Advertising in Nigeria: 40 Years After

Just recently, the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, (AAAN), celebrated its 40 years of existence. In this report, advertising practitioners share their views on the journey so far and the way forward. LINDA UGWUOTI reports.

With a clear-cut vision of leveraging their experiences, contacts and skills to deepen the participation of indigenous agencies in the growing marketing communications industry, the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, (AAAN), was formed in 1973, following the indigenisation programme of the period. Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN), as it was then known, was formed following the initiative of five industry intellectuals, the late Dotun Okunbanjo, the late Olu Adekoya, Samuel Adedoyin, Otunba Banjo Solaru and Biodun Shobanjo. Since its inception, the AAAN has witnessed enormous growth both in membership and strength. The initial body of few agencies gradually became an umbrella of a number of agencies driven by a common passion of taking the Nigerian advertising sector to its zenith. From a foreign dominated industry it has metamorphosed into an industry with Nigerians at the top and a predominantly local content driven industry.

As is typical of any growing sector, the Nigerian advertising industry has not had a smooth ride. It has had so many cogs on its wheel of progress which range from lack of government attention to issues associating with pitching and financing. Today, this brainchild of a few minds is 40 years old, with lots of prospects for the future. It boasts of numerous significant contributions to the nation’s economy and overall growth. As pointed out by Bunmi Oke, President of AAAN, “Apart from our significant contributions to the economy through the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), advertising under the auspices of AAAN has continued to act as a catalyst in promoting development as well as touching the lives of every Nigerian. We have offered employment to young/fresh graduates and provided a condusive working environment for all employees. This we ensure not only by adding value to goods and services and offering informed choices of consumers but also by properly packaging government policies and programmes wherever we are involved.”

For Senator Ibikunle Amosu, the governor of Ogun state who played host to members of the AAAN at the just concluded Annual General Meeting in Abeokuta, it has been 40 years of creative excellence for the profession. According to Mr Charles Abraham, group managing director/chief executive officer, Lawson Thomas and Colleagues Group, advertising in Nigeria has grown and contributed to the development of Nigeria by building brands and giving the consumer the power of choice. “It has also helped government push policies and aided public apprehension and comprehension of policies. The quality of the work has improved significantly in some aspects and there is a lot to celebrate.  The industry has employed many young talents and today is the mainstay of many ancillary businesses, like film production, modelling agencies, media houses etc. It is not all great news, as one cannot help but mention that certain elements in our industry have tried to derail some of the professional standards that have been built over the years. Sharp practices and corrupt individuals have sometimes sacrificed professionalism on the altar of greed and avarice”, he added. Mr Kelechi Nwosu, managing director, TBWA/Concept, believes that the Nigerian advertising sector has evolved over time. “We  still have a long way to go for us to shine. Clients agencies and the market place need to recognise creativity and what it can do for their brands for that to happen”, he disclosed.


The Way Forward

There is no doubt that advertising in Nigeria has advanced since its inception. That notwithstanding, stakeholders have agreed that some things must be put I place to make the industry better and enable it stand tall among its peers to compete favourably for international awards and gain more recognition at the international scene.  Abraham opines that some measures need to be taken for the sectyor to attain the heights it aims for. According to him, “ I first need to say that I fully endorse and support all the APCON reforms and believe that these reforms if fully implemented will put our industry on the same level as the industry in Europe, South and North America and Asia. In some cases we would even be ahead of them. In the context of Africa, these reforms will place the Nigerian Advertising industry at the very pinnacle.  Specifically, we must raise the barriers to entry to keep hucksters and quacks out. We must enforce the regulations and punish erring parties regardless of status. We must determine the  terms of engagement for foreign owned agencies wishing to operate in our country. We must sanitise the practice by ensuring that standards are upheld. We must invest heavily in training and developing our people to be able to deal with the demands and rigours of a highly digitalised, media fragmented, media ubiquitous, 24/7/365 day consumer, who makes purchase decisions based on a number of complex but interrelated information sources. We must be ready to evolve from being just madmen to mad maths men”.

On the dearth of awards from international advertising festivals like the Cannes, Abraham said: “Let me say unequivocally that we have creative works that can win even as we speak. But they will not win until Cannes is reformed and the composition of judges is widened to include Nigerians. So until the local nuisances and insights that drive what we do is fully understood, we don’t really stand a chance. But I know this will change as I am sure that the organisers of Cannes are not lost on this simple truth. Also as Africa continues to rise, our profile as ad practitioners will become enhanced and this will lead to a better appreciation of why we do what we do and why we say what we say. I am consoled by the fact that the Naija Music has gone global and Nollywood is also breaking through, so it’s only a matter of time before our advertising materials begin to gain international resonance and appreciation.

We’ve done 40 years, there is a lot more to do in the next 40”.

For Nwosu, the consciousness of Cannes and other international awards is building. “It means that we are all now thinking more and working towards it. It also means that work ethic and sensibility will help us raise the levels and start winning”, he added.



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