Friday, 20 April 2012

Killing advertising... 'culprits' remain elusive

WHOEVER came to the yearly public forum organized by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) with the hope of caging some suspected killers of advertising must have left the event very disappointed. 
Held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos, on Thursday, March 27, 2008, the event, though produced heated exchanges among various interest groups, it was however short of fishing out the ‘killer’.
If APCON expected to be lauded for the choice of theme, it got it wrong as not a few submissions from the participants questioned the theme, Who is Killing Advertising: the advertiser, the agency, the media?
Even though there are differences, as sharp as they are to be sorted out among the practitioners, suggesting that advertising is being killed could be likened to crying wolf, some argued.
The theme, really, may sound like one of those screaming headlines from tabloid titles, it however offered stakeholders another opportunity to re evaluate the sector.
The swelling accounts of various advertising agencies, volume transaction effects on the media and the industry’s billing said to be at over N50 billion naira are too robust to give room for any apprehension, some of the participants explained.
But the differences, at the end of the day, focused on the accusation that these huge resources in the advertising sector is not evenly and justly spread and that ethics and standard are being compromised.
Before the search for the ‘killers’ of advertising began at the event, the Honourable Minister of Information and Communications, in his keynote address read by his representative, Lady Nancy Oghenekaro, had urged the stakeholders to subject their thinking to the four ideals of the advertising practice. “Is your practice truthful, descent honest and legal? Think and act these ideals”
The minister warned that the killing comes only when the stakeholders create anomalies due to self-interests and disobedience for the rule of law in their areas of operations.
The chairman of APCON, Chris Doghudje in his defense of the theme agreed that it is uncomfortable at this period of the huge potential of advertising in the country to suggest a possible death of the creative sector, signs of urgent intervention from APCON regulatory position brought about the theme.
“APCON in its regular interactions with stakeholders noticed some serious complaints to that effect. Today’s forum is to discuss the question so as to determine whether there is some truth in it and take remedial measures to prevent it from happening or find out whether it is the case of some people merely crying wolf when none exists,” he stated.
As papers were presented, it turned out that there could be a killer, but none is existing currently.
Analysing the advertising environment, the first vice president of Advertisers Association of Nigeria, ADVAN, Aare Fatai Odesile could not agree less on the potential of the industry, noting that foreign direct investment, FDI, into the sector is on the increase. While stating that content and creativity could be improved, he said “from reliable facts, compliance level is improving gradually on TV and Radio”.
On media monitoring, he informed the gathering that ADVAN has taken a step further to have a board in place for the Audit Bureau of Circulation, ABC.
And if one was waiting for Okesile’s paper to finally fish out the grey spot, and perhaps the potential ‘killer’ of the sector, media debt looked more like it.
In addressing the issue, he noted that the response by the media to claim debt is grossly not commiserate with the perception of the volume of debt said to be owed the media by the agencies.
As one was trying to see through perception and reality, then came the presentation of ‘Lolu Akinwunmi, president of Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN.
His paper suggested that debts owed the media by the advertising agencies are traceable to sharp mal-practices of the employees of the print and electronic media houses.
Akinwunmi challenged the media houses to come forward with genuine claims of debt owed by members of AAAN.
His paper titled after the theme of the day, but with an amendment, Who is Killing Advertising: the Advertiser, the Agency, the Media (or the regulator?) gave one the impression of dragging the gatekeepers into the ring. But he did little or nothing in that direction.
Akinwunmi, among other issues observed: “We have more than ample proof that some of the claims are a product of unprofessional collusion between greedy media personnel and agency staff. When challenged, media houses are often unable to produce genuine documentation to back these insertions or spots because often, none is issued”
Akinwunmi went further to cite personal experience, saying that someone from a newspaper house once approached him with a proposal offering to run a full page advert of Crystal Bank campaign for 50 percent of the actual cost in cash and off record. He however added: “In spite of the attractiveness of the offer, I thankfully declined”
He brought out the poor response of the media to forward claims as requested by ASCOMDI as proof of none availability of papers to back up the media houses’ claims.
“When for example the ASCOMDI requested that media houses send in their debt claims in September 2007, for three months, no claim was received at the APCON secretariat. In actual fact, the closing date for the submission of claims has had to be shifted about five or six times to enable the media present its claims,” he explained.
At last, in Akinwunmi’s papers, the organizers had the presentation that generated the needed exchanges. Responses however revealed that neither the agencies nor the media houses have a place to hide if debt is that ‘killer’. In fact the response of veteran practitioner and pioneer member of Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria, AAPN, now AAAN, Sir Steve Omojafor, to debt issue must have surprised not a few agency practitioners, including Akinwunmi.
Omojafor, the chairman of STB-McCann, a leading advertising agency, argued that agencies have no business owing the media houses under the claim that clients owe. “The media house is not a business partner or shareholder in your advertising agency, so it is wrong to say because your client is owing you, so the media should be owed after delivering its service. It is wrong,” Omojafor said.
To proffer solution out of the debt issue, the chairman of Daar Communication, Chief Raymond Dokpesi during his presentation urged the media to take another look at the terms of payment in operation presently.
Another presentation that generated a different kind of reaction from a member of the audience was that of the director, executive consultant of The Guardian, Dr. Jide Oluwajuyitan. His paper, The Print Media- Is Circulation Growth Relevant To Advertising Growth? read by Andrew Yacim probed into the reality or myth of the media in the socio-economic life of the people.
Relying on several schools of thought on what the media is perceived to mean to the society, Oluwajuyitan suggested that behavioural pattern of users of the media is largely based on subjective, rather than objective perception.
“New studies are showing that the media mainly confirms our old beliefs, and that people suffer from what one model builder called ‘selective perception’. We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear precisely because we align ourselves mostly with the news which are favourable and consolidate our existing opinions,” he said.
However, in a forum of this kind where each group wants to take the advantage of such gathering to reposition itself, especially in the face of accusation and counter accusations, Oluwajuyitan’s presentation, turned out not to be the input of Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN. An emotional reaction from a member of the audience in defense of NPAN revealed that, the association was perhaps the only group at the forum that did not present a paper.
However, the president of Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, OAAN, ‘Kole Ademulegun, gave what he called ‘sore card’ in which he concluded that: “It is amply evident that all key players in the advertising industry are collectively guilty of ‘killing’ advertising in Nigeria, albeit in varying degrees”.

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