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Nigerian Advertising, What Next? Beyond the Rhetoric, Practitioners bare their minds

 
The 42nd AGM /Congress of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) held penultimate month in Osogbo, the capital of the State of Osun with the theme: Nigerian Advertising, What Next? Below Heads of Agencies and practitioners bare their minds giving unhindered perspectives, prescribing the way forward. Some feel the AAAN and the regulatory body, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) are not doing much to help the industry and individual practitioners. Enjoy the excerpts delivered in first person.   
  
Unexpected, Undefinable, Unimaginable will define the future - Olakanmi Amoo-Onidundu is the HR Director, Insight Communications and Group HR Director for Troyka Holdings
 
I would say that indeed the industry is in for a great time. Change for me comes with great advantage. Since we know that change is the only constant thing definitely change is the ultimate thing in advertising. Just as we heard during the AGM, clients are thinning out their budgets, yet they are demanding more from the agencies. This means that advertising will have to be very creative, it also means that we won’t be earning from the normal spectra where we do earn because clients are asking for other things particularly measurable values. We are going to need to give them values that we can truly measure, metrics, big data is the in-thing now. If we cannot therefore put measurement to everything we do pre and post, then we may not be able to earn and benefits in the future. It is only a few that can do these that will ride the high waters – the challenges ahead of us.  
The unexpected, undefinable and unimaginable will define the future of our industry as we attempt making a difference in the VUCA (volatile. Unstable, complex and ambiguous) world in which we find ourselves. The prevailing dynamics of globalization, nano-technology, super-highway internet and information liberalization will finally make moribund, agencies that refuse to mutate. The new demand from clients is not just the art in advertising, but the scientific, measurable , data-led value deliverable, that leverage on big data and quantifiable analytics.
The Solution - recommended response:
Hire more Digital Natives & give them room to operate by embracing an open culture that celeberate their mold-breaking out of the-box ideas that are beyond present-day advertising offering.
 
Industry Set for either Monumental Success or Colossal Failure - Steve Babaeko, CEO/CCO, X3M Ideas
 
I think we are at the tip of something either monumental success or otherwise happening. From here on something is bound to happen. The industry has been run for so long, I think we have reached that place either we are going to go very high or drop very low. It doesn’t get any more thought provoking than Mr. Adisa’s paper at the AGM. I think this needs to happen.
 
Yes, we should protect the local industry but I don’t think we need to stifle the spirit of entrepreneurship.  This means that Yes, foreigner can come in and be part of industry because it is only when we integrate all these that we can develop the industry, integrate some of the expertise and may be even cash inflow from the outside that is when we can move the industry forward. Yes protect the industry by saying foreigners must not own the controlling share of 51% but let people be able to sell more than it is currently stipulated. Some of these things need to be re-addressed to move the industry to the next level as they say “law is made for man and not the other way round”.
 
Talking about the present structure of industry with regards to survival, water will always find its level. Sir Steve Omojafor has been advocating for mergers over 10 years ago but nobody listened!  It’s beginning to happen now but we need to see more because all these mushrooming of cottage advertising companies all over the place will be forced by the economy to consolidate. I am totally optimistic that common sense will prevail in all of these and people will realise that there is more power when you join forces to build a bigger brand instead of the micro/little brands that we have all over the place. I think this has to happen going forward in the industry. 
 
‘The Advertising Creative frontiers Should be Enlarged’ -  Dr. Celey Okogun, CEO, Novel Porter Y&R
 
I think apart from the reform and the issues that we have had in terms of APCON leadership, the areas we should focus on are - How does Advertising progress from here? What is the outlook for our industry in the future? We have been having series of diversification and spin-offs  in terms of the core of our business. This is the time in which we have to find a perspective. In other climes things have gone from big and then they start to have spin-offs. If you look critically outside of this shore, things are beginning to converge where there is a thread running through all of the other spin-offs of our industry.  So it is very apt, very germane at this point in time for us to talk about how our industry is going to function going forward. 
 
