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Balancing Clients’ Interests With Longevity Goals Of The Industry Will Ensure Harmony-Femi Adelusi, MIPAN President

Femi Adelusi, MIPAN President

Balancing Clients’ Interests With Longevity Goals Of The Industry Will Ensure Harmony-Femi Adelusi, MIPAN President

Every year, the Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), organises its Annual General Meeting (AGM) where members gather to chart the way forward for the association. This year, at the Congress held in Ikeja, Lagos the association re-elected Femi Adelusi as President. Other executive members were also returned to the EXCO for a second tenure. Recently, Adelusi spoke with the editorial team of Brand Communicator on his plans and that of his team to upscale the media independent sector, and how some issues undermining the unity and growth of Nigeria’s Advertising industry could be resolved.

What will be your focus and that of your EXCO after winning this second term?

 I must thank all my colleagues at MIPAN, that found me fit to return to the current EXCO as president. I also congratulate and thank other EXCO members who were willing to run for the second term. It Is a big responsibility and what is motivating us to go for this second term is the fact that we have some unfinished businesses. For example, regarding the Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) issue- it will be great to resolve it and come to a point where everyone will be happy.

 Secondly, there is also Audience Measurement. You know I lead the technical committee of the ministerial task force on Audience Measurement set up by the minister for information, Lai Mohammed and I feel that the project will make the industry more vibrant in the terms of media decisions, such as MPS data among other needs would be provided regularly.

 Considering that every sector in Nigeria wants to go digital, the idea is to also look at the most efficient way Audience measurement is being done, and look at the tools and technology that are more in line with today’s changing needs to ensure deployment for results.

 There is so much happening in the media space, there are so many TV stations, many radio stations, cables and satellites, newspapers and magazines. Budgets are reducing and decisions need to be more uptight because brands are going through a very challenging period. How do we achieve accuracy in the context of changing technology, dynamic consumer base, and proliferation of media? How do we make media decisions that are in the best interest of the client and brands? So that’s why we are so passionate about this project in the Industry. If you look at Nigeria as a country and the volume of advertising in the country compared to other countries like South Africa and Kenya, we are not number one in advertising investment in Africa, we are in the neighbourhood of 3rd which is not good enough for us.

 It means that there are reasons why advertisers are not investing much in their brands. The population of Nigeria is 200 million, while South Africa is about 40 – 45 million; If we must win even in Africa, we should also be looking at building brands that can aid the economy to grow and address the issues around unemployment and poverty.

 For me, the fact that advertising is low is an indication that some things are not going on well. So, we must give the advertisers the confidence to invest in their brands because if brands thrive, they will invest behind their brands and if brands are doing well they will spend more. The works that we do have direct effects on the growth of brands and the growth of the economy.

 Your organization had “The Role of Data and Technology in Economic Growth” as the theme of its 2022 AGM. Virtually all other industry bodies have been talking so much about technology, why is technology so vital now?

 There is so much dynamism in technology in the global space and the national space as well. When you think about how tech is affecting all business processes, the role of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and all of these new digital developments you will realize that we need to do a lot in this area as an industry. So, capacity building and remodeling our work processes in line with contemporary technology is one area we are focusing on. Even our agencies need to start thinking beyond some of the traditional things we do and focus on how we can drive collaboration. So, as agencies we need to start thinking from a new perspective, we need to start thinking about how we can scale up and transform the way our businesses are been done in terms of partnership and use of technology.

How can you describe the marketing environment in the last seven months? Can you also assess the media investment of last year?

 The last seven months or so have been quite interesting. I will like to point out the AISOP- Advertising Industry Standard of Practice- the direction, discussion, and conversation behind it. And the fact that it is aimed at helping to improve the standard of practice in our industry makes it more relevant.

 Our economy in Nigeria today is facing challenging times. A lot of clients struggle because there is very limited disposable income and when products are not purchased, it affects our client’s income, this also affects the advertising industry very negatively.

 Because of all these challenges, and the fact that clients’ businesses are under pressure, expectations from agencies have increased as well. As advertising professionals, we are called to deliver more and be more creative in our service to them.

 Another area of interest this year is the remarkable pace of development in the financial tech industry, digital start-ups, and technology start-ups. There are a lot of activities to look into there. When you also think of business in that space from loan support, savings, and investment to technology, a lot of brands are now very active in that space.

 Obviously, there are areas like Out-of-home, digital advertising, and experiential marketing that have seen quality investments in the last one or two years.

 I have seen a lot of positive signs, but we are equally waiting for the election campaigns to kick off which also has its own positive and negative implications.

There seem to be some bumpy developments in the industry. You have been on the client side, presently you are on the agency side. How do you dissect this situation as a practitioner and president of MIPAN?

 By the way, I started from the agency side, went to the client side, and then came back to the agency side. I joined at a time when clients saw agencies as strategic partners, everyone was trying to invest in training not just locally but also internationally. There were so many collaborations, sometimes we spend days in workshops, on research efforts with panels to understand consumer needs. it was really exciting.

 I use to be the client service director in British American Tobacco some years ago, I remember in those days, we looked at the profit margin of the agencies working for us on the need to be healthy and invest in their people.

