By Princewill Ekwujuru
With just five days to the March 28 elections, advertising spend on political campaigns has been estimated to have cost political parties, friends and well wishers of those seeking elective offices a princely N4.9 billion so far. However, federal and state advert regulatory agencies have expressed displeasure over publications of unapproved advert materials.
According to data gathered from different advert agencies and reports from advert regulatory bodies, the print media have so far raked in about N1.382 billion of the advert spend, with the All Progressives Congress, APC spending N332.503 million on its presidential candidate, while its Peoples Democratic Party, PDP counterpart spent N1.049 billion, which is 65.5 per cent higher than the amount spent by APC. Field reports further put other expenses on campaign rallies for PDP and APC at N1.057 billion and N595.082 million respectively. Both parties also spent N224.36 million on outdoor campaigns.
The broadcast campaign coverage for the presidential candidates were put at N508.35 million and N391.05 million for PDP and APC. Electronic media adverts were N733.9million for PDP and N555.6 million for APC respectively, bringing the total amount to N2.5 billion. In summary, a total of N4.973 billion has been spent on campaign expenses, with PDP and APC spending N3.549 billion and N1.424 billion respectively.
Last year, the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria, AAAN had projected that the 2015 general elections will contribute billions of naira to the advert industry, an amount it said will form major part of the advertising spend for the 2015 advertising year. But from recent development and the run of political campaigns so far, the projection has been surpassed in terms of adspend. However, advert practitioners feel the estimate is much less than what has been spent, going by the inability of heads of sectoral bodies in the advert industry to track the amount spent by politicians, as a result of the haphazard nature the adverts were given out.
It would be recalled that in 2014, former president of AAAN and Chief Operating Officer of 141 Worldwide, Bunmi Oke, predicted a bright future for any ad agency that puts its act together to tap into the windfall expected from the election year and the huge budget politicians would earmark for the 2015 political campaigns.
Worried by the bulk of political campaign materials, Financial Vanguard sampled the opinions of stakeholders who were particularly disappointed at the manner unapproved political materials litter advertising spaces in the country.
It is a fact that Nigeria has a history of not coming out with election spending figures, and data are equally unavailable on the actual spending of politicians on campaigns. But going by the volume of materials churned out through the different media of communication for political parties, it is no longer in doubt that billions of naira were spent in the 2015 election campaigns.
The AAAN members observed with great concern the spate of unhealthy smear campaigns by the political parties and shadow interest groups across the various media channels.
AAAN said: “In obvious disregard of the advertising code and ethics of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, a body saddled with the responsibility of regulating and controlling advertisement in the country, and the AAAN, most of these political advertisements have been exposed without going through the vetting procedures and consequent approvals from the Advertising Standards Panel, ASP, of APCON.
“Our concerns are that the professional values of the advertising practice and indeed, public sensibilities, as well as the very stability of the polity have been severely undermined by the continued character assassinations, wanton abuses, unrestrained attacks, threats and counter- threats that have become the bane of political communication building up to the elections,” AAAN said in a release.
Kayode Olagesin, Managing Director of Towncriers, an activation agency said: “There is no time in the history of the country that we have witnessed this volume of campaigns. I tell you, I don’t see them spending less than N5 billion on each of the presidential candidates.
“If you look at the way they have used the press, wrap around that costs millions, there are lots of heavy charges paid, lots of them up to N20 million for one material, five or more pages of newspapers in a day, and you have several days in a week, I tell you, they have spent billions, but the truth is that it is difficult to know exactly how much they are spending. Mind you, the spending still continues, so you do not know yet, may be after the whole campaign, you can sit down and calculate and put some figures to it.
“What is more interesting is to find out what portion of the advertising materials that passed through professional advertising practitioners in Nigeria. I daresay, a lot of it did not pass through the professional advertising practice. So it will not, therefore, have added that much value to the revenue of advertising agencies in the country.” He went on to say that the impact on advertising agencies is minimal through third hand or second hand, passing to the agencies. “I do not think agencies are on the table, the strategy and the energy are disbursed to agencies outside. I think a few agencies in Nigeria are actually having those direct contracts with political parties. We should urge the political parties to do what is right; to appoint proper Nigerian agencies to run their campaigns. That is what needs to happen.
“I do not know the elements of it that are produced and done outside. I don’t know the details of that, but I know that the direct contact have not been given to Nigerian advertising agencies, a lot of them are given to people who are probably politicians to help them broker it through first, second or third party agents,” he stated.
On the other hand, the OAAN, on their part, said all political adverts posted on their billboards were duly vetted by APCON’s ASP.
Also disturbed were state regulatory agencies. For example, the Oyo State Signage and Advertisement Agency, OYSAA, complained that adverts posted in different sites and unauthorised places, including lamp poles around the city, is a flagrant breach of the extant laws and regulation of the agency.
This, however, prompted the Director-General, Mr. Yinka Adepoju to direct all political campaign organisations/committees to apply and obtain approval of OYSAA before posting their campaign materials in any location. The agency said the warning became necessary in order not to exacerbate the already tensed political climate in the country, and to maintain the pervading peace enjoyed in the state.
Speaking on the development, Mr. Adigwe Iwuala, Deputy Managing Director, Orlick Communications, said: “This will remain a conjecture until the elections are over. What you will get from any person now is an estimated amount which may be low or high.
“The print industry may be pocketing about N900 million for various adverts. If you aggregate this by the number of newspapers and magazines in the different parts of the country, you may find out that it is running to above N900 million.” On social media, Michael Uze, a public commentator, observed that the social media ad spend cannot be tracked as there is no registered body saddled with the responsibility to track what is spent on that platform.
Reacting to the issue of non- disclosure of amount spent on the 2015 elections so far, Mr. Andre Nduneche, Lead Consultant, Image Machine Advertising, said Nigerians can only speculate as politicians are secretive when it comes to disclosing budgets on advertising. “The politicians are very secretive about these things. They will not want you to know how much they are putting into it, but from all indications, you can tell by the volume of contents in all the advertising platforms which is running into billions of naira.
“The 2015 electioneering campaign period is just the Christmas of advertising. Everybody waits for years, and that too, increases the price of advertising as it is only in four years that such opportunity calls. Money that should have been spent in four years is now spent within a short period of time. So we are looking at a very substantial amount of money,” he said.
Corroborating, Mr. Ewat Okonokon, a brand analyst with Brand Campaign International, said that during electioneering periods like this, advertising contents across various advertising platforms prior to elections are increased. He noted also that the 2015 election has attracted more advertising than any period of election in the country, pointing out that politicians are beginning to understand the power of advertising in shaping the minds of people.
He went further to say that the close contest between PDP, APC and other fringe parties in 2011, did not experience a strong competition like 2015, and this has impacted greatly on the advertising industry.
It will be recalled that the issue of non-disclosure of the amount political parties spend on the 2015 election prompted the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, to institute an action demanding that all political parties make full disclosure of sources of their campaign funds, a way of invoking the Freedom of Information bill, an action seen as a step in the right direction for public accountability. It is still in doubt whether that move will yield any positive result.