The year 2018 was indeed a good one for Nigeria’s advertising industry. Its month, May, would particularly go down in the history for the return of the International Advertising Association (IAA) to the Nigeria. The global association on, its 80th anniversary, regained presence in yet another African country, Nigeria, a nation that is fundamental to the continent’s prosperity and stability.
Several years ago, there was a workable IAA Nigeria Chapter led by the late May Nzeribe, CEO of Sunrise D’Arcy and former chairman, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria. For unexplained reasons, this body gradually went into coma and eventually faded away. Why did this global-local body, bit by bit, stop to exist? Would this second coming of IAA Nigeria thrive?
What is the likelihood of IAA Nigeria assuming its rightful place as the hub of marcom in Africa along with its only two sister chapters, Ghana and Egypt?
This glocal association shares similar membership and goals with other local marketing communications bodies in Nigeria and appears to pose a threat to some. How would all these play out?
NETA NWOSU took up these issues and other matters with the president of the International Advertising Association, Nigeria chapter, and executive vice chairman, Verdant Zeal Group, Dr. Tunji Olugbodi. Excerpts:
This is not first time the IAA would be inaugurated in Nigeria; what led to its demise and are we going to see a resurgence of these issues, leading to another death?
We have had the IAA in Nigeria before and things went sour. In every organisation or group, the formal structure is very important. My counsel is that we do not dwell on issues of the past but look forward to the future with optimism. What we have done is to ensure that the fundamentals that guarantee the proficient running of any organisation are in place. Now what are these fundamentals? They are the need for proper alignment with the global body by having approved bylaws to operate with; ensuring that the association is properly registered with the CAC, encourage inclusiveness by having membership of the executive board drawn from all the sectoral groups in marketing communication and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON (even though the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria, AAAN, remains in the fore front of leading the initiative as is traditionally done globally); putting a board of trustees in place and having a proper secretariat and executive secretary in place, and many other things that speak to a proper structure.
The current board and Nigerian chapter were formally inaugurated on May 31, 2018, by the immediate past global president, Felix Tataru. Our activities have kicked off smoothly and we are currently solidifying core membership benefits critical to us. I was privileged to attend the last board meeting in Bucharest, Romania, last October, where we were formally admitted as part of the executive board of global IAA.
Did the delayed reconstitution of the APCON council in any way influence the second coming of IAA Nigeria? What were the factors that necessitated its rebirth?
No, that was not the case. What played out were three things. First was the determination of IAA itself to have Nigeria as part of the global body from Africa, given our very significant role in Africa. Second was the doggedness of the IAA vice president Africa for Development, Mrs. Norkor Duah, from Ghana. She had the task of bringing us into the fold. She, too, was eager that Nigeria should take its pride of place in the scheme of things. As you may be aware, Ghana has successfully hosted two conferences to critical acclaim and the Nigerian community makes up a substantial part of the attendees. Third and not the least was the foresight of the AAAN under Kelechi Nwosu, Kayode Oluwasona and now Ikechi Odigbo as presidents in recognising the need for Nigeria to fly the flag and provide the platform and impetus for the initiative to progress.
What vacuum or gap would IAA like to bridge within the industry, with its second coming?
There are several fundamental issues that confront us all as an industry, all of which are in the public domain. Our key focus is in the area of training and thought leadership; continuous professional development; providing springboards for young professionals and supportive framework that will aid marketing communication industry to excel.
What are some of the ways in which IAA Nigeria’s revival will impact standard of the practice in Nigeria?
This will essentially be from the knowledge capital angle. Training and mentorship for optimal performance is paramount. I had mentioned earlier the key platforms for thought leadership and continuous professional development. There is so much organic knowledge that is available in marcom in Nigeria that needs to be properly ventilated. We will inspire more opportunities to offer practical and pragmatic insight into the dynamic market that is Nigeria. This will be a treasure trove of information and references for practitioners and scholars.
We are also providing a unified umbrella for us to articulate some of the fundamental matters that will enhance professional practice across all the pillars of marcom. We will complement individual association’s efforts in guiding government and regulatory policy development that will favour us. We will look to identify and reward excellence that will point us in the direction of taking charge of our environment to our advantage, as well as insulate in from hostile onslaught from ‘grey’ impostors.
IAA champions the common interests of all disciplines across the full spectrum of marketing communications, from advertisers to media companies to agencies to direct marketing firms as well as individual practitioners. National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN) comprises members across same disciplines. Don’t you think your activities will amount to a duplication of efforts, since the former is empowered by law to regulate marketing practise, making it compulsory for practitioners to be members?
As I understand it, APCON is the compulsory body that all practitioners must belong to. Having said that, our role is complementary to all of these initiatives. IAA is an 80-year-old organisation spread across the globe. It is not a Nigerian contraption, so to say. It is arguably the only global body that offers this cross-discipline platform on a global scale, with faculties developed to assist in different disciplines and sectors. So, the role of IAA is not to usurp but to reinforce with as much differentiation that is possible. I am a fellow of the NIMN just as I am a fellow of APCON. One does not supplant the other at all. We all work for common interests but with different approach, reach and impact.
Some industry players have expressed concern over the fact that the HASG operates at ad hoc level. These individuals would rather have a well-structured association as this would help create a synergy among the various associations. What is your take on this? Secondly, with IAA Nigeria recognising each of these groups, do you see your association stepping in as a quasi-umbrella body for the HASGs?
I have never been a member of APCON governing body nor a member of its sub-committees like the HASG. But I do know that the HASG was a child of necessity that played a critical role in harmonising expectations and objectives of the various associations. I do not have sufficient information to express absolute views on the workings of the HASG. However, I do know that, if we do what is in the common interest of all conscientiously, we will always have a middle ground that makes it possible for us to hotlist our common issues and challenges. And we will be able to score more victories when we work for the same side of the coin, so to say. I do not see IAA taking over the functions of the HASG but to complement it. Through this we can join forces to cement the bases of maintaining synergy for common objectives. The IAA has a global mandate that must, however, resonate with each local entity. We will maintain our focus on that and not over reach ourselves in situations that are already better established from a domestic point of view.
IAA is into advertising self-regulation. Would you enlighten us on this matter? Would its Nigerian chapter engage in self-regulation?
There are many divisive issues confronting the industry today. Government plays its part, to some extent. The greater initiative for survival, however, rests with us the practitioners, because we are also businessmen. Our primary concern remains the quality of the enterprise as an ongoing concern, with sustainability mechanism into the future. To this extent, therefore, we will encourage self-regulation where necessary as a way of exerting influence over our own issues on our own terms. Governments come and go, in a manner of speaking, but the interests of politicians are permanent. Our interests, too, should be protected by no other than ourselves.
How would you rate the operations of advertising agencies in the country against the backdrop of international best practices?
We are doing fairly well, given the circumstances we have found ourselves in. But we need to break free and create our own narratives and standards based on our own unique environment. That is what Nollywood has done to be recognised. That is what Nigerian music has done to be reckoned with. Sadly, the advertising community has not found the sufficient courage to do this. When we go original, we will earn the well-deserved respect and it will become difficult to have the type of ‘foreign’ incursions and templates taking jobs and identity away from our creativity.