 I would say that currently we don’t see so much of that and this is a result of many factors. Now, I don’t think we have the kind of clients that are investing their time and energy in agencies, and that’s why AISOP is important.

 Now what the new look regulator, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) is trying to do is to ensure that we take the principles of relationships very important. Agencies need to be adequately inspired and motivated and regulated regarding how work is done. For example, confidentiality, monitoring, process, and having the right people on the team that can really help the brands grow.

 Now what the ARCON is doing as a neutral party is to create the environment that allows that relationship to thrive and make sure that both parties are happy. If you look at various fees, they all have standard guidelines. If you look at the pitch fees, for example, intellectual properties must be protected as well as the energy that agencies bring into these pitches is rewarded at the same time. I know we have to listen to the client’s concerns in this area and ensure that both parties are happy. Agencies also need to be adequately rewarded because we need to be able to invest in our people.

 We need to give value to the client and be professional in our services. Also, we need to assure the brands we are working on are healthy and doing well. That is why there should be clear engagement and disengagement protocols. Yes, there are parts of the laws that the clients are not comfortable with which has been a bit controversial. Ultimately, we must understand that we are one team.

 I must comment on the regulators, by saying that before the AISOP rules were set up last year, there were committee setups that were made up of all key stakeholders. We sat with the regulators to discuss, and one of those discussions was the AISOP issue. Apart from minor differences, I think we are all on the same page. So just as you asked, for someone that’s has been on both sides, I believe the brands must benefit from all decisions as well as other industry stakeholders. We all need to make sure we are acting in the best interest of all. We must balance the interest of everyone. I believe balancing clients’ interests with all longevity goals of the industry will ensure harmony, I know we will soon achieve this.

L-R: President, Experiential Marketers’ Association of Nigeria, EXMAN, Mr. Tunji Adeyinka; President Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria, ADVAN, Mr. Osamede Uwubanmwen; President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN, Mr. Steve Babaeko; President Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, OAAN, Chief Emmanuel Ajufo and Executive Secretary, Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria, MIPAN, Mr. Eki Adzufeh during the press conference on the onslaught by Lagos and Kaduna States against outdoor advertising practice organized by the by Heads of Advertising Sectorial Group, HASG in Lagos.

But the clients, under the banner of ADVAN, said they had people in the committee that formulated AISOP but not one of what they brought to the table was taken. How true is this?

 Well, I will disagree with you on this because the truth is that when you have a sit at the table, you have a voice and we all still work for those brands and clients, so how can the agencies ignore them? ADVAN members have always been respected across the industry. So, I don’t think there’s a meeting where their representative will have a sit at the table and their voice will not be recognized. We must also note that it is also not about numbers, it is more about the ideas and how sensible it is. In the committee that I was a member of, there were hardly any times we needed to vote because it is not a political party where you vote; in this case, it was more of an intellectual discussion and conversation to know why we are doing this or that. And we always reached quality consensus.

 For example, when I refer to pitch fee, there is information that explains the importance and process of pitch fees. As a client, rather than invite 10 or 15 agencies to pitch, we could just ask for the agency’s credentials, the past work they have done before, payback from an existing client, do some office inspections and we could also interview some of their keynotes, but when it gets to the final stage which is now the ideas, strategy, and process; you limit it. If you reduce the agencies to a few numbers, you will only reward a smaller number for their ideas and strategy. And at the end of the day, if there are only three agencies that get to the final stage; the winning agency is not paid because that agency is taking all the business. 

The two losing agencies will now be paid their Pitch rejection fee by the client. Now as a client, is it not better to pay the losing agency so that you can work comfortably with the best agency?

 However, the money you are paying to the losing agency is small compared to the fact that you are chanced to work with an agency that will bring great branding ideas to your business. I believe this is really fair.

L-R: President, Experiential Marketers’ Association of Nigeria, EXMAN, Mr. Tunji Adeyinka; President Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria, ADVAN, Mr. Osamede Uwubanmwen; President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN, Mr. Steve Babaeko; President Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, OAAN, Chief Emmanuel Ajufo and Executive Secretary, Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria, MIPAN, Mr. Eki Adzufeh during the press conference on the onslaught by Lagos and Kaduna States against outdoor advertising practice organized by the by Heads of Advertising Sectorial Group, HASG in Lagos.

 As the chairman is the HASG still united considering all that is happening?

 Without any form of doubt, I will say to you that HASG is still united and there’s a small committee within the agency that is working on the areas of disagreement.

 But let us make this clear, we are all in the best interest of the industry and we had that commitment as a group. Most of us have been colleagues in one form or the other, whether you are on the agency side or client side, it is temporary because many people on the agency side now have been on the client side before. It is the dynamism of the industry.

 In the areas where there’s a bit of debate, there are some parties who take things extreme and out of context, this is where we need to manage such activities and not lose focus. 

Currently, we are working on all these issues. Ultimately, we know decisions are from regulators, but we will have our own debate, and we will explore our team, this can be taken forward, and we are setting it together to make sure that all parties will laugh together at the end.

