APCON and the unending search for leadership

For practitioners in the nation’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) firmament, nothing could be more frustrating.  Putting a council that would run the affairs of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON)  in place, still remains a mirage, more than a year after the previous one was dissolved by the present Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, a development many believe is gradually bringing the advertising practice to its knee.

Nothing, therefore, echoed the corporate feelings among practitioners today, than the utterance of the newly-elected President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Mr Kayode Oluwasona, during a visit to the nation’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibajo, in his office, in Abuja, recently.

Oluwasona had told the Vice President that the inability of APCON to have a new board in place was fast becoming an embarrassment to members of the nation’s advertising fraternity, with the practice getting increasingly bruised by the day.

Oluwasona, who led some members of the association’s board to the Vice President, stated that the dissolution of the Governing Council of APCON by the Federal Government, about a year ago, had over-exposed the industry and made it impossible for the regulatory body to deliver its goal of decent, responsible and progressive advertising in the country.

While many people believe that Oluwasona was actually talking to the wrong office by going to the Vice President since his words should have been directed to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, it was, however, obvious that the AAAN boss was echoing the minds of the nation’s marketing communications practitioners.

For instance,  since the APCON’s  Council was dissolved, just four months as against a standard tenure of three years stipulated in the APCON Laws, regulations of advertising practice in the country has been at a standstill, a development many have attributed to the non-compliance of some communication materials to the basic requirements.

One of the evidence of such incapacitations is the failure of the committee, saddled with the responsibility of regulating advertising on the social media to take off, months after its inauguration.

“The intention of setting up such committee was to regulate advertising practice on social media, since it was becoming increasingly glaring that a huge chunk of communication materials is passing through this channel, but how would the committee perform without a council in place?  Interestingly, what it means is that the regulatory body continues to suffer continuous financial hemorrhage by losing revenue that would have accrued to it by properly regulating social media ads,” argued a practitioner, who would not want  his name in print.

Perhaps what makes this worrisome is the fact that for the past three years, there had been no council in place to continue with the industry reforms of Lolu Akinwumi, the former president of the apex regulatory body.

For instance, prior to the constitution of the Udeme Ufot-led council dissolved more than a year ago, APCON had been without a council for almost two years, a period many believe provided a fertile ground for the unwholesome political campaigns of 2015.

And while Ufot’s announcement as the next chairman of the council was received with so much expectations from the industry stakeholders, this was, however, shortlived few months after when the dissolution of the council was effected by the incumbent Minister of Information.

What makes this worrisome was the fact that Ufot had hit the ground running, with a firm commitment to continue from where his predecessor had stopped.

Besides, not a few in the industry, have also attributed the failure of the regulatory body to implement the recently-gazetted reform of the industry to the non-existence of an APCON council that would have seen to its effective implementation.

But many have however, wondered why an industry that controls over N100 billion annual advertising spend has failed to elicit the respect and recognition of the state.

For instance, according to a report produced annually by mediaReach OMD, a specialist media company that provides media planning, buying, control and inventory management services, the total advertising spend for 2015 alone was put at N97.9 billion, a N4.8 billion growth over the N93.1 billion documented in 2014, as total media spend.

“For me, government has never hidden its disdain for the practice, going by its body language, right from day one. For instance, how come governments at the three tiers still find it comfortable enlisting the services of quacks to prosecute their jobs, when it is obvious that the law of the land actually frowns at this?”  argued Cole, a marketing communication practitioner, while making his input on the subject.

Interestingly, this much was also corroborated by the AAAN boss, in his appeal to the Vice President, during the association’s visit to the nation’s number two man.

“It is pertinent to note that while our advertising laws and regulations allow for only APCON licensed organisations to practice advertising in the country, even government patronises unlicensed agencies, which operate under different fictitious titles,” the AAAN boss had argued.

Curiously with the parlous state of the nation’s economy which has continued to have its biting effects on every sector,  with the nation’s advertising clan not immune, and the inability of advertising fraternity to get a leadership that will effectively pilot its affairs, it is obvious that there is no end in sight yet to the pains of practitioners.

And more worrisome is the fact that the wait for such leadership might turn out be an endless one, at least for now.