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Odigbo: We need to build capacity, expand opportunities in government

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Ikechi Odigbo<br />PHOTO/BRAND

The newly elected President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) Ikechi Odigbo, in a chat with OMIKO AWA spoke on the challenges confronting the advertising industry and his vision to move it forward.

Some small and medium scale firms believe advertisement is for the big and multinational companies and would rather engage low-end outfits for their promotions. What is your take on this?

THE truth of the matter is, in good times and in recession, advertising is critical to business.

Business from the way I see it, is about two things: innovation and marketing, and the ability to offer a distinctive product that satisfies a need or generates demand in the market.

Doing this, the advertising agency is strategically positioned through the creation of awareness for your product.

It helps build the brand that distinguishes your product for competition and also develops campaigns that not just creates awareness, but creates fidelity; fidelity in the sense of winning the share of hearts and minds of the public.

It is important to achieve success in your first trial, it is also important to sustain demand and doing this involves a whole circle of creating awareness, winning share of mind and top of the mind awareness.

So, in good times you need to take advantage of the available disposable income. And to continue to win the greater share of the market, you need a greater share of voices out there.

Once you lose your share of voices, your competitors will encroach into your share of the market.

In bad times, you also need to advertise because if you do not advertise then as consumers reduce their range of choices, the propensity for them to choose your brand will begin to decline and then go out of the radar of their selection.

In that wise, advertising is critical to drive momentum in terms of economic prosperity and to maintain stability even in recession.

Having said that, our business environment is populated by SMEs and micro-businesses that probably do not have the resources to engage the services of an advertising agency.

Some agencies have identified that gap and are beginning to look at ways to help such small businesses build their brand, put their products or services together in such a way that will make them have optimal advantage of the market.

This is because brand building is not only about business; it is also about the individual.

Supposing I am a one-man business, my abilities to access opportunities is not just dependent on me, but also dependent on my personal brand.

How do I comport myself or dress; what are the patterns of my engagements; how does my call-card look like; is my letterhead still on yahoo, instead of having a bespoke mail; all these minor details help create the right sense of personality.

The way you engage the man on the street with your product; that is also the work of advertisers.

They do this alongside the whole process of building a personality that enables you transact business and access opportunities.

So, there are some practitioners that consult, workshop for SMEs and micro-businesses.

Aside this, they aggregate those small businesses, bring them into a group in order to make them have the optimal advantage of the market.

As a matter of fact, advertising agencies need to be more creative in terms of business development and not just focus at the corporate players, banks, oil companies or the multi-nationals.

We are to create lucrative client relations with SMEs in a way that adds values to their business and also enable us extract some values in terms of services rendered.

But now, what is pertinent is government as a constituency.

We believe that government agencies are probably engaging non-advertising agencies or non-certified advertising agencies to create awareness and communication programmes and we want to begin to create greater awareness about that.

There is a strong plan of engagement between the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the micro businesses, and the advertising agencies, because I strongly believe that brand building activities or services of agencies is critical to driving the growth of the SMEs sector, which is supposed to be the engine room of growth, moving forward.

I also believe that this under-served sector is not the only group that requires the services of certified, properly registered advertising agencies. Most government ministries, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agencies subscribe to unregistered advertising agencies or, even, more often than not, engage journalists and media practitioners to execute communication awareness campaigns, which is actually the job of the advertising agencies; and we are going to be conducting strong engagements within the AAAN to enhance awareness for the services of our members within government sectors, as we believe we have a part to play in nation building.

When the efforts of government are properly articulated and given strategic direction, I believe that creates more ownership and goodwill, and a sense of a government that is headed in a direction.

I believe it is important that the professional membership of our industry is given the opportunity to contribute to the revamping of the national brand of Nigeria.

In that wise, we will be engaging more robustly with the relevant sectors of government to also let them know the significance of Advertisers Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON).

As the newly elected AAAN president, what is your vision for the organisation and the industry?

Our industry has been going through significant challenges in recent times with the economic recession, which we are beginning to navigate.

Our members have been severely impacted by dwindling economic fortunes, just like any other sector of the economy, and that implies we need to create a more robust framework for businesses of our members.

One of the ways we believe this can be achieved is by engaging our partners, colleagues in the business sector, especially advertisers most of whom belong to Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN).

We want to create a very strong friendship with ADVAN, with a view to ensuring that engagement between the agencies and their clients is standardized and a win-win posture is adopted, rather than some growing trend of random and arbitrary practices that we are beginning to see.

We see instances of idea theft, where in some instances, pitches are called and an agency comes up with the preferred proposal, but does not have the connection, and the preferred agency is now given the idea that was presented by the other agency to go and improve on; that is becoming very rampart.

We also have scenarios where services of our members are engaged and a few months down the line the clients makes a u-turn and says I cannot afford to pay anymore.

I think what we can afford to do now is 50 per cent of the agreed fees; and it now becomes a question of do I go ahead or do I walk away and go with nothing?

We are looking at this to create the right frame work and standard. We want to put in place a professional and standardized way of doing business.

How do you hope to achieve this?

We will achieve this doing some house keeping with our partners in the media and the advertisers, with a view to sanitizing the practice and ensuring that a win-win environment begins to define the conduct of our business in the industry. We want to be able to create greater value for our members.

The second of course, is also related to greater value.

We realised that if the APCON reform is fully implemented it will boost the growth of our industry and our membership; it will put in place the right measures that will ensure that there is a structure, reasons for relating with agencies.

It will also create more value for our agencies because the arbitrary way that anybody can go take up a job or an advertising contract and execute, all of that will be limited.

I would also like to commend APCON leadership at present for implementing the first phase of the APCON reforms and by so doing, beginning to certify both corporate and individual membership.

What about the APCON Council? 

For the APCON Reforms to achieve its full potential; we need to have a properly constituted council and for the past four years APCON council has not been constituted.

One of our objectives will be to have a powerful lobby from the association, engage our supervisory ministry and other relevant MDAs with a view to ensuring that the APCON Council is constituted.

And it’s not just constituting the APCON Council, but making sure it is properly constituted, because the Council is supposed to be made up of qualified and fully registered members of the advertising profession, just as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), or the medical profession.

That is the way we want APCON Council to be so constituted.

It would be advantageous to the entire nation if we have a regulatory body that is properly constituted at this time as we go into the political season, where we will be having all kinds of campaigns running.

We need an APCON, which plays the role of ensuring that communication that is appropriate and factual, as well meets the right ethical and professional standard is exposed in the mass media.

As an empire, APCON is critical to maintaining that order within the political and business space where communication is concerned.

How far are you involving your team members in this?

I am privileged to lead a very capable and experienced team of colleagues within the newly constituted executive of the association.

I have no doubt that by working as a team, we will be able to manage and steer the ship of the association into a land of progress.

We are just in the process of finalizing our vision, strategy and our action plan.

In some weeks, we will be consulting stakeholders in our industry and beyond.

We want to also have the benefit and input of stakeholders within the marketing and media sectors, because we realise that for us to achieve our goals, we need the partnership and support of all the constituencies.


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