In the last couple of years we have had other spin-offs which are very critical. If you were at the AGM session there was a lot of emphasis on digital, how digital has become part of our business and how relevant it is to the client’s business. Digital is not so much regulated today as it should be because some still see it as part of the traditional agency, of course, that is still on its own and that is the reason why people outside of the industry are the one capitalizing on the digital space which as Advertising practitioners, we should probably be playing in. 
 
My perspective is that beyond digital, creativity should be beyond creating ads! If you have had the vision to create ads, you should actually do better in other areas of creativity. If you are able to compress a whole sequence of ideas and thought process into 60 seconds, you should be able to do that in a much longer time.  We should see agencies playing more in realm scripting documentaries, plays, taking advantage of the burgeoning Nollywood industry and in the total creative frontiers. If you say digital has come into it, others will obviously come in as we begin to talk of the future of advertising as was the theme of the AGM. 
 
‘No Respect for the Profession, a lot has gone wrong’ - Doyin Oduwole, CEO, CreativeXone
 
As espoused at the AGM, we already know where the flaws are. One of the things that came to the fore during the discussions is that there is no respect for the profession. A lot of things have gone wrong. The regulators have not lived up to their billings – APCON needs to actually get up to begin to exert its powers, authourity and influence on the practice of the profession, that is the only way we can protect the business of Advertising. 
Practically, almost everybody today who has got something to offer will call themselves practitioners but if by APCON rule you have to be registered to be able to practice advertising, then that is what it must be.  Today, it is worrisome that anyone can get APCON’s vetting approval for materials. The fact is that clients have no business practicing advertising. What happens today is that a lot of them employ graphics artists and copywriters to do their adverts in-house and then they get their materials approved by APCON. How did that happen? 
 
You cannot practice advertising unless you are licensed by APCON, that is what the rule says. Sadly, a lot of people are doing this, so APCON needs to get up otherwise this profession will die! Already, we have not been able to maintain our talents , a lot of them are moving over to the clients’ side because we are not able to keep them. A lot of things that were supposed to be done by registered practitioners have been going out elsewhere. A case in point was the last election, how many agencies did anything concrete for the parties or candidates? Very minute! The businesses were given to quacks. The list of the registered agencies today are probably not up to 100 but the number of people practicing today are in excess of 1000, APCON needs to get up and do something to protect the profession otherwise this profession will go down! 
 
‘Agencies Should Re-invent themselves’ - Igbo Amadi-Obi, DDB Lagos
 
The future of this industry lies in the ability of the agencies to reinvent themselves.  We cannot continue to do t business the same way it has always been done. The environment is changing, the business environment is changing, therefore, we as agencies need to also change. Change in terms of technology, knowledge, attitude and we also need to change in terms of the practice itself. 
 
As a matter of fact, I actually do believe that people in advertising should not just sit back and wait for change to happen for them to adapt to it. In my operation (DDB), we believe that agencies should play key role in championing change. I think it’s somewhat passive for agencies to sit back and wait for change to happen for them to join in. To that extent, considering the role we have played in marketing historically, we should actually be the ones championing change on quite a number of fronts. 
 
‘The theme was too general, same old Issues’ – Clem Omemu, Ag. Managing Director, Rosabel Advertising
 
For me the theme of the last AGM is too general, it is not specific. When you say Nigerian Advertising, What Next? What has been and what is the current positioning? What next? You have to be specific. What are the issues?  My take is that they should have narrowed the conversation for more beneficial and concrete decisions.  
 
Anyway, the discussions focused on the same old issues nothing has changed, same issues about ideas that will build fortune of brands and agenies . For me I see deeper issues for examples, what does the association have for the members of AAAN not the agencies? I mean the people who work in agencies, what values do they get from AAAN not just the agencies? As agencies, we all compete for brands and businesses but when we come together as a group, what do we stand to gain? The people, the agencies, those are the kind of issues we should put in front of us, it should not be about how we work alone, that is not the only problem we have.
 
