How MMS Led the Media Monitoring Revolution, Remains Beacon – Uche Aligbe
Necessity they say is the mother of invention. This fact permeates generations, life, business and individuals. Marketing and communication not spared. The need to make marketing and media spends count and productive in the brand building efforts brought about the need for media monitoring and raised the issue of media monitoring and compliance.
Pre 1995, media compliance in the market was said to be around 50% causing marketers enormous heartache. Though issue was seldom discussed, but the fact that some TV and radio stations could go off-air for hours or days no thanks to power outages or system breakdown, reveals how media organisations used to take the issue of compliance with levity. If this could happen in Lagos, then its magnitude in the hinterland can best be imagined especially on brands with national spread and marketing plan.
Sitting in a session with Uche Aligbe, CEO, Media Monitoring Service (MMS) and progenitor of the industry, revealed the past and what the future holds for the fast growing multi-billion Naira industry that have sprung a handful of players, raising a competitive industry.
Sitting atop the over 23 years old company with 15 satellite offices spread across the country and two full fledged subsidiaries in Ghana and Cote D’Ivore, Mr. Aligbe led BrandCrunch into the humble beginning amidst issues that necessitated the discipline while also being mindful of the what the future holds for the young industry.
“We have been here since 1995 for a purpose, to fill a gap that we saw in the industry”, he said, as he goes further, before then, “I have been in the marketing field, I was a brand manager with a multinational company, Nestle Foods. I left as a marketing manager. While doing this, we saw a whole lot of gaps in what we were doing. Absence of real data to do what exactly we wanted to do in terms of brand communications. Marketing practitioners didn’t know exactly what was happening between brands and media in terms of communication and communicating to the public”, he lamented.
It was a yawning gap as budgets were going down the drain. Popular advertising maxim, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”, – John Wanamaker (1838-1922), comes to mind. Questions like ‘Were the brands’ messages getting to the public? How was the public receiving them? How much of the desire of the brand was the media meeting in terms of communication to their target?, agitated Mr. Aligbe’s revolutionary mind. As he said, practitioners were not sure the ads were running or some running outside the stipulated belt or time; some stations even transfer slots to some funny sister stations. Imagine running slots booked on FM station on AM station!
“We needed to fill the gap because we needed to do a better job for the brands and for the industry as whole”. Hence, he resigned from his plush multinational job in 1995 to venture into the murky water of entrepreneurship by setting up Media Monitoring Service as first service provider in that genre.
Like every new concept and idea, “when we started, it was a tug of war for the service to be accepted especially by the media and advertising agencies. However, the some smart clients knowing what’s missing in the link, quickly bought into the idea because we deployed technology and proprietary tools to ensure media improve on compliance. It became a running battle with some radio and TV stations as the initial style of flashing Certificates of Transmission (CoT) as proofs of service became grossly inadequate and no longer acceptable.”, and like they say, today, the rest is history. The concept of media monitoring has gotten its foothold. This is mostly because of its verifiable benefits for the marketer and the brand.
Apart from its traditional roles of ensuring compliance and good ROI on marketing spend, it also provides competitive information such that the client is placed at a vantage position against competition. While emphasizing that MMS is the leading light in providing industry data and fact for critical business and marketing decisions, Mr. Aligbe added, “In the new era of compliance, brands are saying sorry, if I gave you 100 slots for airing and you don’t air one, I’ll pay you for 99. “So nobody is paying 100% for 60% or 70% compliance anymore. No wastages, everything must be accountable”, he said while declaring, “This is the value we have brought into the market”.
There is no gainsaying the fact that world is going techie and more techie by the day. To be 25 years, is to grow old! Mr. Aligbe has no reason to contest this fact of life. “You garner experience along the way and deploy it in the system to make it better. We invest a lot in state-of-art technology to make human interference minimal. I can tell you that a whole lot has changed as regards how we used to work. We are at home with technology, and experience is on our side. These keep us excelling in this field”, he declared.
For effective campaign monitoring, MMS converts each piece of advert to be monitored into a finger print. This is uploaded on the server for distinct identification and capture whenever it’s flighted on any of the 30 radio of 25 TV stations in Lagos. The Server room is like the power house that nothing escapes during its 5am – 1am (14 hours) daily operation 7 times a week. This takes place in all 16 locations across the country.
Why must the office be replicated in 15 other locations across the country? Here is Mr. Aligbe response to the query. “There is a limit to number of stations you can pick up here (indicating the server room) no matter the technology. With digitalization, stations coverage areas are being restricted the more, so a media monitoring agency needs to strategically carve its zones to effectively monitor for compliance on behalf of clients and also provide competitive advertising /marketing information service for the industry.
With investment running into about a billion Naira in Nigeria and still driving substantial interests in the West African sub-region to wit Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Aligbe asserts that integrity is the currency of the compliance industry claiming, “Nobody gives an auditor a handshake”. For him, this is perhaps why some characters say “we are conservative, we hold high to integrity and professionalism”. According to him, the company does not entertain issues that cannot be discoursed in the open. “We started off the industry, developed the products and gave every service a name; and we are still developing and giving the services their names. Therefore, this is the origin and it is too late in the day to change from that path of integrity, he noted with pride.
As an industry leader who isn’t tired of dictating the pace, Media Monitoring Service is working on the next level for the industry and users of its services, revealed the CEO. “For us, compliance which is the core of our offering is given. We are now developing a next level where for every data we put out, the client is able to interpret, pick up insight and make greater meanings from it”. This affords MMS opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with foreign competitors and add better value to the client and his business. “In addition, we tell the client about the competition, where they are bigger or doing better, and the impact that has on the client’s business. We would also propose to the client what he needed to do to move up the ladder”, he explained.
“The next level in media monitoring is not just about data gathering, it’s also about analyzing the data drawing out insights from it through the use technology by our highly empowered personnel with enormous experience”, he confirmed to BrandCrunch, revealing that the “Next Level product” will be rolled out simultaneously in all its locations in and out of the country early next.
No doubt, the 25 years old company is largely driven by technology, same technology and business needs have brought the issue of succession to the front burner. While the most of the plans on succession are still being kept under wraps, Mr. Aligbe disclosed, “The younger ones must have the experience impacted on them and that we have done in the system”. In no time, you will see concrete changes as regards the issues of succession, he promised.
The media compliance industry is growing, no doubt, there is still no one regulatory body for the compliance industry, “a whole lot still runs around ethics”, he revealed. However, based on the import of their service in the marketing and media industry, few key players are looking up to Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) for a certified sectoral body. This becomes necessary for recognition, regulation and control measure as part of the bigger advertising industry.