In the past five years, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, has been gathering a lot of attention with its move to activate the legal provisions which empowers it to effectively regulate advertising practice in Nigeria. Following with the course of his predecessors to drive the far-reaching changes at APCON, the current Registrar/CEO, Dr. Olalekan Olumuyiwa Fadolapo, a well-read, astute, passionate and highly experienced practitioner himself, took the holy grail of the reform agenda, Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP), to the market with unusual boldness and speed.
Dr. Fadolapo, who holds a Master Degree in Legal Studies (MILS) from Babcock University in addition to two others in Marketing and Business Administration, quickly ramped up support from the highest stool of authority in Nigeria to validate his mission to sanitise the industry.
Leveraging the federal government’s determination to filter or gag (as some will argue) the media, Fadolapo easily parleyed his fellow-Kwaran and Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, to muster the extensive support of the presidency for the reforms.
Like any change at all, APCON’s has elicited various reactions. Some are in support and some are against. The first major radical reform, which was popularised by Fadolapo’s predecessor was the enforcement of pre-approvals for ads before flying them. The industry was jostled by this, but soon settled with the reality. AISOP, which has been in the works for many years comes as a ballpark fix-pill for the many plagues of the industry and practitioners have just got to swallow, of course, with a stiff resistance from some quotas and criticism from some industry watchers.
In this report, Freelanews Business Intelligence, a research arm of Freelanews, takes an objective look at AISOP and the alleged kinesics of Fadolapo-led-FG-backed APCON mission to deify itself, dissecting the profits and losses of it, aligning the views of key stakeholders and mirroring against the proven approaches in one of the world’s leading advertising industry, the United Kingdom.
AISOP is basically a rulebook for Nigeria’s advertising industry that was developed by a committee of stakeholders chaired by Group Managing Director of COSSE, Funmi Onabolu. It is believed to hold the solution to the many challenges of the industry and galvanise the unbundling of its untapped potentials.
Some of the motivating pains for the development of the code of conducts for the industry are debt issues, unstructured, inefficient practice relations, bad corporate governance, HR discrimination, and capital flight, amongst other things. It addresses these issues with Engagement policy, Payment terms and conditions, numeration model, media rates and commissions, disengagement protocols, credit policy, return of advertisement and measurement, and peaceful resolution.
Proponents of AISOP believe that its application will catalyse the growth of and protect the industry, generating over 100,000 jobs in few months. Some of the stakeholding proponents are the Heads of Advertising Sectoral Groups (HASG) like the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Experiential Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), and Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON). Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), the only member of HASG in the demand side that actually bares the cost of the advertisements, are the only sectoral members with a dissident stand, rejecting certain elements of the rules.
Let us take a look at the merits, demerits and alternative approaches to the mission of AISOP. For context and reference, let us note that APCON, who is pushing these far-reaching reforms has no ‘single source of truth’ or valid representation online. This is appalling for a major body of Nigeria’s best creative professionals in this digital age! The seemly valid source of official information is a junk Blogspot website that they should actually pull down.
In the course of researching and writing this article, we could only glean information from numerous interviews of the registrar and other executives, published by mainstream print media. Claims and findings collected are juxtaposed with several views and information garnered from deep conversations with leading industry practitioners, who are qualified parties to the ongoing debate on the legitimacy, rationality or acuity of AISOP in its current form.
Solution to the debt issues
The doyen of the industry and chairman of Troyka Group, Biodun Shobanjo, on November 25, 2019 at National Advertising Conference in Abuja recommended 60 days payment period for media contracts by clients, perhaps through legislation. He believed the proposal is an option of saving the media business of debt overhang between clients, service providers, media owners and advertising agencies. He recommends legislated regulation as a way out of a master-servant relationship where agencies endure clients for fear of being blacklisted, followed persistent calls by other stakeholders for a regulatory framework that advertising practitioners can collectively key into. On October 6, 2021, APCON answered these calls with introduction of Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP), which amongst other things stipulates that payment for media and other advertisement services would be done within 45 days. Any payment after 45 days will attract interest at prevailing CBN interest rate.
It also puts the right of price fixing on the media houses, with the caveat that they must give at least 30 days notice before implementation of a new media rate.
With these new set of rules, advertisers and agencies would have to honour advertising and marketing communications invoice promptly and if properly implemented, should end the mounting backlogs of multi-billion-naira debts owed by advertisers and agencies to media houses.
Covering operational costs of agencies for pitches
In the words of Dr Fadolapo,
“Pitch procedure has become professionalised as parties in the pitch process must respect Nigeria’s copyright Law. Pitch fee would now be paid to agencies that participated in a pitch process in line with best practices while profile presentation, agency visit, meet-and-greet are made free. However, strategy and/or creative presentation attracts pitch fees if the agency participates in a pitch”.
As explained above, AISOP puts into account the cost agencies incur in pitching ideas to prospective advertisers and as such stipulates that such efforts should be paid for to all participants and not only the winners.
This seems to resolve raging concerns by agencies, who berate the current winner-takes-it-all approach that have them burnout on limited operational costs attending to several pitches at the same time.
Contract protection, change of hands procedure – Removing the black box
“Here, we are saying; where advertisers decide to disengage an agency, an incoming agency, the outgoing agency and the advertiser must reconcile all financial obligations which have arisen during the existence of the business relationship. The outgoing agency must hand over the assets and liabilities of the account to the new agency to enable interested parties track financial obligations and responsibilities.”
Hitherto, the industry has seen cases where agencies take over IMC contracts from other agencies only to discover huge liabilities with respect to several unmet obligations. There’s been a blackbox approach to contracts that later turn into a pandora box after sign off. AISOP requiring full declaration is expected to put a stop to this.
Also, AISOP mandates written and duly signed contracts for advertisement, advertising and marketing communications to curb the cases of obligation abandonment.
Discrimination and local content
In the industry there seem to be a culture of denigrating local talents. There are reported cases where a foreign creative director is hired to work in Nigeria and he is paid like N5million, and whereas you have a Nigerian of the same status, caliber and position being paid like N200,000. AISOP fixes this with the requirement to procure its approval before engaging a foreigner in the industry.
This follows closely with the directive given by the Honourable Minister of Information to APCON and NBC that all ads should be done in Nigeria and failure to which a fine would be served on errant stations airing those ads.
The benefits of these section of the rulebook are enormous. Expectations are high that local expertise in the entire communication space will be built and replicated. The other angle to it is the curbing of capital flight in the industry.
Poor HR practice in the industry
Workers in the industry are often exposed to bad human resource management. Creatives all around the world are well renumerated and covered by various employment benefits. AISOP seeks to improve on the Nigerian situation by adding pension remittance evaluation as part of its corporate licence requirements.
This is indeed a good development as employees in the industry will be guaranteed a source of life after retiring from service.
To continue with part two, click HERE.