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Vision 2020: Challenges facing the advertiser and perception question

By  Princewill Ekwujuru
Arising from her 13th Annual General Meeting/Media awards in June 2009, Advertising Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) sought to attach the relevance of ad

Yar Adua
Yar Adua

vertisers in the corporate entity called Nigeria, as well, seek ways to be relevant within the re-branding Nigeria project and the Vision 2020 context, embarked upon by the federal government, spearheaded by Prof. Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information and Communication.

The theme, ‘Vision 2020 and the role of the advertisers,” was an expose on challenges of the advertiser and public perception of the vision and impediments to earlier plans by the federal government to re-brand Nigeria.

Accordingly, the AGM highlighted some of the efforts by the Federal government, which was fruitless with a large chunk of tax payers money thrown to the wind without caution.

According to Dr. Reuben Abati, Editorial Chairman, Guardian Newspaper who delivered a paper on the above subject averred that, ‘the biggest problem that the Vision 2020 project faces is that of widespread  public cynicism about it, arising from frustrations with the country’s  leadership and the stark failure of similar development plans  in the past.

He observed that Nigerians in the  past two decades have witnessed similar initiatives as Vision 2020. “The most famous of all was the Vision 2010 plan by the Late Gen. Sanni Abacha administration in 1997. In the Vision 2010 report, it is stated, “our vision statement for Nigeria by the year 2010,” (2010 is tomorrow, her we are with empty hand, no housing, no health, no road and electricity for the commoners ), is “to a united, industrious, caring and God fearing democratic society committed to making the basic needs of life affordable for everyone and creating Africa’s leading economy,” even though the pay off line for the 2010 campaign was “Housing and Good Health for all by the year 2010.”

According to the paper delivered by Abati, “Nigeria is said to be the 40th economy in the world, but its conditions are far below the scale. The state of critical infrastructure in the country is horrendous, the contribution of manufacturing to GDP has been dropping consistently over the years, in the face of massive de_industrialization. The Nigerian economy is also heavily import-dependent. Difficult local conditions, and a continuing disconnect between monetary and fiscal policies as well as high costs of production have conspired to make imports more attractive and affordable.”

Politically, the country faces an enduring crisis with the electoral system routinely compromised by professional politicians, a situation that is further compounded by the failure of governance and rank corruption within the system. The social sector is also troubled. Religious and ethnic differences continue to result ii violent confrontations. Human Rights abuses abound.

**Human Rights Watch, an international NGO its UiJ9inid_terrn Yar’Adua administration scores Nigeria wroirtne issues of human freedom and national integrity. The country’s value system has failed. Less than 50 per cent of the country’s children of school age are iú school. About 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Meanwhile national population continues to grow at the rate of 3 perception annually, while life expectancy hovers between the ages of 47 and 52 years.

There are serious problems with the country’s justice administration process. Nigeria has also lost so much in terms of its external image in Africa and beyond. For a country that seeks to compete with other nations within the international space, the foregoing conditions are unsustainable. The country needs to seek new direction through economic, social and political transformation.

