheem Akingbolu reports

The Registrar, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Dr. Lekan Fadolapo has predicted that 2022 would be a year of business boom for marketing communications practitioners across board because of its relevance to the 2023 general election. Contributing to THISDAY special report on the Outlook for 2022 in the Marketing industry, Fadolapo said it’s expected that the advertising and campaign by politicians and political parties will start in the 3rd quarter of the year and lead to revenue increase for the industry. He however advocated strong legislation to ensure quacks don’t take over the businesses.
“As a preceding year to 2023, I am confident that the year would usher in something good in terms of business volume for practitioners in the marketing industry but we need strong legislation to enforce compliance, ”he said.

Social accountability

President, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) and Chief Strategist at Chain Reactions Nigeria, Jaiye Opayemi, who also spoke on the same issue admitted that 2022 is going to be a momentous year for marketing communications professionals but urged politicians to give local practitioners preference while sourcing for communications experts.

“I predict it is going to be a year of recovery for the marketing communications sector. But APCON, NIPR, AAAN, PRCAN, EXMAN and other sectoral groups will need to set up a joint advocacy for the leading political parties and their candidates to look inward and work with Nigerian professionals in framing their electioneering campaigns. There is no International expertise any candidate or party needs today that practitioners at Chain Reactions, XRM Ideas, Insight, Noah’s Ark, Integrated Indigo, CMC Connect can’t access from any part of the world for any political party or candidate. The clients will even get value for money because we get a better deal from your external talents than the politicians can negotiate. It is our trade. We understand our nuances and the politicians don’t.

“It will be a win-win for all the parties and indeed the electorate. For the parties and their candidates, their campaign messages can be better framed and creativity brought in than what we are even witnessing now. For the electorate, they are better positioned to make informed decision,”

According to Opayemi, if this is done, the Advertising, PR and Experiential sub-sectors will all bounce back in one single year. “Many of the agencies that have laid off their staff will recall them. In Chain Reactions Nigeria for instance, political communications is one of our top practices and I know there are many agencies that are also good at offering such services. It is also a year of social accountability for government at the Federal, State and Local Government levels. Government will need to report to the citizens as to what they have done since they were elected, Increase in ad spend
While predicting that the election cycle will boost Ad revenue, the Managing Consultant at Precise (Reputation Design), Bolaji Okusaga pointedly stated that the 2023 election will increase ad spend in 2022 by at least 40 to 50 percent. He however zeroed his conversation down to the categorization of the businesses and how each platform will likely perform in the year.

“The Marcoms sector that will gain the most is the outdoor, followed by Online, Radio and Television Adverts in that order. Truth is communications is central to reaching the electorate and to get things to move in the desired direction Ad. spend will go up. The question however remains the structure of the industry and if legal operators will access the businesses as opposed to fringe players who are close to political players,” Okusaga stated.

Political Marketing

This was also the position of the President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Steve Babaeko, who maintained that the year before an election year usually comes with a flurry of political activities which inevitably leads to upswing in spend in the media and advertising space.

He said, “Let me also say that historically the political class in Nigeria has an inexplicable appetite for patronising foreign agencies to handle their political campaigns. Advertising is deeply rooted in the local social/cultural milieu; therefore it’s rather baffling to see our politicians hiring agencies with no knowledge of our cultural nuances to be the arrowhead of their communication. In the UK political campaigns are handled by local agencies, I hope this year will be the year our politicians will turn a new leaf.

“Truth is; there are lots of world class Nigerian agencies to pick and choose from. I think APCON should push harder in the direction of creating the opportunity for Nigerian agencies to participate in the process. This is a make or mar election for our great country, therefore all hands must be on deck to ensure that the best candidates win.”

While calling on players in the political space to always considering professionalism, the Managing Director of Noah’s Ark Limited, Lanre Adisa said, “If the experience of the last elections is anything to go by, there will be spending but only a fraction of that will benefit agencies. It was a free-for-all affair. Professionalism was pushed to the bank seat. As a result of this, the campaigns were rather transactional and bland. If we see a repeat of this scenario, there will be a lot of money in circulation but not necessarily to the benefit of our industry as it used to be in the past.”