 Now does it mean that when ARCON finally implements the AISOP rules, issues with rough edges will totally reduce?

 At least, to some better extent, it will reduce, as we know every business has its ups and down. Now there are areas of concern like what should be and what should not be which is part of the thing that AISOP is addressing. Sometimes there are some controversies on whether they are done the way they should be done. So we will always try to resolve these issue all issues amicably.

 Presently what is the situation now as regards the media academy and what is the plan for the future?

 As you already know the Alphabet Media Academy, that’s our official training school. Consistently in the last two years, we have graduated at least two sets of postgraduate diploma holders and four sets of certificate holders. The post-graduate diploma courses are about 23 weeks while the certificate holders need about 11 weeks. So, the idea is to continue to improve and develop our people. And then we are looking at the best resources in technology so we are looking at getting digital experts as facilitators who help to develop our people in this area. Apart from getting top leaders in the technology space, we are reworking our curriculum to capture these areas of vast opportunities, and it is going well.

 We are also looking out to partners in terms of delivery of the services, for example, last year, we had students from four different African countries that joined remotely for the courses. We had students from Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and other parts of the continent, that’s the direction we want to go. In terms of resources, we want to see if we can have facilitators around the world as well, and we can then develop our training into a module like that on google and other digital training platforms as well. So that is the direction, and we believe we will have to accelerate things to also make it cheaper and more efficient to train and develop our people across the industry. That’s what we are working towards.

Let us look at the issue of debts. There was a time, some out-of-home agencies were complaining, how has it been sorted out?

 What we did was to get the list of the member agencies that had some allegations about delayed payment and we took the step to contact them. There were just about five agencies. But because we play an important role in the AISOP, we are conversant about payment terms which is one of the things that AISOP is addressing because as a country we feel 30 days is better, the maximum should be 45 days. We don’t think 60 – 90 days is appropriate, 90 days is even unacceptable in an industry. 

Because when you think about the level of inflation, the cost of running a business, and the access to credit in this economy, there’s no way any responsible advertisers should be paying in 90 days.

 We do understand some challenges that brands might face in terms of payment but at the same time, they need to prioritize payment to advertising companies. From the advertisers’ view, there are a lot of challenges in doing business in Nigeria but still since we have made the decision to do advertising we need to respect the decision. To me, all industry has a standard and we need to abide by the standard because at the end of the day that’s the way we protect the industry. But still, some advertisers pay on time and also pay well and we give them a lot of appreciation. 

Those who don’t pay on time are the ones we are saying we need to look into. Irrespective of the other challenges they may have from the other aspect of the business, we also have our industry we need to protect.

 Talking about the outdoor companies that complained about their debts, we have taken the matter forward and I believe that most of the complaints have been resolved now. We believe in transparency, so these issues around debt will be resolved. We have a standing committee that is made up of ADVAN, AAAN, MIPAN, EXMAN, and others which is led by a MIPAN member. 

The idea is that when their complaints are escalated to the sectoral body, for example when complaints are escalated to the MIPAN secretariat, we have an internal body that will handle it. 

If it is not resolved there, we then take it to the AISOP committee, then from the recommendations of the AISOP committee, the regulators can take over. For example, a multinational company is owing a media agency of about N400 million, following that process, the issue is now sitting with ARCON as they have more power now to deal with such issues. There is even going to be an advertising tribunal now where cases can now be taken to, and I do believe that issues like this within the industry will begin to reduce over time.

 What do you want to be remembered for at the end of your second term?

 I would love to be identified with Track Audience Measurement; it would be great to champion our migration from where we are to the next level as stakeholders will operate with increased in credibility, it would also be great for us in MIPAN to move into our own secretariat, as we have always been on a rented property. I must commend AAAN for having its own facility. With our property, we can also run courses and programmes of the institute smoothly from our facility, It will be great to achieve these two and more, one at the national level and the other one at the sectoral level.

 I do believe that whatever I do, is not just to be remembered, but to also serve as a starting point for the next president. Because things will always get better as we consolidate on whatever we achieve.

 What do you think is the worst that can happen as ADVAN has already said they may go to court if the regulator takes a step they feel could be interpreted as unconstitutional?

 The worst and the best that could happen is that we would all come to a common ground where we all see eye to eye. I don’t believe that going to court is the best way to resolve issues like this. I feel as professionals we should be able to sit at the table to talk things out.

 We must get to a conclusion where everyone can arrive at a win-win situation. I feel that’s the only way forward. Now my honest advice is that we all work together to shift some grounds and agree on the level of some changes. As an industry, we must be able to appeal to our regulators on some specific issues. And importantly for us to come together to be able to arrive at a way forward. Our focus should be on building capacity, growing innovations, driving advertising investment, and recognition as an industry, just like the NBA and ICAN have been able to influence things for their sectors, our country, and the economy. That’s where we should be putting energy, not in fighting ourselves or over standards. Standards are supposed to help all parties. In fact, my view is that AISOP should be in the best interest of ADVAN because when agencies are happy obviously it should be translated into brands. I hope we can move away from these distractions promptly.

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