Book Review: The Trilogy of Advertising – The Profession: The Practice: The Philosophy – By George Thorpe
The book that I have been invited and have the privilege to review – The Trilogy of Advertising – The Profession: The Practice: The Philosophy – by Dr Josef Bel-Molokwu is the most comprehensive and detailed account of the genesis, growth and development of the advertising agency industry and its practitioners in Nigeria.
In writing this three-part expose on the fundamental nature of advertising, the actual application of its principles and how its paid operators have fared over the years in Nigeria, the author sought to fill ‘some gaps’ and ‘to stimulate further advanced books on advertising’. He has exceeded all expectations and set a high bar for subsequent debates about the future of advertising in Nigeria.
Dr Bel-Molokwu is currently Senior Fellow at the School of Media and Communications, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the ESUT Business School Master’s Degree Programs; he also serves as External Examiner for PhD (Advertising) for the University of Ibadan. As Chief Executive and Registrar of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON)for 11 years, Bel-Molokwu was in a vantage position to take a panoramic view of the industry and its practitioners. He can be truly proud of this work. I will now attempt a review of The Trilogy of Advertising.
The Trilogy of Advertising is in a total of 377 pages in 33 sections within three books titled
- The Profession (Understanding Advertising)
- The Practice (Working with Advertising) and
- The Philosophy (Seminal Papers, Didactic Notes and Generic Issues in Advertising).
In Understanding Advertising, there is effective coverage of what advertising does and how including the types of advertising, historical-comparative billings, types of advertising media from where there is a sneak preview of how media brokerage gave rise to media independent practice.
In The Development of Advertising, the author presents the genesis of advertising in Nigeria including mention of the first advertising agency in Nigeria – the West African Publicity Ltd – incorporated in London on August 13, 1928, as an affiliate of the UAC. He traces this history to the milestone creation of APCON by Decree (now Act) No. 55 of 1988 to regularise advertising practice by introducing yardsticks for registration, maintenance of a register of practitioners, setting educational standards, the creation of training facilities, vetting of advertisements and publication of literature on advertising.
The next section, Structure of the Advertising Industry, is organised around the advertiser, the advertising practitioner or creator/agency and the advertising media. This section draws extensively from advertising literature and previous publications by the author. Chapter 1.4, on Regulation of the Practice, is a must for all advertising practitioners in Nigeria. It schematically shows APCON as the apex regulator for individuals and organisations in all then four Organized Sectoral Groupings – ADVAN, AAPN (now AAAN), OAAN, NPAN and BON.
As a book reviewer, Chapter 1.5 on The Development of the Advertising Agencies, holds a special interest. I learnt about the controversy about the first advertising agency in the world – whether it is Reynold and Son set up in London in 1812 or N. W. Ayer and Son in the USA in 1890(giving a 78 years margin of error).
I also learnt how WAP metamorphosed into LINTAS West Africa in 1965 with a ‘full-scale open-market-competition brief’.UAC sold off its interest in LINTAS West Africa in 1974 as a result of the Indigenization Decree which placed advertising agencies on a schedule for 100% Nigerian ownership.
Chapter 1.5 is the place to learn about the evolution of the indigenous advertising agency industry – from the first-generation agencies like LINTAS and OBM to second generation agencies like Rosabel, Goldmark and Insight in the 1974 to 1985 period and third generation agencies like SO&U, Concept Unit and LTC since. The next Chapter deals with quality Agency Briefs – the process and format for various types of briefs.
Chapter 1.7 lays out the theoretical foundation for the advertising process starting with the familiar models like AIDA to DAGMAR, Lavidge-Steiner Model (never heard of this one before) and the Adoption Process. The last chapter in Part 1 of Book 1 is Developing a Career in Advertising. The role of APCON in professionalising advertising in Nigeria and maintaining the register of practitioners according to four categories – Student Member, Associate Member, Full Member and Fellow – is highlighted here. The jobs that are open to only APCON registered members are to be foundon pages 154-156.
