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Fadolapo’s APCON: Can They Sustain The Fire From Four Cylinders?

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About 17 months ago, Dr. Olalekan Olumuyiwa Fadolapo A took over as the fourth registrar/CEO of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON). Those who are familiar with his vibrant disposition during his days at AAAN noted readily that the new registrar will promptly propel the apex advertising regulatory body to new heights.

 Plans and Promises

Reeling out his major plans after a few weeks in office, at an IMC Industry Grand Reception organised by your frontline brand and marketing publication, Brand Communicator, in collaboration with the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Fadolapo outlined them to include industry reform, solving multiple tax and copyright issues, facilitating pitching for government communications jobs, among others. He clearly promised to reform the industry.

In his words, “the industry reform has been a major challenge. The industry reform can create jobs, the industry reform will improve the Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) of APCON and the government, and it will help stabilize our industry. “APCON is here to regulate and not to kill the industry. We are not regulating to strangulate, and we are regulating to bring the best out of every one of us”

On plans to resolve taxation challenges, the registrar promised to finalise talks with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for an exclusive help desk that will ensure that issues like double taxation; application of withholding tax, and others that relate to the industry are resolved. Another problem Fadolapo pointed out when he came in was the issue of copyright the industry is facing. He mentioned that the DG of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) informed him that most of the issues of copyright in court can be resolved at the industry level. Within that period, he also revealed that “APCON is talking to NCC on setting up a help desk for agencies that need advice on ownership of copyright and other copyright issues. We will be organising a webinar soon and the DG has agreed to speak on this issue.”

In another vein, Fadolapo spoke on the digital switchover by the government and revealed that APCON is pushing to manage the audience measurement aspect of the digital switchover. On plans to ensure that more industry players get government jobs, he promised to open talks with the Bureau of Public Service Reforms and ensure that APCON certification among others is listed as a qualification requirement for hiring professionals for government jobs. Promoting local content and driving industry growth to ensure that local elements play key roles was another agenda Dr. Fadolapo, promised to consistently place on the front burner.

His words, “If you look back at the industry, how many local production houses do we have? We believe strongly that promoting the localisation policy by APCON will encourage all the service providers and content creators within that ecosystem of advertising. “Our local elements must play a role in advertising by conquering or by conquest; it must resonate with the community. It must promote our culture, and recognize our uniqueness as a people. “We are still getting to the point of imported advertisements. In other climes, for example, modeling and voice-over are huge businesses, but what happens to our own modeling industry?”

 Now, with almost two years into Fadolapo’s tenure as registrar/ CEO, to what extent has APCON facilitated the harnessing of various opportunities and local endowments that abound within the advertising industry?

Enters AISOP

The biggest salvo so far, fired by Fadolapo’s APCON was On October 6, 2021, when the Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) was introduced. Consternation buzzed across the industry when details of the new law were released, and how it would guide and regulate the business of advertising in Nigeria. Despite the eruptions, APCON insisted that AISOP is a business framework that must be allowed to work because it seeks to improve mutual respect, eradicate unfair advantage, unethical competition, and un-equitable policies among relevant stakeholders in the advertising and marketing communications industry in Nigeria. Within the industry, AISOP clearly regulates engagement policy, payment terms, and method, media rates and commission, remuneration model, disengagement protocol, returns on advertising investment and measurements, dispute resolution, and other related business procedures.

One area of the new legislation that generated a lot of controversies was the rule on payment terms. Advertisers felt compelled to seek an urgent review because they believe AISOP should not dictate the terms of any contract, rather it should allow parties to agree on their terms.

Many observers noted that before now, contract rules were hardly obeyed. The clients dictate the pace and call the shots. With the new law, the tide is poised to change.APCON is insisting that previous practices made it difficult for media organisations and agencies to survive. It is true that APCON has the statutory duty to regulate the sector, but how easy has it been, enforcing this rule so far when the current economic situation might make it very difficult for most struggling agencies and media houses to stand their grounds?

With recent rapport and rubbing of minds between the body of advertisers and APCON, will there be room for the shifting of grounds? We will definitely know the details with time.

New fellows Inducted

Even with the passion to aggressively push AISOP to a logical end, APCON did not forget some urgent issues that have been fallow for about 10 years. Early this year, APCON inducted into the fellowship cadre of the advertising profession, 63 long-serving practitioners who have attained the highest level in the advertising practice in Nigeria. The induction ceremony that took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Lagos was graced by several dignitaries in the advertising industry. Congratulating the new inductees in his opening address at the Fellowship Induction ceremony, APCON Registrar, Dr. Lekan Fadolapo disclosed that the inductees met all the stipulated requirements by law and have attained the highest and distinguished class in the profession.

