46th AAAN AGM: Experts proffer survival tips in turbulent advertising space

The general consensus, among stakeholders, especially practitioners, in the nation’s advertising industry,  at this year’s Annual General Meeting of the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria (AAAN),  was clear: Advertising practice is ailing, the industry is losing its relevance as  brand-builders, and, as expected, bottom-lines are being, negatively, impacted.

The urgent need to save the sinking ‘boat’ of the sector and navigate it back from turbulence to a safer coast, has therefore become imperative. And, interestingly,  the topic of the event and disposition of practitioners, were clear pointers to the fire –on- the- mountain  scenario in  the nation’s multi-billion naira sector and practitioners’ resolve at getting lasting solutions to these challenges.

Perhaps nothing captures the situation more succinctly than Mr. Jimi Awosika’s charge to the practitioner on the need to begin a new way of thinking.

For him, the thinking in the industry, now, should be how to ‘thrive’, and not how to ‘survive’, as the theme of the AGM suggested. The practice, he insisted, should have gone beyond that, but unfortunately, he added, it is yet to, as evidenced  in the present state of the industry.

He argued that the industry is far from realising its potential, a development he would rather attribute to practitioners’ refusal to dare, innovate and move of their comfort zones.

“You can not be doing things the same old way and be expecting different results. We must ensure we position ourselves and the business to make us relevant,” the Vice Chairman of Troyka Holdings had stated.

According to him,  the advent of technology had disrupted a huge number of processes, including the old habits of doing things, in the industry.

For instance, he added, today’s consumers are becoming  increasingly knowledgeable, sophisticated and insatiable, and any brand and brand custodians, desirous of earning the respect of such clients and adding value to their businesses, must be aware of this development and  be abreast of trends across the globe.

“Those born in 1903 never thought it would be possible to fly from one place to the other. But less than thirty years  after,  the advent of aeroplane has put paid to such  belief,” he argued.

According to him, advertising practice has continued to lose its relevance and glamour because practitioners have not really taken the pains to  find out how they can really  help build businesses.

“As a practice, we have not really taken the time to ask ourselves who we are and what we really mean to businesses. We need to know what we mean to business; since that is the only way we can truly play our role as a brand-builder,” he added.

Awosika called  for a change in focus for advertising practitioners. He argued that instead of being consumer-centric, advertising should be human-centric.

“For instance, it should not only be about what the consumer wants and how to meet such needs and wants, but it should be a total package. It should be about the individual as a person and not just his taste. When you begin to  make the individual the focus of your advertising,  there is no way we won’t see exponential demands from the market,” he added.

While calling on practitioners to ensure their advertising is solution- driven, Awosika also harped on the need for practitioners to hone their skills and ensure that younger, promising individuals are attracted to the industry.

“For instance, the skills in the practice are yet to evolve, that is why substantial part of the money that should come to the industry are going in the direction of those doing the right things out there, but who feel there is no need  for them being  part of the association.

“That is why there must be a new desire from the practitioners, a new business model, that would help achieve results and attract smart people to the industry,” Awosika stated.

The Executive Director of the association, Mr  Lekan Fadolapo would rather attribute the dwindling fortune of advertising practice, especially that of the association, to some members’ lackadaisical attitude and reluctance  to play by the rule.

According to Fadolapo, the association is always ready to support a good cause, especially when the rights of its members are being trampled upon.

Citing an incident involving a member, over the refusal of  a Lagos-based company, Jagal,  to pay for the services the member had rendered the company, years ago, Fadolapo stated that not only did the  then Olu Falomo-led council waded in, but they ensured the money was paid within 48 hours.

He also gave an instance of a former president of the association, who was removed, simply  for going against the rules of engagement of the association.

“We once had a president who was removed for flouting the rules of the association. Sometimes ago when Daily Times was still having a print run of 500,000 copies per day, the paper decided to increase their advert rate, against the standing rules that insisted on a 90-day notice, being given before such an increment could be implemented.

“They went ahead and increased the rates. They felt there was nothing we could do. We warned our members not to have anything to do with the paper for that, only to discover that the sitting president, then, was running some adverts with the paper for his brand. He was  appropriately sanctioned,” he stated.

Fadolapo however believes things have since changed, with many members, increasingly becoming less committed to the cause of the association.

For the Chief Executive Officer of X3M, Mr. Steve Babaeko, despite the change in the dynamics of how the global economy works, practitioners are yet to brace themselves up for the challenges such changes portend.

“How prepared are we for this new age?  Today, we live in a shared economy. That is why you see telecoms service providers putting resources together to maintain a shared facility, something that would have been unthinkable in the past. Are we also thinking along that line, as an industry? Are we considering the possibility of collaboration between agencies to enable us deliver value to our clients?”  Babaeko asked, rhetorically.

For Kayode Olageshin, former president of the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), the need for practitioners to know the inner workings of corporate organisations has become.imperative.

“For instance, the influence of the Marketing Director in an organisation is dwindling. We need to find out what is agitating the minds of the CEOs.  In most multi-nationals, power is shifting. The bulk of the marketing  budget is moving from marketing to trade marketing.

“This is telling us the way companies are thinking. Most CEOs are no long-term in their thinking. For us, therefore, to be relevant, we need to understand some of these things,” the former EXMAN boss stated.

Former president of the association, Mrs. Bunmi Oke, stressed the need  for practitioners to prove their relevance to their clients, by being abreast of developments and adding value to the brands of their clients.

She argued that despite being in the business of brand-building, practitioners are not creating enough awareness for themselves and the practice, in the public space.

“I think we need to do more. Sometimes people come across me and it takes efforts for me to make them understand what the practice is all about. The point is, if we, as brand-builders, are not  building our brands, how would people know about us?” Oke asked.

The Chief Executive Officer of Noah’s Ark, Mr. Lanre Adisa, noted that the time had come for practitioners to begin to look for solutions bedeviling the industry, noting that the problems had been over-flogged.

”I think I will align with others, especially the Keynote Speaker that the time to act is now. We’ve been talking about these problems for too long. I just hope we’ll begin to study some of these strategies so that by the time we are here next year, we be  saying the same old thing,” he added.

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