The Advertiser
It should not be surprising that AD VAN is focusing on the role of the advertiser in bringing about such transformation. Its members and their firms generate most of the activities within the Nigerian economy, and they are directly affected by limitations within the environment. Prices of products and services are rising, the cost of production is also on the upward swing, meanwhile, increasing poverty has weakened consumer spending, resulting in huge stocks.
Companies are having to reduce marketing budgets, other firms have closed shop and relocated to other countries where costs of production are lower. Change therefore is in the interest of the advertiser, and the rest of the industry. It is most fitting that the task of transformation cannot be achieved by government alone, and in its articulation of the process, the Federal Government considers a stakeholder and multi_sectoral approach to the initiative. Besides, the role of the private sector is paramount. The subsisting economic model in Nigeria places mush emphasis on private sector_led growth. In defining, designing, implementing and evaluating the Vision 2020 process, government needs to place a special accent on partnership with the private sector.
The advertiser, not necessarily as a member of ADVAN, but in a generic sense, has a lot to contribute in the context of such partnership. Without any doubt, the vision of advertisers is congruent with that of Vision 20/2020. Advertisers are key players within the economy; they represent businesses providing products and services, and seeking to add value even as they seek to create brand mind_share and promote brand essence in a competitive context.
A robust Nigerian economy in 2020, with the aspirations outlined by the Visioners, should translate into a more conducive business environment for the private sector, and other investors, and an expansion in capacity utilization, even absorptive capacity, creating job opportunities, and greater scope of activities within the economy. Thus, Vision 2020 as a policy direction has implications for business planning and strategy. The transformation, which Nigeria seeks ought to compel the advertiser and other stakeholders to engage in similar planning. Vision 2020 could translate into a complete re_making of how products and services are advertised, changes in budgeting plans and a complete shift in marketing communications strategy.
To cite just two examples: in the context of a 20:2020 Nigerian economy, there is bound to be greater competition of brands, increase in purchasing power may also well mean a phenomenal expansion in market share, and volumes, requiring different patterns of media space purchase. Media channels and advertising agencies in the context of an improved economy may also be better positioned to deliver value with obviously, cost implications. To a great extent therefore, Vision 2020 could become a source of unity for industry, and a catalyst for changes in the structure of business. Advertising is a people’s business much in the same manner in which Vision 2020 is about people and their lives. Marketing activities, such as engaged in by advertisers can help ensure full utilization of a nation’s productive capacity, promote competition and inspire the people’s spirit of entrepreneur ship, with win_win spill_over effects for all stakeholders including government which stands to gain higher revenue from taxation and other regulatory interventions.
This idyllic expectation is achievable however only if government is determined to translate its plans into measurable outcomes. Good governance is central to whatever development plans government proposes. Incidentally, this has been a major area of failure since I960, and it is the primary source of the challenges that the Vision 2020 proposal faces.
VISON 2020: Of  Challenges and Public Perception;
The biggest problem that the Vision 2020 project faces is that of widespread public cynicism about it, arising from frustrations with the country’s leadership and the stark failure of similar development plans in the past. Nigerians in the past two decades alone have witnessed so many of such initiatives as Vision 2020. The most famous of this is perhaps the Vision 2010 plan by the General Sani Abacha administration in 1997. In the Vision 2010 Main Report, it is stated inter alia that “Our vision statement for Nigeria by the year 2010 is _ “to be a united, industrious, caring and God_fearing democratic  society committed to making the basic needs of life affordable for everyone and creating  Africa’s leading economy. “
The Report is detailed with expected outcomes and time lines. It is therein stated instructively that “The Vision as crafted by the Committee is intended to serve as a compass to guide our collective actions to reach our targets by the year 2010. We can then plan for the period, 2020_ 2050 _ during which we would aim at joining the developed nations in particular, the major powers which are responsible for shaping the future of the entire world.”
It is obvious that the Vision 2020 project had been anticipated in the Vision 2010 document, but to be noted carefully is the fact that all the expectations and the action plans articulated in the Vision 2010 document were not realized. Still the Nigerian government continued with the Visioning process. In 2004, the Obasanjo Government launched what it called a National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) to cover the period 2004 _2007. NEEDS_1 as it was known was a medium_term strategy “to achieve effective poverty alleviation through wealth creation”, taking into consideration “political socio_cultural and other peculiarities of the nation.” This was followed up by NEEDS_2 to cover the period 2008 _ 2011 with emphasis on four goals: poverty reduction, wealth creation employment generation and value re_orientation. Not many Nigerians can point to many achievements deriving from NEEDS_ 1 and NEEDS_2 which were even extended to the state and local government levels as SEEDS and LEEDS respectively.
However in the introduction to the NEEDS_2 document, it is declared that “Nigeria aspires to be in the league of the 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020.  “It is this aspiration, pointed out in the Vision 2010 document, and restated in the NEEDS_2 document, that now forms the substance of the current Vision 2020 process in the context of not four goals but seven. Without the people’s buy_in however, not much may be achieved. The people are frustrated with their leaders. There have been so many reports of corruption and political brigandage since 1999 that even in a democratic context, the people nurse doubts about the future.