The Sterling Debacle

Besides taking good care of the home front, APCON under Lekan Fadolapo did not forget its role as a vital watchdog within the industry. During the last Easter season when Sterling Bank shared an embarrassing Easter goodwill message which compared the resurrection of Jesus Christ to locally made bread in Nigeria called “Agege Bread”, the fight in APCON the watchdog came alive. A statement signed by APCON Chief Executive, Olalekan Fadolapo, said it observed with displeasure the insensitive and provocative Easter celebration advertisement by Sterling Bank Plc , and the council will take necessary action to ensure that Sterling Bank is sanctioned for the exposure of such an offensive advertisement.

Regrettably, APCON is yet to work out appropriate sanctions against Sterling Bank months after they exposed what most industry players see as an insensitive and provocative easter advertisement. APCON claims they are still “” Studying “and ”“investigating” the infraction by Sterling Bank. Probably they might need to send it to a forensic lab for extra- analysis before decisions are finally taken.

 It seems APCON’s code, exempts goodwill messages from vetting, but in this case, the council is trying to stand on the strength that the Sterling Bank message was offensive and it generated a lot of public uproars. However, APCON’s subsequent lethargy after the initial “gra-gra” creates room for that embarrassing stamp of a “toothless bulldog” to stick on the regulatory body despite the high level of vitality exhibited by the new APCON.

 Osa’s Exposed Cleavage

The same slow-motion seem to be brewing after APCON flagged down one of Globacom’s NIN ad featuring a female model, Osas Ighodaro. APCON feels the model was exposing her cleavage beyond what is normal. APCON also claimed the TVC was neither submitted nor approved for exposure by the Advertising Standards Panels (ASP), the statutory body charged with the responsibility of ensuring that advertisements conform with the prevailing laws code of ethics of advertising in Nigeria. Pronto, APCON ordered thee advert to be brought down from all media platforms-broadcast and social media. The brouhaha generated propelled everything around the ad to move to the front burner of all conversations in the media space. By accident or by design, Glo was achieving quality mileage ahead of others in the keenly contested telco space where all the advertising big boys are trying to pull their muscles. At least this tilts the balance of argument in favour of those who assert that sex will always sell in advertising.

Just like many others, I had to look out specifically for this controversial ad – to study (Just like APCON will always do) the scene so that I get a personal conviction on the level of that exposure. I wanted to be on the same page with my dear APCON. However, after my “investigations”, I discovered that I had to disagree slightly with APCON.

 After watching the last BBNaija Reunion and some musicals on our stations, some aired within the children’s time-belt, the scene that drew complaints from APCON looked like a child’s play. I saw that the exposure on the controversial ad was just slightly above normal. Probably APCON would need to link up with BON, the films and censors board, and others if the issue must be tackled from the root. It might look somewhat illogical for APCON to spend valuable energy on things that are quite dominant and taken for granted in regular programmes. APCON would only be stretching itself too thin to be effective.

Regulating Online/Digital Ads

I also share the same view about plans to regulate or license digital advertisers. A few weeks ago, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo revealed the intention to drastically reduce unethical digital advert practices in Nigeria. APCON, he explained, will be cultivating the support of the Nigerian Police Force and the National Assembly to regulate the digital media space.

 Fadolapo, identified some distasteful online advertisements as those promoting strange rituals, private parts enlargements, breast enlargement, love portion, and concoctions to provide political powers. Other unwholesome advertisements, he said, claim the ability to cure all manner of ailments with one particular product without scientific proof. It is quite commendable that APCON is planning to monitor and regulate Online ads but how prepared is APCON today to effectively take on this task even if they double their workforce? There is so much going on in the digital media space. Sometimes you will find a group or an organisation putting up a promotional post just to “catch cruise”. And this can add up to thousands within minutes?

The honest advice is that there are so many vital things for APCON to focus on than spend time looking for any needle in a giant haystack. As Fadolapo prepares to mark his second year at the driver’s seat at APCON this September, let me commend his speed and passion so far. I hope to use my column in August to x-ray the impact of the last two action years on stakeholders.

 If APCON really wants to sustain the fire from all cylinders, it must focus on vital issues and avoid battles from too many fronts, no matter how appealing. As we all know, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

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