Hard Times: AAAN 46th AGM Proffers Solutioning, Adaptive Mindset, Non-stop Innovation as Solutions but …
Displeased by the unsteady economic situation the agency business and its operators have found the business in general terms, the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN recently engaged in a soul searching and rose from its 46th AGM Congress recently with a mindset to embrace “Solutioning” as a solution to revive development, drive growth and continued relevance of advertising business to clients’ businesses.
The Economy as equally plausible
While it is impossible to alienate the practice from the economic doldrums the country currently faces, delegates agreed that the practice actually falls on the first line of fire when anything goes wrong with the economy or business making it permanently amenable to the business ill winds.
The current economic ill wind possibly informed the original theme of the AGM, The War within – Solutions for survival. However, the keynote speaker, Mr. Jimi Awosika, Vice Chairman, Troyka Group, in his characteristic dynamism tweaked the theme and would rather speak on a more probing and challenging title- AAAN: Into the Sunrise or Twilight?
And Bale Rose to the Occasion
According to the keynote speaker, the delegates should be talking about “thriving and not surviving”, the issue at hand seriously demands that “we task to the utmost, our intellectual and emotional capacities as we may ever have had to do, so that our conversations and the ensuing solutions can give us new verve to take the bold new world of limitless possibilities that are inherent in the death scare confronting our received “advertising agency” categorization.
While subtly hinting on a possible name change, redefinition of advertising agencies’ functions and relevance, Mr. Awosika reasons that what matters is the pace of innovation which is a fundamental determinant of competitiveness.
Adman Must Help the Client to Help Himself
Explaining the web of challenge confronting practitioners today, the Keynote speaker said, “The Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Executive Officers are asking, ‘Adman, how do you help me out of the situation where new technologies and changing human needs are making my current offerings irrelevant, resulting in weakening demand, stagnant or dipping revenues, single-digit margins and near non-existent net profits?”.
As a way out, practitioners have to give Clients the new marketing message as baked-in marketing, which is one that emphasises the marketing must be baked into the product content and character.
“We have to transform into advisors to our clients on everything about their business and how to drive propulsion. This is the way that they- and ourselves- would escape obsolescence, commoditisation and the ire of the empowered post-digital age consumer”, he submitted.
Line Between Big and small agencies No longer exists
Insisting that the digital revolution has created a level playing ground for all, he noted that there are no small or big agencies any longer. Moving from the industrial age to digital age with everything in free supply has democratized information. “It is because the new age frees and enables everybody and so to get ahead and stay ahead, you need continuous thinking, an adaptive mindset and non-stop innovation”, the speaker declared.
Summing up, he noted that the three key issues that will help the industry move towards a brave new world of advertising excellence as follow:
Solutioning & New Business Model to the Rescue
“First, we must become solutioning experts whose value offering starts from product conceptualization with the client to the delivery of the physical product to the consumer. We cannot continue to be a small part of the process. We must become an integral part of the entire value chain that delivers value to our clients’ customers. We need to move upstream and always think business propulsion first.
“Second, we must become more human-centric rather than consumer-centric. We must learn to separate people from their consumer habits and view them as cultural and spiritual beings who only consume to meet specific needs. Our job is not just to sell to them. It is to understand them conceptually so that we can help meet their needs before they even know that those needs exist.
Finally, we must create a new design-driven innovation model that eschews our dated ways of thinking about creativity while embracing the realities of a new technology-driven world. We must hire new people, develop new processes, and create new models that respond to the challenges of today while transforming our agencies and our clients’ businesses”.
The Discussants Views were heard
On hand to discuss the paper were notable industry players Bunmi Oke, CEO, Ladybird; Biodun Adefila, COO, SO&U; Lanre Adisa, CEO, Noah’s Ark, Steve Babeoko, CEO, X3M Ideas ; Lekan Fadolapo, Ph.D, Executive Director , AAAN and Dr. Tendai (Kadenhe) Mhizha, Managing Director, Insight Publicis.
Steve Babaeko in his reaction said that the good news is that nothing is wrong with advertising but noted that the industry has changed and the solution has also changed dramatically. While questioning, how prepared are practitioners to take advantage of the new age? Steve noted that culture and technology/engineering will interplay to win in the new era. “The industry cannot make money the old ways”.
For Dr. Tendai, data and artificial intelligence, new kind of hire and regulation are critical moving forward. Practitioners she submits must listen and learn from the new generation of hires.
In Lanre Adisa’s reaction, moving forward is making magic and logic work together, dream big and make things happen for both the client and the agency.
Mrs. Oke on her part observed that as information base change with time, internal selling is necessary, harping that there must be a sincerity of purpose in the attempt to move the industry forward. In the same vein, Adefila noted that the advertising is supposed to be a cerebral enterprise and so agencies must bring to the table superior knowledge and scientifically measurable value or results on the client’s business.
The Delegates were not left out
Dr. Ken Onyeali-Ikpe, Group CEO, Insight Redefini also reacting to the Keynote presentation, observed, “It doesn’t matter where you are, these are the realities of the business. “How do you aggregate these to deliever value to your client or business should be our concern”, Dr. Onyeali-Ikpe challenged that capacity filled audience.
Kelechi Nwosu, Managing Director, TBWA Concept and former president AAAN advised delegates and practitioners to embrace learning and also change their mindsets to be able to embrace the current change.
Also in line with the inevitable change, Kayode Olagesin, CEO, Towncriers advised that practitioners must find out what goes on in the mind of the CEO as the Marketing Director no longer command clout as earlier times. “All this is telling us the way they are thinking and where the money/budget is going. In looking for relevance, we must also understand where the shoe pinches”, he said.
Earlier in his welcome address, the AAAN President, Ikechi Odigbo had said that the focus of the 46th AGM/Congress is not only apt but imperative given the significant developments and challenges member agencies and indeed the entire marketing communications sector has had to grapple with in the past couple of years.
The President also noted that at the global level the digital revolution is redefining whole sectors, categories, and businesses. “The digital revolution is driving quantum leaps in value delivery, creating new markets, new competitors and new partners, creating redundancy and obsolescence and creating new value chains and industries. However, the big shifts of the 4th industrial revolution present challenges as well as opportunities for our businesses depending on our strategic response, he hinted.
At the institutional level, Odigbo noted that APCON is currently confronted by an existential threat following an unfavorable Appeal Court ruling which says “it does not have the remit to regulate advertising by non-members”. He also decried what he called the “smuggled APCON law Review bill” scheduled for a second reading in the senate but sponsored without consultation with the leadership of APCON and AAAN. He contends that the bill has very contentious clauses which if passed would be detrimental to member agencies and the industry at large.
Also declaring the opened the AGM, the chairperson board of Trustees and former President of the Association, Mrs. Bola Thomas while commending the practitioners for their staying power in this trying times, urged them to collaborate, cooperate and work together to grow. “It is not a sin to stumble and fall but you get on your feet. It can be tough but we will make an in-road, she counseled.
The usual Challenge, may it be forbidden!
Lofty as the keynote lecture, discussions by the panelists and the interjections by the delegates were, the challenge, however, may be the implementation! Not a few delegates expressed worries that the body is never bereft of theoretical ways of getting the industry out of the doldrums, but the “implementation of our decisions has always been the bane”. The keynote speaker fully aware of this recurring challenge, also sounded a note of warning in this regard, wondering if the delegates would not be back next year, purring over the same issues and trying to decipher a way forward.
The ball is therefore in the Ikechi Odigbo led exco’s court to device a workable implementation plan that will make the “solutions” percolate the entire system and be productively applied.