Based on most recent public intervention in the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) industry matters, Osamede Uwubanwmen, President of the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), can be deemed to have a dim view of advertising agencies.
In an undisguised dismissive interview with Brand Communicator, an IMC-focused publication, Uwubanwmen described agencies as “just one vendor” out of many, an echo of the sneering “Eleyi”.
The interview, perhaps expectedly, brimmed with blames. Of course, none went in the direction of ADVAN. In addition, it contained no little chest-thumping, thrown in to amplify the worth of his interventions, as a way of projecting agencies as inconsiderate and unbending.
In the main, Uwubanwmen and ADVAN are unhappy that the newly revitalized Advertising Regulation Council of Nigeria (ARCON) is finally taking the business of advertising as seriously as it should be. Uwubanwmen and a few business-as-usual cohorts are in a the wrong headed disagreement that advertising agencies are desirous of a more robust industry and healthier individual businesses by insisting on adherence to the provisions of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria’s Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) in relationship with their clients.
“When I was elected President of ADVAN the first thing what I did was to use my first one month to meet with all the Presidents and the Excos of other associations because I felt we could reach a middle point, especially with the Heads of Advertising sectoral Groups (HASG). My thought was that we should lay down our arms.
“The last time we met, it seemed some attendees were in a warlike mood as someone forcefully declared that the Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) has come to stay, and added that only a court order can stop AISOP. It was not conciliatory in any way,” said the ADVAN President.
Easy to see that Uwubanwmen believes that a law that had been enacted before his emergence as ADVAN leader should be changed just because a new sheriff ( his majesty Osamede Uwubanwmen) had come to town.
It is no surprise that the ADVAN President and the association he leads have remained red-eyed since AISOP was issued. AISOP’s primary objectives are to ensure mutual agency-client respect, eliminate unfair advantage, unethical inter-agency competition and inequitable policies among stakeholders in Nigeria’s advertising and marketing communications ecosystem.
The framework straddles policy of agency engagement, payment terms and mode, media rates and commission, disengagement protocol, audience measurement and dispute resolution among others.
Somewhat predictably, of all AISOP’s provisions, the one that got ADVAN’s goat-and still does-is the 45- day payment policy, which replaces the previous practice under which clients pay agencies -in the best case-between 90 and 120 days. In case the stipulated payment period is exceeded-as it frequently was under the old arrangement, AISOP provides for the payment of a certain percentage as default penalty to agencies to enable them to afford their own lenders’ default charges.
The lengthy payment period of before was accompanied by the grind of reinvoicing when invoices went missing-not an uncommon occurrence. This means agencies would start invoicing all over again, lengthening the waiting period of their own suppliers, including media organizations whose lifeblood is advertising revenue. But agencies could do nothing in a relationship that is more oppressive or abusive and one in which the victim could be easily ditched, forcing it to carry on as though things went on swimmingly for fear of being blacklisted
Uwubanwmen and ADVAN continue to argue that agencies need to understand their clients better, as what AISOP provides for is impossible because of the peculiarities of each industry their clients operate in. But you have to ask if the industries do not have equivalents in South Africa, Kenya and the Western World where they have regulations on payment similar to AISOP, making payment periods infinitely elastic and crushing not just the business of the agencies but also those of many stakeholders like the media.
The ADVAN’s President does not come across as someone who wants agencies to stand with their heads raised when relating with their clients because he thinks very little of them. He prefers to have their heads droop and hands-behind-backs like hostages posing for photos their abductors need to use as proof of life. The evidence is available in the concentrated condescension borne by his words in the interview.
“I was talking to an Executive Director and he was lamenting that all the agencies they invited for a pitch had an extremely similar template. The creative director in agency A moves to agency B in two years’ time and as he leaves, he takes the template there. The same thing is replicated everywhere as they move aggressively in search of greener pastures. When you sit down at presentations, you virtually hear similar things from all the agencies. If you tell them, let me pay you this amount of money, they will say no, AISOP says you should pay me N I m or N1.5 million for the one-hour presentation. And They will still talk about intellectual property,” he said with barely disguised disgust.
Similar is different from the same. That has to be said. In addition, who within the industry has cried out that his intellectual property was stolen? I will wait for him to answer.
That he is unhappy at the possibility of agency owners reaping more dividends from their investments is there to see, but he tried to dress it up as a personal crusade for improvement in the industry.
“Even when they grab all the money, it hardly makes any impact across the industry as most executives and middle-level managers receive crumbs, and with little training. It seems the comfort zone remains only for the Directors and agency owners who are massively obsessed with buying properties in the US, Europe, and Canada. No industry can grow this way,” he said.
No industry can grow if clients take inordinately long time to pay players for services or end up not paying, as is common.
The ADVAN President accusing others of not being conciliatory is a bit rich, given the quote above. The mind from which those words came is more hawkish than dovish.
Uwubanwmen insists that who even pays the Piper not only dictates the tune but legislates on what the Piper must wear, where he must stand and weather he lives or dies.
The AISOP was not written at the speed of a postcard message. It was the product of calls by industry figures for regulation of what was essentially an ethics-free trade zone. It took time to put together got the endorsement of Heads of Advertising Sectoral Groups (HASG) comprising of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Experiential Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), and Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON), as the best thing to happen to the advertising sector. ADVAN is the only member frothing. Why? Because it seeks to retain its unfair advantage.
Obiajulu, a marketing communications professional, writes from Lagos