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Stakeholders set for ban on use of foreign models, voice-over artists, insist economy will benefit

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor, Florence Utor, Sunday Aikulola and Jessica Amadi
27 September 2022   |   2:47 am
Less than four days to the deadline given by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) on the use of foreign models and voice-over artists in any advertisement targeted or exposed

Less than four days to the deadline given by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) on the use of foreign models and voice-over artists in any advertisement targeted or exposed in the Nigerian advertising space, stakeholders have begun to warm up for a new advertising regime in the country.

The announcement signals a shift in national feeling toward wanting to take back the narrative of representation in the country.

The law also aims at ensuring the preservation of Nigerian local content and the use of indigenous skills as an important element in advertising, advertisement and marketing communication services in Nigeria and is directed at the Nigerian market

“In line with the Federal Government’s policy of developing local talent, inclusive economic growth and the need to take necessary steps and actions aimed at growing the Nigerian advertising industry, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), being the apex advertising, advertisement and marketing communications’ regulatory agency of the Federal Government, has in accordance with its statutory mandates, responsibilities and powers as conveyed by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria Act No. 23 of 2022 bans the use of foreign models and voice-over artists on any advertisement targeted or exposed on the Nigerian advertising space…All advertisements, advertising and marketing communications materials are to make use of only Nigerian models and voice-over artists,” the agency’s Director General, Dr Lekan Fadolapo, said in a statement.

He also said: “All advertisements, advertising and marketing communications materials are to make use of only Nigerian model and voice-over artists.

Ongoing campaigns are permitted to run out their terms, however, subsequent applications for revalidation for continued exposure of such materials would not be granted by the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP.) Advertisers, advertisement agencies, media houses, advertising community and the general public are hereby enjoined to take note.”

Fadolapo also said under the new law, organisations giving awards to corporates or individuals should write to the agency to establish the basis and process of arriving at the awards.

Under the law, any organisation using an unlicensed agency for its advertising purposes will be prosecuted.

The new law, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, recently creates and provides a regulatory framework for the Nigerian advertising and marketing communication industry and all matters related to it.

It establishes and creates effective, impartial and independent regulatory authority. It is also to strengthen the advertising industry in Nigeria.

The new law also establishes the Advertising Offences Tribunal, which shall adjudicate over offences created under this law or code of advertising practice.

Fadolapo said the Tribunal is equal to High Court and any appeal against the judgment of the tribunal will be directed to Appeal Court.

On capacity to execute the functions of the new law, Fadolapo said the council has established 17 new offices bringing to a total of 32 offices nationwide.

He said the new law was established to accommodate the new trends in advertising, as there have been new trends and practices since 1988 when the former APCON act was promulgated.

Speaking with The Guardian, some of the stakeholders said they are ready to meet the challenges. They noted that the ban would make a significant shift in the people that are seen on advertisement materials, as well as provide more opportunities for Nigerian talent.

For convener NECCI PR Roundtable, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, “the decision is the best that has happened to our industry this year. I just don’t know how it started, and who started it, but I think it’s just the Nigerian affinity for foreign things. We just like foreign things.”

While there isn’t a history of foreign voice-over artists taking over the country’s airspace, many say the Nigerian broadcast industry generally “has always favoured talents sometimes encouraging them to take up British or American accents to keep their jobs. Other times returnees from the Americas and Europe get all the jobs. The ban doesn’t address the accent used in adverts at all.”

But Ali-Balogun said: “We are intelligent people, we are a beautiful race. We have great models here. We have people with good voices. But we are not proud of who we are, we are not proud of what we have.”

She said: “When clients insist on certain things, we go for it instead of letting them know we have what they need. It is time we began looking inwards because everything we need is in Nigeria. We have estates that have all the kinds of scenery, and ambience that clients need. We have beaches, wildlife, and vegetation. Abuja is a beautiful city. We should grow our industry using the things we have by improvising. How many times is an Indian film shot outside India or an American film shot outside America? So, we must use our locations. But I thank God that we have come to our senses.”

