I discovered the greatest infraction on my trade today by the very people who claim to be at the forefront, directing the affairs in a 170m population country - Nigeria. I was simply Shell-shocked.
Going through my Facebook Feed a few hours ago, I came across a number of Suggested Facebook Friends whom I might know. So I decided to look through the faces presented and cross or add them appropriately when my worst moment of surprise hit me in the face to a state of emotional stupor. What I saw was a reminder of an advert I had seen which was created in 1997 for DHL or so by one of the then evolving advertising agencies.
My distress had not stemmed from the quality of the profile picture on display. Rather it had resulted from the fact that the profile picture was there in the first place. Instead of requiring of me to 'Like' the page, it was asking me to 'Add' as a friend. Really?! 'Add' ASSOCIATION OF ADVERTISING AGENCIES OF NIGERIA as a friend on Facebook?
Ok, the other day, I was called to consult for a client - A Manchester based 'Union' of over 100years in existence. They were losing business to new upcoming competitors. When I met the operators, they were in their 60s+. About three of the directors had actually retired and were only serving on the board on a voluntary basis. According to them, they had come to the realisation that the business would soon wind up if they failed to act up immediately.
Not being stereotypical, but looking at the business model it was not difficult to tell why sales was nose diving. It used to be ideal in the days of zero competition but is no longer fit for purpose. The old men I met who were once young and agile had become old and frail. Times have changed. But they have failed to change with times.
A Vision - no matter how lofty and novel - which exists in isolation and complete oblivion of its followership simply exists only to cannibalise itself. Such is the undoing of the business described above. It grew with its people. But it failed to induct succeeding generation. The organisation's power and might thinned out with no replenishment. Founders grew old and because they held tenaciously to the reins of power, the business is dying out with them, under their noses.
Without much story, this is what seems to be (or have been) happening at the AAAN secretariat up to now. How do I know? The evidence is in the Facebook page.
For the sake of Non- advertising followers, let's expound on this a bit. There are generally two types of 'pages' on Facebook (technically speaking there are six or seven types). The most common one is that which everyone uses to access their account on Facebook itself. This is a profile page signed into with every use. Individuals 'add' or 'delete' friends on this page as it is personal to them. Facebook takes into account that it will and is meant to be used by individuals for social purposes e.g. chatting, sharing photos, jokes etc. The maximum number of friends allowed is 5000 (as at the last time I checked)
The other type (broadly speaking) is for a brand, business, an open or closed group, a celebrity, band, charity etc. Facebook specifically intends those pages to be set up as such. This type of page is to be 'Liked' NEVER 'Added'. The maximum number of likes is infinite. The current highest is over 39,114,768 (Texas Hold'em Poker).
Now there is no over-emphasising that it is both logical and professional duty of Marketing Communications agencies to understand the use of these different pages as they are expected to set up such pages for their clients and manage them in the most appropriate manner, as part of a Bird's Eye-view communications package. It is a fact that goes beyond any form of examination that Advertising agencies as brand custodians should be at the very top of overall Digital, whether as a Strategic Business Unit, an internal department or a completely outsourced partnership.
What an irony it is therefore, that an entire body of professionals which supposedly leads the nation in such a specialist field finds it hard to get a simple bearing as setting Association's Facebook page right! I know this is not due to a dearth of that 'simple' competence. I have seen Nigerian companies set up such pages and effectively run them. This being so, what could be wrong?
Why is the AAAN sending wrong signal of Gross professional ineptitude to a collective body of clients and by extension, telling the whole world that no product out of the Nigerian advertising terrain is capable of delivering world class solution? Why is this Association embarassing its members? Need I emphasise that the Social media is accessed worldwide! Are we still looking for the real reason why Awards at Cannes continue to elude us?
I am of the opinion that just like the client I described earlier, the older generation of practitioners in the Nigerian advertising industry have failed to connect with the vibrance of the upcoming generation. And if the scale of 'offence' gravity was anything to go by, the present crop of executives should resign for bringing this type of shame on such a well-respected industry. This smirks of system error. It deepens the air of no-confidence which clients currently fan and breathe on Ad agencies in Nigeria. It is the reason for the shameless mergers and clandestine technical partnerships being entered into which are not offering real development to the industry - just a few businessmen.
I suggest as follow:
1. No matter how much advancement is made into a wrong journey, once realised, it is wisdom to make a U-turn. In this light, the current association's Facebook page needs to be pulled down immediately and replaced with a proper one.
2. Also, there is proof beyond a doubt that the current page administrator has no idea of how to run a corporate brand page. A Public relations savvy professional should be hired to manage it.
3. The hierachy of the association should leave a catchment zone to Generation Y in certain office. This is to allow injection of fresh ideas into the system.
Finally, the trends are changing. The changes are at twice the pace of lightning. The speed is dazzling. It's time for older generation to step off the stage and let freshness in. And this, is doable.
Ayoola Adeyanju contributed this piece from Manchester, UK. Leave your comment in the box below.