Brands & Advertising
Accountability, transparency in media-spend a global challenge, says David Okeme
The brand management business has indeed faced myriads of challenges in recent times. Some of these ranged from poor consumer purchasing power and the unresolved issue of unsold inventories as the nation recently grappled with the problem of economic recession. As if these were not enough, the marketing, media and advertising industry in the country has continued to be plagued by lack of transparency and accountability as intelligent reports revealed that about N4 billion media advertising spend were unaccounted for in 2016. The immediate past president of Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) David Okeme stated in an interview that the issue of accountability and efficiency of media expenditure is a global industry challenge. Excerpts
How would you assess your tenure as Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) president?
The last 24 months, have been months of building ADVAN into a powerful brand. I will say today ADVAN is a brand. Today, if you call the name ADVAN, the kind of emotions you get are all very positive. We have set up sharing platforms, learning platforms and also a platform where people come and showcase their skills and get recognized and get rewarded. So, these are the platforms we have set up to leverage on the brand.
Beyond that, I will say ADVAN has become an extremely listening organization. Our members run to us whenever there are issues and we have handled very successful advocacy to ensure that those issues are addressed. We have become very strong partners with organizations like Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) for instance.
Talking about the arrangement between you and OAAN, there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) presented to ADVAN during your tenure to ensure partnership that would make business relationship to be smooth and mutual and also resolve indebtedness issue, among OAAN, ADVAN and MIPAN. What is the state of the Memorandum?
Certainly, I am aware of the memorandum which was presented by OAAN, which was more around how they would want to be paid on services they offer our members and I think as ADVAN, we gave our own input. It was not a finished paper. It was a memorandum that was issued in draft and the two or three areas where we made very strong inputs were in the area of data for instance, so we told them, if you look at TV for instance, you can use Gross Rating Point (GRP) to say if I spend one million naira, this is what am getting back.
For outdoor as a medium, the data does not exist and when you don’t have that it is always a challenge. I come from a multinational background and every time we put a media plan together that feature outdoor, we get this push back, how do we calculate return on investment? My pitch to OAAN was, can you get to a position where you can begin to calculate actually what returns our members are getting for the spend that is going into outdoor? That is one. Secondly, OAAN wanted us to legislate pre-payment to members. Again, my response to them was, we cannot legislate, we are not a regulatory body, we can advise but we cannot regulate. As an operator in the industry, I am aware that some members even pay upfront. Ultimately, it is the strength of your value proposition to the client that will determine whether the client gets into a pre-payment agreement with you or a post payment and also, not all members have the same cash flow structure.
Thirdly was, in terms of relationship with regulatory bodies, again, we advised that think solution, think value added. We were hearing that foreign companies were making foray. There is something called ‘raising the barrier’, you need to raise the barrier of your practice, such that no portfolio person can come in and take business from you.
The memorandum has gone back to OAAN who originated it, it is left for OAAN to finalize it and push it forward. By the way, our intervention on LASAA /OAAN issue was a success.
Are you not aware of diversion of media advertising money in the industry. In your period as the president, how would you describe its impact on advertising budget?
Because I sat on the board of World Federation of Advertisers, I know this is a topical issue everywhere in the world. Our last global executive council meeting was in New York and the American Advertising Association hired an Ex- Attorney General of the US to carry out a forensic examination of media buying, media placement or execution, media monitoring, looking at the practices within value chain to establish whether the client was getting value for its spend and the guy shared the finding transparently.
First and foremost, it was established that organizations who are putting the right level of support behind their business and putting the right skill and tools behind their spend are getting growth on a sustainable basis.
It was also established that when you are investing below threshold, you will struggle to get a growth. This is a principle that is global and acceptable, same in the US, same in Nigeria.
Did they find practices which you will call anomalies? Of course, they were. There were questions around the management of discounts, where contractors give discount to the agencies even in the US. There were issues around it and there were questions on whether they declare the discount transparently to the clients or not. So there were issues around agency agreement that are really specific to the expectation of both practices.
Again, how many organizations here have a robust and structured service-level agreement? This is a world biggest marketing machine I will call it, the US, they took an Attorney General who brought in a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and others to do a forensic. They did not give the industry all tips, so it was a balance of tips and issues and we sat to say how do we take this learning to other countries?
To say N4 billion is missing, that is not true. You cannot make such an allegation without facts because I have not seen any fact. Secondly, for anybody to tell you that the industry is efficient or not, nobody can give you that. You can do a sector by sector or player by player analysis to arrive at a judgment.
How would you access the aggregate growth cumulatively of total advertising expenditure in the last 2 years?
You talk about registered members, what I can tell you that, we have a tale of two sitting, we have a set of companies who understood the principle, invested and got the growth and we have another set who may be for whatever reason did not invest and did not get the growth.
Over all, we can talk growth by sector or segment, in the last 24 months or so, we have seen increase in budget behind digital advertising for instance, double the digit. We have seen TV as medium being flat to decline, Radio, Outdoor and press flat to decline. What that tells you is that it depends on the job to be done within organizations. Companies whose propositions are tailored towards young people tended to be excited about digital media as a platform.
Our role as ADVAN is not to evaluate members because we are also members; we are also subjected to the same evaluation criteria. Our job is to look at trends within the industry and look at trends within the profession and how we can help our members to tap into those trends to deliver on their objectives.
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