SCRAMBLE FOR NIGERIAN BUSINESS:A GUERILLA FIGHTER’S DESPERATE APPROACH
Louisa Aguiyi-Ironsi claimed local agencies were professionally unethical resulting in the death of many media establishments and poor financial state of those still in existence. She claimed “These showy executives, who live large like the Joneses (emphasis mine), would rather buy luxury and swanky homes overseas, while owing staff salaries…” that, according to her is partly why major Nigerian advertisers prefer foreign agencies. She has since launched a major online campaign with the alarmist headline “To Restore Trust In The Nigerian Advertising Industry By Louisa Aguiyi-Ironsi”
For the benefit of readers who may not know why this failed journalist suddenly resurrected with a fly-by-night NGO to champion a cause she knew next to nothing about it is important to give a background. Bharat Shaktar is an Indian who is also a Kenyan national. Over the years he has built a thriving business around the advertising and brand communications industry in East Africa. Along the line he developed a business strategy to warehouse the franchises to some major global advertising and marketing communications networks but with time Mr. Shaktar was made to realize that having such bouquet of franchises meant precious little if he did not have a presence in Nigeria. He, therefore did the next reasonable thing; approach a Nigerian Agency which had independently obtained the sole Ogilvy franchise in Nigeria. The Scanad group offered to buy a 51% stake in Prima Garnet while, founder and Managing Director of Prima Garnet who incidentally is presently chairman of the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON) declined the offer insisting on retaining control over the 21 year old agency.
Next, Shaktar registers an Agency in Nigeria Where Scanad Group owns 99% and himself owning 1%. Incidentally APCON had been working on some reforms in the industry over the past 3 years to professionalize the industry further and after WIDE COUNSULTATIONS with stakeholders through their sectoral representatives agreed on certain key issues. Interestingly the Nigerian Managing Director of Scanad, Mr. Rufai Ladipo was the first to officially unveil the ACAPR direction to agency heads while he was still the President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). Mr. Ladipo assured members that one of the key policy thrusts of the ACAPR was the regulation to protect the local industry and increase local content in the Nigerian advertising industry in order to among other reasons create more jobs and opportunity for Nigerian advertising professionals. The purpose he told us at the Lagos Sheraton venue of our session in 2011was to raise the local content bar of our advertising to the percentage that a country like Brasil had attained over the years.
The desperate attempt to hang the ACAPR agenda on Prima Garnet’s problem with Scanad is therefore diversionary and puerile. Prima Garnet we learnt went to court when Scanad Nigeria commenced operations and was marketing the Ogilvy franchise to major advertisers in Nigeria. Prima Garnet has only sought to protect its interests as enshrined in its subsisting agreement that it was the SOLE affiliate to Ogilvy in Nigeria. It is only a coincidence that this is happening at a time when the Managing Director is also Chairman of APCON. For the avoidance of doubt, the Chairman of APCON is statutorily an advertising practitioner and the post is not an executive one.
On to the blanket abuse of ad agency practitioners by Louisa. Firstly, several stakeholder sessions have established that most media houses have bogus unverifiable claims on debts owed by agencies. This is because most times rather than do proper tracking of actual ads flighted, they simply resort to lifting figures from the original media purchase orders regardless of the fact that the order may have been amended or cancelled. Loiusa must know that media houses that are professionally run post good profits after they have stabilized and run business models that keep their debts at a manageable level. Second is the fact that where there is a serious debt issue, the client is involved especially when they are in distress, for instance, finance institutions that collapsed in the 90s and 2000s collapsed with a lot of media debt. Thirdly, since media tracking was introduced into Nigeria, a lot of media houses now owe agencies and clients after reconciliation of poorly executed campaigns. Fourthly, advertising professionals are extremely serious, intellectual, passionate and focused individuals who work long hours and beyond the call of duty to achieve clients’ set goals, meet deadlines and make brands successful and profitable. If a few of us can afford the luxury cars and swanky homes she refers to it is because we deserve them just like any other focused professional. Fifthly is the obvious fact that Nigerian agencies have the capacity and have indeed displayed same in building international and local brands. Clients who pay for value get value. We must discourage a situation where companies in Nigeria will want to pay about 10% of what they are willing to pay a foreign agency and still expect the same results. It is never going to happen.
As a practitioner on client side for about 4 years, I experienced situations where a Nigerian Agency severally salvaged the jobs and campaigns Louisa’s messianic foreign agencies had messed up. This is not to say there are no great foreign agencies but advertising is culture and demography-based. There is nowhere in the world where the industry is controlled willy-nilly by foreigners. I would commend a recent quote by Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to nay-sayers in Louisa’s ilk:
“…Trade liberalization must have its limits… China, now perceived as the second largest economy in the world, did not practice complete trade liberalization…Today, the Chinese economy is not only growing at a rate faster than most European countries but has moved millions of its citizens out of poverty…Consequently, Nigerian leaders and policy makers, if for nothing else, should be nationalistic and self serving by ensuring that the new scramble for Nigeria, at least, moves millions of Nigerians out of poverty. The leadership must put in place mechanisms to reduce the exploitation of Nigeria and Nigerians…government has a right to intervene in the market to give its citizens a fair deal. Some of the Asian investors are dual citizens. They borrow at very low interest rates abroad, invest into services in Nigeria, make high returns and repatriate huge profits. Failure to intervene in this New Scramble for Nigeria may result in a new (not neo-) colonial Nigeria whose negative consequences would be more severe than those created by the British imperial power.”
Louisa Aguiyi-Ironsi should therefore please shut up and find a better vocation because she obviously does not know jack about the advertising industry!