Chief Executive Officer of Media Stamp, Feyisola Olukoya, an advertising expert who has put in over two decades in the industry, recently spoke with Merit Ibe on the growth of advertising industry, its challenges and solutions that could stop it from going into extinction.
Journey so far
I started in an advertising agency, but now I am a media person which is still an integral part of advertising. In those days, there was nothing like media agency; we used to have an integrated marketing company, called the advertising agency of today. In the integrated marketing company which was all encompassing, we had the creative agency, media department, research, finance and human resource all in one roof, forming the core of the advert agency.
It was a potpourri of business. Things were easier but today, things have evolved. We now have the creative agencies, media agencies, public relations agencies, research companies, experiential marketing, human resources training, all of them standing on their own.
That is what we have here at Media Stamp.
Challenges facing the industry?
It has been very challenging;.When you look at the adverting industry today, you find out it was easier then than today. Those days, professionals came together to produce master pieces. There were meetings and interactions and you are exposed to different aspects of the business, but today, you do your own thing. People coming to the industry don’t have the opportunity we had.
I started as a client service or someone you can refer to as business person, then, to copy writing back to client service and then back to media. I touched every beat, today, you don’t have such opportunity, today as a mass communication graduate, you can only major in one beat like advertising.
What is the industry like today?
The face of adverting has changed just like the business environment. In those days, people rushed to advertise to improve the quality and give the product a new face and everyone wanted to be heard or seen.
Then, there was creative freedom and they had the creative licence. Now, clients tell you what to do, no more funds to spend and the agencies don’t have the creative licence they used to have.
The agencies are struggling to survive, paucity of funds has affected the effective functioning of the industry; there is brain drain, no more brilliant men who want to challenge themselves, all they want is to get into the business today and get money fast. The get-rich-quick-syndrome has overtaken the system.
Role of advertising in nation development?
Advertising is life. As long as human beings exist and want to communicate, live, be seen, heard, speak and to transform, advertising must play a big role.
From the point of birth to the point of death, advertising plays a big role.
Advertising exposes what is happening in the country. Through advertising, we know what plans the leadership of the country has for its citizens. It involves people, time, energy tools. The agencies in this industry are also employers of labour. Through advertising media, the president communicates to the people like the period of election campaigns.
With the amount of money involved in advertising, you will know that you cannot separate economic growth of a nation from advert.
How is the industry faring in recession?
The challenges confronting this industry are many and that is why the industry is where it is today. For some time now, the economy has been under intense pressure.
During recession most companies reduce their marketing budget and advertising is most affected. If you don’t advertise your business, it is not known, therefore, no sales, but with advert sales increase, you pay tax, you get into the corporate social responsibility. There has been no more money to fund adverts which has lead to retrenchment and downsizing. No more adequate hands as there is brain drain.
Inability of the early agencies (those who formed the core of early advert agencies such as Lintas OBM, Rosabel and others), to put up a succession plan affected the industry. Most people exited the big companies to form theirs without the capability to run the agencies and this caused unhealthy and undue competition. It weakened the fabrics of the industry as a lot of people started jostling for small pies while a lot of companies started playing pranks.
Also, undue competition, activities of quacks, desperation of practitioners to belong by all means, affected the industry.
The situation in the country is another factor. Choices are limited, the big spenders like MTN, banks, oil companies are no more spending, so, survival is lean. Those days on the pages of the newspapers, advertisement of big companies were competing for space but today, the story is different.
Performance of regulatory bodies
There is a saying that when the head is off it will be too late to act. Well in the days of old, the bodies tried their best by ensuring things were done right. But today, they are existing, they cannot bite. Some laws being made by advertisers are not being challenged. The body cannot defend the business, radio houses increase their rate, the body cannot stand to defend the agencies and say no to the irrational rates by radio, TV stations and newspapers.
I think they are overwhelmed, because there are too many things happening at the same time. The practise standard is being lowered. When clients need just one agency for presentation, they invite up to 15 agencies instead of three.
Agencies were spending so much for presentations without being picked and it threw many companies out of business, not until a cushion fee was introduced. No voice for most agencies until most of them died. Those who are to speak for the agencies don’t.
A lot of quacks have infiltrated the media. The quacks are not registered, they don’t have agencies, they don’t pay salaries and yet are getting so much discount from the media for advert at the expense of registered professionals.
I have not seen attempts geared towards stopping these practises.
I pay my annual bills, I pay fees, but when I am supposed to enjoy my benefits, nothing is happening. I registered with Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) since 1977 but people who are not registered are bragging. They are placing adverts without certificates and no one is harassing them.
Media houses collude with the quacks to frustrate registered professionals and circumvent the order of APCON and other associations. Everyone in the industry knows the challenges.
Some practitioners have refused to join the association because of the happenings in the body.
We need to come together to move the industry forward. Together we stand divided we fall. Registration should be made compulsory to avoid inflow of quacks. We must be relevant in terms of ICT to meet up with the world standard. The industry must train and retrain to see the future so that we will not be overtaken.