“What is the true reflection of the worth of our works?” - Kanmi Dasilva, Insight Communications
 
We need to have a true reflection of where we are and stop kidding ourselves. If we are there we should make a song and dance about it and if we are not there, we should tell ourselves that we are not there yet.  We need to tell ourselves the naked truth. Tell ourselves what we need to do in order to project Nigerian advertising beyond the shores of Nigeria. We talk about LAIF, we win at LAIF but why are Nigerian agencies yet to win at Cannes? This we should ask ourselves. What are the things we are not doing? Is it that our work is not good enough or is it that we are not playing the politics well enough? I have seen some works that win at Cannes but honestly, I don’t think they are that fantastic. I have also seen jobs in Nigeria that I thought were very good and were entered for Cannes but didn’t  win. So we should be asking ourselves what is the true reflection of the worth of our works? Are we that good?  If we are, how come the world is not noticing? What do we need to do right?  
 
I am very sure we are absolutely ready for the future. We have a crop of young, new generation agencies that are really moving forward, we also have some old generation agencies that are not willing to be left behind and so they are always in the forefront of driving excellence. I know we have our challenges here in that you want to do a creative and the client tells you, “this is the way I want it”. Sometimes because most of them have been on the agency side at one time or the other so they think they know it all but I tell you once you cross over to the client’s side, the mindset is different. We have that challenge, so if that is one of the challenges, let’s talk about it and get it over with.
 
 There is urgent Need to Diversify - Demola Olusunmade, Managing Director, BBDO West Africa.
 
It was to sit down and fashion out a way forward for the industry, we have done 42 years so asking what is the next direction? What is the next big thing? What should agencies be looking at? I believe the theme is apt. The industry is becoming tougher by the day, a lot of our businesses are not doing well, a lot of our member agencies are not doing well.  So is it time for us to start looking at mergers and acquisition? Is it time for agencies to start thinking of branching out into some other areas of communication practice? We know that digital is big for example, how many of our members have acquired the requisite skills in digital to be able to compete with agencies that are currently doing digital from outside of Nigeria. Digital is one part of the business that is being done from outside Nigeria basically, a lot of clients just go to South Africa and do their digital from there because of its borderless nature.  So really, what is next, what should agencies be doing and what is the next big thing for us beyond the APCON reforms? 
 
For me agencies should start thinking of collaborations. In other industries, collaborations come before mergers and the likes. Instead of competing in every aspect there are areas where agencies can collaborate. If some agencies too small to survive there is nothing that says bigger agencies cannot acquire them. The truth is the industry is not as big as we want to make it look. The whole billing of all the agencies in Nigeria is probably the billing of one single agency in New York! So how big can the industry be before we can say “let’s compete across board”?
 
Agencies also need to start thinking of other things. The larger networks in other places like US - the Omnicoms, the Publicis and the Densus of this world, they do not just do advertising, they form a network of communications practice. They do advertising, PR, they may have production houses, own platforms like radio stations, outdoor companies and so on. Agencies in Nigeria need to start looking in this direction. Doing advertising and thinking that advertising alone will make the money is way out of the question. Diversification, I think is the future. The industry is not growing any bigger. The Advertising industry itself is a barometer of how large the economy is. You cannot grow bigger than the economy. You can’t grow bigger than the economy. We may pretend the economy is big but the truth is that we are not. If you look at the per-capital we will know this. The industry cannot be bigger that the economy. We need to start thinking of other things to do outside of Advertising and copywriting. 
 
“The consumer, our Centre-point, is Changing” -  Ayo Owoborode, CEO, ServeWell Consulting & Chairman, AAAN BOT
 
The theme was “Nigerian Advertising, What Next?” Therefore the congress essentially focused on an assessment of the journey so far, looking at the development of the industry, the evolution that has taken place, assessing whether AAAN has played its role adequately to improve the profession and enlarge the coast of professionals – the practitioners.  It is also meant to strategically say to ourselves the way the situation is, the future will go in these directions… It is not a condemnation of the past, but a good assessment of how far we have gone and also position the industry to be able to operate and become relevant in the future. 
 
Global economy is changing, politics is changing, governance is changing and of course the flavour of clients is changing and then the consumer which is our centre-point at all times, is also changing.  The lifestyle of the consumer today is absolutely different from what it was 10 years ago. What will it look like 10years, 20years from now? Of course, as communications professionals, we must be able to see the way the consumers are evolving and as well relate to them. More than that, the theme was also to improve the governance of the industry, the structure that we have in place today beyond the AAAN and the others sectoral bodies, APCON which is the overall controlling body should also be guided through the deliberations to say ‘look, we must do XYZ to develop the industry, the lot of the professionals and our roles in economy building.’
 
