Ad industry in turmoil: No end in sight as ARCON, ADVAN’s fierce battle rages on

By Zion Rufus

With no signs of resolution, Nigeria’s advertising industry landscape is currently witnessing a fierce and contentious battle unfolding between the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) and the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), which have resulted in legal action and heightened tensions over industry reforms.

While both sides are holding firmly to their stances, this rather ugly “batter”, as described by industry professionals, is centered around ARCON’s drive to reform the advertising industry, and ADVAN’s vehement opposition to certain aspects of these reforms.

In a recently released statement, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, Director-General and CEO of ARCON, asserted that shortly after the announcement of his reappointment as the Director-General of ARCON, the President of the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN], Mr Osamede Uwubanmwen had “called” some journalists to “resume media attack” targeted at his person and office due to the ongoing advertising industry reform.

“The President of ADVAN and its secretariat had continuously engaged in propaganda, misinformation, disinformation and media war. Rather than join issues with him and its members, I will seek to make some clarifications on the ongoing reforms,” the statement read.

So far, the reforms have garnered approval from the Nigerian Ministry of Information and National Orientation, underlining their importance.

In light of ADVAN’s incessant “attacks”, Dr. Fadolapo has emphasized that ARCON would explore support from other government agencies to investigate activities that undermine the government’s initiatives and policies aimed at promoting employment, showcasing local talents, and enhancing the Nigerian economy.

While ARCON asserts the reforms are in the best interest of the sector’s growth and development, ADVAN, led by President Osamede Uwubanmwen, has initiated legal action against ARCON over what they perceive as a breach of constitutional and legal rights.

Meanwhile, ARCON has remained steadfast in its commitment to the ongoing advertising industry reform.

In response to longstanding issues within the advertising sector, ARCON, which currently sits as the regulatory body responsible for overseeing advertising practices in Nigeria, introduced AISOP, a code of practice aimed at revamping the industry. Where AISOP received support from various industry stakeholders, ADVAN emerged as a vocal critic, particularly regarding payment terms and contractual freedom.

Dr. Fadolapo’s recent reappointment to his role further solidified this stance as the body reaffirmed its commitment to pushing forward with advertising industry reforms.

On the other side of this conflict, the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) has opted to take legal action against ARCON. ADVAN’s President, Osamede Uwubanmwen, cited a breach of constitutional and legal rights as the basis for this legal action.

This legal move was prompted by the provisions and operations of the recently enacted Advertising Regulatory Act. Although ADVAN’s opposition to certain aspects of the act does not extend to the entire legislation, it has singled out approximately 50 items for further examination. ADVAN argues that the provisions infringe on the rights of advertisers and limit freedom of contract.

The crux of ADVAN’s challenge lies in the question of whether ARCON has the authority to dictate contractual terms. ADVAN contends that the Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) introduced by ARCON contradicts sections of the Nigerian constitution, which allows businesses to freely negotiate contractual agreements.

ARCON, however, maintains that AISOP was established to improve equity and fairness in the advertising business, in line with government directives that policies must be constitutional, in the public’s best interest, and aligned with existing government policies.

Highlighting key areas for change, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, has made it abundantly clear that the advertising industry is in the throes of transformation and there is no turning back. These reforms, outlined by ARCON, include:

  • Media Rates Deregulation: ARCON advocates for the deregulation of media rates. The council believes that media houses should determine their pricing independently, just as other industries do, with supply and demand dictating the pricing dynamics.
  • 45-Day Industry Credit Policy: To combat practices that have led to industry debt and the exploitation of media owners, ARCON insists on a 45-day payment threshold for advertising services.
  • Use of Local Talents: To promote local talent and identity, ARCON encourages the use of Nigerian models and voices in advertisements targeting the Nigerian market.
  • Production in Nigeria: ARCON advocates for the production of advertisements meant for the Nigerian market to be done within the country. This policy aims to create jobs, develop the support service sector, and keep the money circulating within the Nigerian advertising ecosystem.
  • Disengagement Protocol: ARCON insists that agencies reconcile and close all financial matters before switching to another agency. It frowns upon agencies leaving debts unresolved when transitioning to a new partner.
  • Copyright Protection: Respect for Nigerian copyright laws is emphasized. The unauthorized use of intellectual property without compensation or approval will have severe consequences.
  • Engagement Policy: ARCON highlights the importance of ethical and professional engagement with agencies.

The Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, has endorsed the full implementation of these reforms.

The Industry’s Perspective:

The ongoing battle between ARCON and ADVAN isn’t just about legalities; it’s a reflection of differing viewpoints on how to regulate the advertising industry in Nigeria. ARCON emphasizes the importance of transparency, ethics, and efficiency in business operations, advocating for an industry that operates at the highest standards. ADVAN’s concern, on the other hand, centers around the liberty and rights of individuals and agencies to enter into contractual agreements without overly restrictive regulations.

The fundamental issue lies in finding common ground that fosters business growth, development, and professionalism in Nigeria’s advertising sector. The Advertising Industry Standard of Practice (AISOP) introduced by ARCON has been a point of contention, as ADVAN seeks to balance it with individual liberty and flexibility in contract negotiations.


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