Ali-Balogun said: “We will be saving a lot of money and making a lot of money because using foreign voice-over and artistes are expensive. It will also bring about positive growth because our artists will be rated higher and they would improve on what they were doing in the past because they now know that they are in demand. There will also be a boom in their business.”

Also commending the policy for encouraging local talents, Dentsu Nigeria’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Emeka Okeke, however, expressed reservations about Nigerian global ambassadors operating in other countries.

He said, “the policy can be a double-edged sword; capable of provoking retaliatory measures against Nigerian artistes and models in other jurisdictions, if not carefully managed.”

Okeke added, “I like to say briefly that we must be cautious with the implementation of the policy banning the use of foreign artists and models in the Nigerian advertising creative industry. I am a part of ARCON and I am in support of the policies of the regulatory body, however, we must carefully examine this new policy to ensure it is not so counter-productive as to diminish its envisaged benefits.”

He also advised marketing communications experts and talents to be innovative in their approach.”

On the high rate at which talents are leaving Nigeria, Okeke said, “The current trend of our talents leaving Nigeria for other countries calls for concern. Though technology is good, we must find a way to retain our best talents. Nigeria is better for those of us running abroad if the operating environment is safe and made conducive for business and talents to thrive.

“In addition, agencies must be ready to invest in data and human capacity development. We can’t wait for clients to do that on our behalf because we need the data for efficient delivery and track results. MediaFuse-Dentsu’s Consumer Connection System, for instance, has continued to make us stand out in the industry.”

While applauding the ban, the President of Electronic Media Content Owners Association of Nigeria (EMCOAN), Mrs Jibe Ologeh stated that it is long overdue and the right step in the right direction.

She further observed that the continued usage of foreign artists is affecting local talents and stiffening their growth and contributing to capital flight, which is not good for the Nigerian economy.

Ologeh added that Nigeria has enough talents and professionals to handle any advertising production of international standard.

She said that the Nigerian film industry is the hub of content production in Africa and has produced content that is showing on Netflix, Amazon and others.

The CEO of Goge Africa Worldwide Limited, Isaac Onyemaechi Moses, said: “The ban on foreign models and voiceovers is long overdue. The consumers of advertising campaigns are Nigerians, so, I don’t see the need for foreign voices or models on our airwaves. Nigerians won’t miss these foreign voices and models.”

Moses said when advertising agencies shoot their commercials in South Africa; it’s majorly because of the estacode they stand to get at the expense of local production companies and further impoverishment of local producers. Nigeria has highly trained Directors of Photography (DOPs), and producers. “We have great voices and models Nigerians can relate with, so, the ban is in order,” he said.

Mr Eki Adzufeh, Executive Secretary, Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN) & CEO of Alphabet Media Academy, said: “The ban is a welcome development.”

While pointing out that it is not quite new, as it was contemplated a long time ago, Adzufeh said, “the current regime has successfully legislated it and gave it an enforcement dimension. The intention is laudable and it is to encourage the growth of local talents.”

His perspective, however, is that the ban should have been categorised and implemented in phases. He said, “if all foreign artistes and sportsmen and women are completely banned, it will surely affect our sportsmen and women and other artistes who are used in other countries for such purposes.”

He equally called for brands and brand custodians to be given ample time to re-strategise for smooth transition and ease of compliance.

Adzufeh said the local industry was not having a high level of infrastructure compared to developed economies, initially, “it was developing and good investments would have been put into it to make it develop by now if this ban had come earlier.”

He said some brand managers just took pleasure in travelling abroad to shoot commercials in those days for some pecuniary reasons even where the infrastructure was available locally. That’s why the ban would have helped to grow the industry before now. Well, it’s better late than never.

“The economic implications of the ban are many. There would be growth in local talent development and this will boost the economy with increased employment and other corollary businesses in the Marketing Communications industry in Nigeria, which will also add to the nation’s GDP. In other words, the economy will grow and there will be increased employment and increased GDP for the benefit of the society as a whole.”