The author noted his frustration with the failure of APCON to follow through on his efforts as its CEO/Registrar to have the concept of advertising directorates to be adopted in the public sector and failure to refer the issue of a national advertising policy to the Ministry of Information.
The only chapter in Part 2, The Business of Advertising, dwells on advertising business strategies, the regulatory and compliance challenges they face, and the responsibilities for and organisational structures that agencies use for managing advertising and marketing communications. It also includes special recognition of development on the media front – media independents, media monitoring service providers and alternative media (digital?).
Book 2 starts with Chapter 2.1 on Working with Advertising. It addresses the meaning and process for advertising campaigns and how agencies and clients might measure campaigns for communication effects. The next three chapters cover Advertising Techniques, Creative Strategy in Advertising and International Advertising.
Chapter 2.15, Advertising Scheduling and Media Selection is of particular interest because Nigeria is obviously the largest and most complex and dynamic media market in Africa. Starting from zero and within ten years, fewer than ten Media Independents now handle 80% of regular brand media advertising. They exclusively handle MPS audience data for all media planning; this section of The Trilogy of Advertising can do with some updating.
This weakness is only partially relieved in Chapter 3.33 titled Media Independent Evolution, Relevance and Challenges: The Regulator’s Perspective. The next nine chapters cover The Nigerian Advertising Environment, Online Advertising, Advertising Agencies: Roles and Types, International Advertising and Public Relations: An Integrated Approach, International Public Relations and Advertising and International Advertising Strategy.
The last three chapters – The Advertiser and the Adman in International Advertising: Relationship and Influence, Media Technology and Promotional Communication & Thinking Points in International Advertising and Public Relations all make a very interesting read.
If the scholarly credential of the author were ever in doubt, the eight seminal papers that makeup Book 3 which he developed and presented at various local and international academic and professional circles has put paid to that. Two of the many exciting topics – Advertising and Nation Building, Media Independent Evolution, Relevance and Challenges – would suffice as teasers.
Mr Chairman Sir, The Trilogy of Advertising has laid a solid foundation for a discussion of how we got to where we are today. One could sarcastically say that if we do not know where to go, with The Trilogy of Advertising, we at least know where we came from and how we travelled.
However, there is another saying that if you do not know where you are going, you would soon get there. What lessons and insights might we draw from the past to inform our current situation and guide our plans? Does the Trilogy of Advertising provide us with the seeds of the solutions to the many problems and challenges we face today some of which I must surmise here?
- The globalisation of brands and offshoring of much of the advert value creation process on the one hand and the growing dominance of global agency networks and the concentration of advert spend among their few local affiliates on the other hand
- The needs of the SME and other emergent advertising market segments, the challenges of integration and the growth and development of the ‘beyond-advertising segment’ of the marketing communications and promotions market. There is also agency industry calls for a rethink of the APCON mandate and the glitzy TV-led big budgetimage advert agency as a relatively low budget business growth agent/catalyst
- Pressures on APCON for further protection for local industry by going beyond legislation that limits foreign ownership of advert agencies to limiting the foreign content of adverts
- Tremendous advancement in the use of audience data for scientific media planning that is now at risk and in urgent need of an even more sophisticated and robust measurement tool
- An Out-of-Home advert industry regulated to a near comatose state by state governments whose interest and focus lies elsewhere.
- The critical role of media monitoring service firms in driving timely collections, securing transparency and accountability and unlocking further values across the media advert value chain.
I earlier talked about the author setting a high bar in wanting to ‘stimulate further advanced books on advertising’. A more research and analysis based approach to a book addressing all of the six and more challenges may be attractive enough to bring Dr Josef Bel-Molokwu out of retirement (if indeed he has retired)
Mr Chairman Sir, I have no hesitation in presenting and recommending The Trilogy of Advertising, Dr Josef Bel-Molokwu’s magnum opus, to students, researchers, practitioners, teachers and all lovers of marketing, marketing communications and advertising in Nigeria
George E Thorpe, 15 November 2017, firstname.lastname@example.org