As the war between the regulator of the advertising space, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, (ARCON), and the practitioners hots up, industry watchers are beginning to camp their tents in either of the two parties.
Freelanews recalls that ever since the new move by the then Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, to regulate the Nigerian advertising space with the introduction of AISOP, the Advertisers Association of Nigeria, ADVAN, has been at dagger-drawn with the Dr. Lekan Fadolapo-led agency.
One writer, Izuchukwu Ewa, who claimed to be professional in marketing communications, has thrown caution into the air and attacked the management of ADVAN over its decision to stand against ARCON policy.
Ewa, in his article titled ‘ARCON Reforms: Is ADVAN In Love With The Industry’s Status Quo?‘, made reference to a book authored by the founder of the Mountain of Fires and Miracles Ministries titled ‘Slaves Who Love Their Chains’.
The marketing professional argued that rather than the advertisers’ body to be grateful to the new ARCON under the management of Dr. Fadolapo, ADVAN would rather be in the way of genuine progress for the industry.
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“More than ten years ago, Dr. Daniel Olukoya, Founder of the Mountain of Fires and Miracles Ministries wrote a book he boldly titled, ‘SLAVES WHO LOVE THEIR CHAINS’. As if to buttress the paradoxical titled, he added an even more puzzling subtitle; “…shall remain in their bondage.” The book’s title is a good illustration for sticking to the status quo even when doing so is detrimental, even when it appears to be a hindrance to growth.
“The advertising industry in Nigeria is plagued with a lot of challenges and issues that have been begging for immediate intervention since the late 1980s when the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) act was signed into law. These challenges have remained for decades until the Federal Government saw a need for reforms to be carried out to strengthen the nation’s integrated marketing communications space. That began with the appointment of Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo who is the Director-General of the agency. The Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed had revealed that he believes that if properly carried out, such reforms would enable the apex regulatory body in the industry sanitise the advertising regulatory environment, encourage inclusive growth, attract investments to the sector, and enhance the operating environment for practitioners.
“But at every twist and turn that APCON (now ARCON) has tried to create sustainable solutions to these problems, the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) appears to be at loggerheads with the regulatory body. How else can the impasse between the association and the regulatory body be explained? Is ADVAN comfortable with the chains of the status quo that has held the industry down? Is it allergic to any form of change that will place the industry at par with other thriving markets like Kenya’s and South Africa’s as well as those outside the shoes of Africa? Is it implying that the status quo is a global best practice this industry should maintain?,” he wrote.
Ewa maintained that at every corner, Osamede Uwubanmwen-led ADVAN has always constituted itself as a clog in the wheel of progress of the Nigerian advertising industry.
“ADVAN consistently appears to dog every move of the regulatory body, every chance it gets, in recent times. Among the many sweeping reforms made by ARCON, perhaps the most controversial, is the one it made on October 6, 2021, when the Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) was introduced. Among issues AISOP targeted is the perennial problems of payment circle, pitch fees, seeking to regulate engagement policy, payment terms, and method, media rates and commission, remuneration model, disengagement protocol, returns on advertising investment and measurements, dispute resolution, and other related business procedures.
“But despite being part of the process that led to the formulation of AISOP, ADVAN rejected it completely. As reported by one of the industry magazines, Brand Communicator, ‘consternation buzzed across the industry when details of the new advertising standard of practice were released.’
“ADVAN immediately issued a press statement describing the new Standard of Practice as an ‘unconstitutional attempt to infringe on the rights of private entities to determine their contractual terms’,” Ewa submitted.
He alleged that in one breath, ADVAN stated that it was very supportive of the plan to create a Standard of Practice for the advertising industry, and that one of its key objectives was to facilitate and support progress in the advertising and marketing communications industry, while in another breath, it stated, “… as principal benefactors of Advertising services, our role and input with regards to this AISOP has not been fully on boarded. The current AISOP is void of critical elements that protect the rights and interest of the ADVAN community,” adding, “It is the submission of ADVAN and all its members, that the current AISOP does not serve the collective interest, but rather permits unfair authority of certain parties over others and creates an unfriendly business framework.”
In an interview recently granted by Uwubanmwen, the ADVAN president revealed that resolving the deadlock has been his major concern ever since assuming the position of the advertisers.
He revealed that the primary mandate for the formation of ADVAN is to look out for the interests of advertisers collectively and that mandate is more relevant now more than ever.
“I will forever bless God for the life of Niyi Babatunde who championed the creation of this body. Imagine, there was no ADVAN. I will now be talking as the Commercial Director of my company, and they will now tell me- who do you think you are? Now, I am ADVAN. I can talk on behalf of many people. If you are shaking, it is because I was given the mandate. You see why God will bless that man. Many people might not recall how ADVAN came into existence. In those days, they tried to get Daily Times to stop putting our adverts and brand messages next to the obituary pages.
“Daily Times was one of the most read papers then so the advertisers begged, wrote, we did everything but nothing changed. Then they called for a meeting. They now agreed they will not be putting ads in that paper again. That did the magic. They couldn’t get something meaningful from the paper until they formed ADVAN. They now agreed that this body has come to stay. Now, you can see that the industry has been sweet. That is why we cannot allow any form of bitterness to grow now. Every sector must be happy,” he disclosed.
Contrary to the stance of ARCON that its motive was to put the industry at par with global best practices, the ADVAN president maintained that there is nowhere in the world most of the policies stated in the AISOP regulations are being practised.
“I am the Vice President of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). We relate with advertisers across the globe. When I took this issue to them, they said they don’t have it anywhere in the world where they talk about contracts and agreements publicly. If there is any contract and agreement- on how you pay, it should always be a talk between party A and party B. If there are issues the two will now see how they can walk around it. The contract term is basically how much, when you will pay, how you will pay, and how you resolve the crisis.
“Take a genuine contract and benchmark it with AISOP, how will the idea around it bring best global practices? How good are we in other areas of best global practices? If we want to pursue best practices, is it not reasonable to start with what we give out first and then move to what comes in? How good are we at making sure the agencies pay their staff well? How good are we at making sure that the agencies recruit and train the right brains? You can’t get it through this shallowness in delivery.
“Agencies will shout that clients are killing creativity but their creativity is in showing naked bodies and putting people into trouble. Look, if you have to explain your advert to people, that is not an advert, it is a lecture. When you bring out your advert, it should be so simple that your target audience can understand. It should be so direct and convincing. Even if it is an award-winning ad, it should not be difficult to understand. Even the laymen using the brand should understand it,” he stated.
Aside from ADVAN, many other practitioners especially new media advertisers are already unsettled by the recent legal action instituted against Meta, owners of Facebook and Instagram, and its agent, AT3 Resources Limited, by ARCON. The regulator is demanding N30bln in sanction and penalities over unvetted exposures to the Nigerian market.
Pundits are of the opinion that if ARCON is allowed to win the case, Nigerian may have to start coughing out as much as N25,000 for vetting to display an advert on social media.
As it stands now, while Fadolapo-led ARCON continues to bulldoze its way into implementing the controversial AISOP regulation, ADVAN seems hellbent on antagonising the agency while protecting the interests of its members.
To Uwubanmwen, Dr. Fadolapo seems to be on a mission as the thirst for blood is too wide and unreasonable. For instance, on ARCON’s plan to start scrutinizing awards events, ADVAN president said he’s overreaching himself.
“Advertising is what we do in the digital ecosystem, so you see how flat this law will fall. It is this push to overreach into everything, they are now reaching into awards. Does NUC ask the university why they give honorary awards to people?” he concluded.