Poverty is yet another challenge: Vision 2010, NEEDS, Vision 2020, Re_branding Nigeria sound like slogans to  ordinary Nigerians who are more pre_occupied with survival. There is also a lot of ignorance and alienation in the land. Nigerians at the grassroots level are not easily impressed by reports that the government is dreaming or
seeing visions: they are interested in practical, immediate results. All of these constitute a marketing and communication challenge, and an opportunity for a proper definition of partnership between government and marketing professionals. Marketing plays and can play a central role in the development process. To sell Vision 2020 to Nigerians, to communicate a sense of where we are, where we should be going and what we need, the
midwives of the Vision 2020 process require skills that are in the province of marketing and communications. In this regard, I recommend the expression of partnership at all the key stages of the Visioning Process: (a) Defining the Vision, (b) Communicating the vision, (c) Implementing the Vision, (d) Monitoring and Evaluating the Outcomes.
(a) Defining the Vision: The Federal Government is currently at the stage of defining the  Vision 2020  in terms  of its  content,  priorities  and concrete  deliverables. Advertisers and their firms as key players within the economy can be involved at the various   planning   stages   as   members   of  the   Business   Support   Group,   the
Stakeholders Committee and the Technical Working Groups, and where they are not members,  their  inputs  can  be  sought,  or  they  can  as  relevant  groups  make representations. Assessing the interests of the products and services segment of the economy, as well as market behaviour require marketing research, and the kind of knowledge that marketing experts can place at the disposal of the process. The visioning process also requires proper segmentation of sectors and interest groups, an area in which marketing experts can provide useful insights. But more importantly, the participation of the marketing industry in the Visioning Process provides an opportunity to include in the knowledge_pool that is generated, the concerns of the industry and its various audiences in society, as well as the latter’s behaviour and peculiarities. Nigeria seeks to be differentiated from other countries of the world. The definition of that proposition can be supported by the marketing and advertising industry.
(b) Communicating the Vision: This is perhaps the key area in which the advertiser can bring marketing strategies to bear on Vision 2020. At the heart of the entire Vision 2020 idea is the plan by the Nigerian Government that the country can be re_branded. This re_branding objective was a key component of the Vision 2010 document, with the adoption of a Vision 2010 Slogan: “A great Nigeria., is ours to build.”   Ahead of the official launch of the Vision 2020 document scheduled for October 1, 2009, the Yar’Adua government has since embarked on a re_branding campaign, under the auspices of the Ministry of Information and Communication. The adopted slogan as announced is “Great country, good people” . The Minister in charge of this campaign, Professor Dora Akunyili had pointed out that the campaign will be mostly driven with private sector support. Advertisers and their firms are primarily engaged in the business of branding, turning products and services into strong brands, packaging symbols and ideas, with the goal of adding value in the market and gaining greater equity. It is the same objective as the Vision 2020 and the re_branding project.  Firms can be encouraged to adopt the Vision, and to plan their businesses on the Vision 2020 template. This can then be incorporated into their own business campaigns, a buy_in that will immediately offer a grassroots dimension to what is otherwise considered an elite activity by the majority of Nigerians. This social marketing  can  be  classified  under  Corporate  Social  Responsibility  contribution. OftentimeslCSR efforts by Nigerian companies are designed for the selfish purpose of self_promotfen, rather than a genuine attempt to promote  social  causes  or  ideas. Advertising can be better utilized as a social and technical vehicle for promoting ideas and values about Nigerian culture and heritage, and not as an instrument for misleading the people on the truths about their own lives.
(c) Implementing the Vision: Much of this will depend on government and its departments and agencies. It is important to stress that stakeholders also have expectations from government. Government must ensure a sustained open communication of the process of implementation, challenges and outcomes. Stakeholders also need to be continually engaged to deepen the partnership that was originally sought. Marketers in particular can offer advice on strategies of innovation, communicating change, and the management of uncertainties. In addition, respective stakeholders in achieving the new brand, must translate the new reality into shifts in their operations. The advertising industry in particular will need to strengthen its rules with relation to standards, and compliance with
(d) Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes: This is a citizenship responsibility for all Nigerians, be they marketers or other stakeholders. The governance process can only be deepened in the context of a feedback reality.
In the final analysis, the dream of change and progress that is represented by Vision 2020 can only be realised if political leaders themselves show moral example by transforming themselves into agents of change. The re_branding of Nigeria must begin with the re_branding of the leadership elite, and a general re_orientation of the citizenry, to inspire trust among the people and faith in the Nigerian brand. The test of the Vision 2020 process will not inhere in the production by October 2009, of a well_articulated policy document, it lies in translating projected goals into concrete and measurable inputs and outcomes. The short and long of it is in the earlier declaration “that the countries represented in Nil have the potentials to join the league of the 20 largest economies by the year 2025, if their economies are well managed and resources effectively harnessed.”


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.