By Princewill Ekwujuru
Mr. Ikechi Odigbo is the newly elected President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). He spoke on the challenges confronting the industry and what he, in collaboration with other executives, intend to do to transform the industry.
What is the plan of the advertising industry in helping to mold the growth of the SMEs through advertising?
These is a strong plan of engagement between the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the micro businesses, and the advertising agencies, because I strongly believe the brand building activities or services of the agencies is critical to driving the growth of the SMEs sector, which is supposed to be the engine room of growth, moving forward.
I also believe that this underserved sector is not the only group that requires the services of certified, properly registered advertising agencies, most of the government ministries, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agencies subscribe to unregistered advertising agencies or, even, more often than not, they engage journalists and media practitioners for the purpose of executing communication awareness campaigns which is actually the job of the advertising agencies; and we are going to be conducting strong engagements within the AAAN to enhance awareness for the services of our members within the government sectors, as we believe we have a part to play in nation building.
When the efforts of government are properly articulated and given strategic direction, I believe that creates more ownership and goodwill, and a sense of a government that is headed in a direction. I believe it is important that the professional membership of our industry are given the opportunity to contribute to revamping the image of the national brand of Nigeria. In that wise, we will be engaging more robustly with the relevant sectors of government to also let them know the significance of the APCON reforms, and other similar statutes requires that the mandate for engaging private companies for services, such as advertising, gives priority to indigenous companies, and not just indigenous companies, but professionally registered, Advertisers Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON-licensed, AAAN-registered agencies.
As the newly elected AAAN president, what are your likely programs for the industry?
Our industry has been going through significant challenges in recent times with the recession in the economy which we are beginning to navigate out of.
Our members have been severely impacted with dwindling economic fortunes just like any other sector of the economy, and what that implies is the need for us to create a more robust enabling framework for the businesses of our members. One of the ways we believe this can be achieved is by engaging our partners, colleagues in the business sector, especially advertisers most of whom belong to Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN). We want to create a very strong friendship with ADVAN, with a view to ensuring that engagement between the agencies and their clients is standardized and a win-win posture is adopted rather than some growing trend of random and arbitrary practices that we are beginning to see.
We see instances of idea theft where, in some instances, pitches are called and an agency comes up with the preferred proposal but does not have the connection, and the preferred agency is now given the idea that was presented by the other agency to go and improve on; that is becoming very rampart. We also have scenarios where the services of our members are engaged and a few months down the line the clients makes a u-turn and says I cannot afford this anymore. I think what we can afford to do now is 50 percent of the agreed fee and it now becomes a question of do I go ahead or do I walk away and go with nothing?
That’s a challenge! How do you hope to navigate the waters?
So we want to be able to put in place a professional and standardized way of doing business, terms of doing business. It must be said that the advertisers have their issues with the agencies who may not be meeting the terms of their contract or their obligations, through the client, and to the media industry. This creates problems for the clients. So we want to be able to do some proper house keeping with our partners in the media, the advertisers, with a view to sanitizing the practice and ensuring that a win-win environment begins to define the conduct of our business in the industry. We want to be able to create a greater value for our members.
The second of course is also related to greater value. We realized that if the APCON reform is fully implemented it will boost the growth of our industry and our membership; it will put in place the right measures that will ensure that there is a structure, reasons for relating with agencies.
It will also create more value for our agencies because the arbitrary way that anybody can go take up a job or an advertising contract and execute, all of that will be limited. I would also like to commend APCON leadership at present who has begun implementing the first phase of the APCON reform and by so doing, beginning to certify both corporate and individual membership.
What about the APCON Council?
For the APCON reform to achieve its full potential, we need to have a properly constituted council and for the past four years the APCON council has not been constituted. One of our objectives will be to have a powerful lobby from the association, engage our supervisory ministry and other relevant MDAs with a view to ensuring that the APCON Council is constituted.
And it’s not just constituting the APCON Council, but making sure it is properly constituted, because the Council is supposed to be made up of qualified and fully registered members of the advertising profession and so just like other institutes, like Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, (ICAN), or the Medical profession; that is the way we want the APCON Council to continue to be constituted and we believe that the times require that we even accelerate the composition of the Council.
It would be advantageous or beneficial to the entire nation if we have a regulatory body that is properly constituted at this time as we go into the political season, where we will be having all kinds of campaigns running. We need an APCON which plays the role of ensuring that communication that is appropriate, factual that meets the right ethical and professional standard is exposed in the mass media.
As an empire, APCON is critical to maintaining that order within the political and business space where communications is concerned. So I would want to implore the government to pay attention.
You have started articulating your plans, how are you preparing your team?
I am privileged to lead a very capable and experienced team of colleagues within the newly constituted executive of the association. I have no doubt that by working as a team, we will be able to manage and steer the ship of affairs of the association into a land of progress.
We are just in the process of finalizing our vision, strategy and our action plan. In some weeks, we will be consulting stakeholders in our industry and beyond. We want to also have the benefit and input of the stakeholders within the marketing and media sectors, because we realize that for us to achieve our goals we need the partnership and support of all the constituencies.
At the last AGM, the theme was growing the economic pot. I want to know what your team will be doing to grow the economic pot?
Well, one of the things we are going to do is to create greater value for our members and protect their business interest more robustly and deliberately. We also be creating more opportunities for them to build from. One of the things we have seen as a major issue is capacity building; it is one thing to have the opportunity, another thing is to be able to harness the opportunity and we believe there is a need for professional development and capacity building within our industry. The newly constituted executive will ensure that the advertising academy is properly constituted and launched within our time. The advertising academy will be a veritable platform for meeting the skills development requirements, the competency development and the grooming of the required talent to work within the agencies. Capacity building is key and expanding the opportunities we have within the government sector is also key.
If the government is the greatest player in the economy probably contributing a greater percentage of the Gross Domestic product (GDP) and the advertising sector is not part of that whole arrangement, and only has a little percentage of the basket, there is no doubt the share of our pot will be very small and that’s something we need to work towards.
Having said that, the whole purpose of the association is not necessarily to protect agencies to the point where they seize to be competitive; we want to make available the necessary training for our members to compete and win in the market place.