“The Scourge of Businessmen in Advertising” - Femi Shofu, Managing Director, Eminent Communications
 
It is high time we looked forward to what is going to happen next. I love the way Lanre Adisa took the house through his presentation. In view of the involvement of technology and so many media of expression, we need to be looking at what we are going to be doing next. The way we are currently practicing advertising should not be the way going forward because a lot is evolving – new school, new  thinking, new dimension, new means of communication. I think it is high time we take a bold step towards the next phase of advertising. Again we need to look at the consumer, what is the purpose of advertising?  It’s to create and sell a brand. This shows that without the consumer, there is no advertising so to say. The taste of consumers, the mode of getting what they want is changing so also the need to be in tune with the present reality is all the more necessary. These are some of the reasons why we should look into the past and prepare for the future. 
 
For APCON, I am happy that a reform is going on and it’s going to take a while but after the reform, there should be concrete enforcement. The issue of business men into the Advertising professional should be looked into. These are not professionals, they just go for anything that brings money. Their imprints are all too glaring on the last election’s political campaigns. 
 
Ignorant Individuals will take decisions for the Profession if... - Wale Akintunde, COO, Centrepread 
 
Essentially, Nigerian Advertising has been done as a hobby by the initial practitioners. It is now left for the new generation of practitioners to take it beyond being a hobby to real business. Making it a real business means that you bring all the elements of real business into it. These include developments in terms of technology, management, strategies, and relationships among others. The public sector is an environment that is calling for attention where people in advertising can actually reshape the future of the economy. 
 
Advertising cannot stand in isolation. In my estimation, any form of business that is not relating with government will go into extinct sooner than later. Some years back we were looking at the private sector as being the in-thing, today it is no longer the private sector, the public sector is the key thing in any business environment. Therefore, I feel it is high time our people began to see themselves in this light by not only doing the public sector business but being involved governance. Though, some of our leaders are already moving towards the public sector by getting involved. People in the national Assembly make laws and bring about policies for the nation. Therefore, policies that will affect you and I and our businesses, if we are not involved in the process, it means that some people who are very ignorant of what we do will take decision about us.
 
In the past we saw the influx of foreign agencies but because of a few people who gravitated towards governance, there is a bit of change. They could air their voice and expert opinion in the Senate and House of Representatives so when decisions are being taken they can actually influence them. How many people in Advertising do we have in those important places? Majority of things being done they are done without the Advertising people. So for me it is high time practitioners began to see the business as no longer a hobby but as a real business. 
 
There are certain things you do as a business man that will affect the blood stream of the business and the government today is the artery of the every business. So, what next? Apart from technology and the likes, they need to go towards public sector not just doing business with them but being part of decision makers. This is my take. 
 
“Move from Red Ocean to Blue Ocean Strategy or fizzle out” - Moses Babalola, Executive Finance Director, Insight Communications
 
I think we still have a long way to go looking at the way the industry is structured if we do not come to a rallying point where we can look at policy formulation and regulation guiding the practitioners as to how this business is being conducted within the Nigerian landscape, in no distant time most of the agencies will go bankrupt or fizzle out. 
 
If you look at it today, the fortune of the agencies and practitioners are in the hands of the clients who incidentally do not see them as partners.  They only see most of them as bloody agencies. That has to change going forward, there must be a paradigm shift. 
 
I mean clients must be able to look up to the agencies as real partners without whom the business cannot move to the next level.  Agencies in such relationship must be able to help clients to navigate through tough economic terrain by providing business solutions. The package should go beyond briefs, it should encompass consultancy mode wherein you x-ray the market landscape and see how the brand is fairing in the market space and how you can take the brand to the next level. This means the agencies’ input into the gamut of marketing services has to take a new dimension. I think we need to move from Red ocean to blue ocean strategy. As we speak, I think we largely still practice the red ocean strategy. In Blue ocean, we have to do things that are very unusual that can help the brand in the market space.