Innovation-driven campaigns

Though he also agreed that 2022 will be characterised by political activities, the Executive Chairman of TPT International, Tokunbo Modupe was of the view that marketing communication industry in 2022 will be dominated by innovation-driven agencies.

“Understanding the business environment, socio-cultural alterations and the political mood will determine how much of business will come to an agency. For example, 2022 will be characterised by political activities, personality projection for elective positions and political party conversation management in a distressed economy. It’s a year of big spend but Nigerian agencies must be prepared to lead the way rather than allow foreign agencies with little or no knowledge of the political environment to appropriate the big briefs.

“I expect PR companies with the right thought process to play a major role in the business and political contentions that are imminent in 2022. Equally, it is important to know that while COVID has come to stay with possible more variants, businesses are adjusting to the reality and I expect more energetic marketing activities as against the tempered approach in 2020/2021. However, briefs will come more tasking as the client now requires more than predictable marketing solutions. Innovatively weak agencies will struggle, while proactively and innovative agencies will thrive. Politics and political activities will influence the socio-economic mood, which will determine how conversations will be determined, ”Modupe stated.

Publisher of Marketing Edge, John Ajayi, who also corroborated the fact that political campaigns would boost the industry in 2022, stated further that politics in 2022 will be driven by promotions, propaganda and advertising across all relevant media channels.

“Usually, we expect political actors and gladiators whether veterans in the trade or rookies who would need to sell themselves and manifestoes to the Nigerian electorates to key in and patronize registered practitioners. It’s always the season to await as service providers in the entire gamut of integrated marketing communications are quite aware of a turnaround fortune in businesses, “he added.

Values and collaboration

The high expectation in 2022 notwithstanding, the President of the Experiential Marketing Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), Tunji Adeyinka said mush as he agreed that the year 2022 would be a year of business growth, it would also be a year for deepening value, deepening collaboration and deepening intimacy.
“Value is as regards the exchange of services between players (agencies and clients especially), Collaboration is as regards the relationship between the different parties in the industry to foster mutual respect and shared prosperity. Intimacy is as it regards the understanding of the customer and consumption, ”he stated.

Another PRCAN chief and Lead Consultant at Leap Communications, Muyiwa Akintunde said 2022 would be hyperactive in political communication with all arms of marketing communications having much of their campaigns from it but he expressed concern about the manner in which registered firms are often sidelined when it comes to political communication.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) might have fixed the next general election for 2023, but in reality, 2022 is when all deals must be sealed, or the candidates for major elective positions are doomed. So 2022 will be. Ironically, only a handful of firms in the industry play significant roles in political communication, going by past experiences when the gladiators would either shop for consultants offshore or allow local practitioners a bit part role.

“This year however, there are indications that the locals will have the upper hand over foreign consultants. Factors that may necessitate this include high rates of foreign exchange and liquidity squeeze. With the plan on stream to completely remove petrol price subsidy, the economy is expected to go through bad weather. Brand campaigns may therefore witness prudent spending. The mantra may be: spend less, achieve much more,” he stated.

However, in his projection for the year which was hinged on increased economic activity, the Managing Director of Idea House, an experiential marketing firm, Mr. Kehinde Salami pointed out that traditionally Marcom industry players across all disciplines do well during election year as patronage from political gladiators hits the fray.

He added, “During a year like this, there is always a boom in the business. Besides, increased government spending means higher propensity to spend on FMCG products as disposable income improves. State governments also mostly pay up pension arrears and salary backlog in a bid to woo citizens. Experiential agencies will surely benefit one-way or the other. I’ve witnessed this across the last four political cycles,”

To this end, Salami urged players in the industry to build and improve the agency’s culture, resilience, invest appropriately and develop talent, arguing that after the election year, agencies would still have businesses to run.