Advertising stakeholders decry multinationals hiring foreign agencies

Multinational companies hiring the services of foreign advertising agencies with no established offices and local affiliate agencies in the country have come under the hammer of practitioners in the industry as they describe their action as tantamount to illegality and brazen disregard for the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria.

Specifically, the multinational brands who jettison local agencies in business partnership are said to be involved in a practice that will finally stunt the growth and development of the service industry while finally crippling the national economy.

It will be recalled that some multinational companies with global brands have in recent times clandestinely resorted to hiring the services of some foreign creative, media and digital agencies in apparent disregard to the rules governing the practice of advertising business as enshrined in Act No 55 of 1988 establishing Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON).

Most of these global brands engaged in this ‘illegal’ practice through alleged directives from their parent companies in Europe and America without regard for local laws and regulations guiding the sector. The development negates APCON laws which forbid foreign agencies from direct advertising practice or investment in Nigeria except through a partnership engagement with a local agency where it could hold at least a 25% equity stake. Alternatively, such foreign agencies can maintain an affiliate relationship with local agency firms.

The APCON laws never allow foreign agencies to be contracted for Nigerian advertising business with mere briefcases and expatriation format.

Condemning the new trend, chairman of Troyka Group and former president of Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria, (AAPN) now Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, (AAAN) Mr. Biodun Shobanjo said the multinationals engaging in this act are sabotaging the national economy, stating that such a practice would not allow the local industry to grow.

According to Shobanjo “any company in Nigeria that jettisons local advertising agencies by calling foreign based agencies for pitches and engagement is certainly treading on an illegal path and APCON should apprehend such companies for flouting the laws of the land”. Besides, he said APCON and all industry stakeholders should move fast to resist this unholy initiative as no Nigerian advertising businessmen could be granted such a luxury in a foreign land.

Shobanjo, whose agency group recently conceeded 25% equity in their business through an acquisition deal with Publicis Group said the law of the Nigerian Federation is very clear on the percentage of equity holding a foreign firm can acquire in any Nigerian firm. While praising the foreign agencies that are diligently and legally doing business in Nigeria by obeying these laws, he believed those flouting the laws are enemies of the local industry.

Speaking in a similar vein, chairman of STB-MccaNn, Sir Steve Omojafor stated that the development will soon grow out of hands if industry practitioners fail to act fast as it has long been ignored.

His words: “The idea of directly hiring foreign agencies with no registered offices in Nigeria is absurd and illegal. it has long been ignored but I think it is the right time the industry moves fast to curb this before local industries are sent to their early graves.

Sir Steve Omojafor also a past president of AAAN, whose agency is affiliated to McCANN Ericson Worldwide enjoined foreign agencies who want to genuinely do business in the country to go through the front doors and not the back doors. He suggested that elders in the industry should rally together and rescue the industry from this illegal trend, even as he decried the long delay in constituting the APCON council.

According to him, the undue delay in constituting the APCON council is caused by the sycophants who surround president Muhammad Buhari and would not allow the president to listen to the alternate views. He stated that these individuals are self-serving as what they do negate the principles and vision of president Buhari.

Similarly too, immediate past Chairman of APCON, Mr. Udeme Ufot condemned the development and blamed it on government which has allowed APCON to be the “whipping boy” of bureaucracy.

His words: “It is a pity the industry has gone this way. The APCON council has been held in abeyance for almost 4 years now and there is no way to give the industry a direction”.

Besides, Udeme, also past President of AAAN said “as the current APCON stands now, the registrar and chief executive officer, Alhaji Bello Garba Kankarofi is hamstrunged, noting that only the constitution of a proper council can guarantee full enforcement of APCON laws”.

He stated that no amount of self regulation by industry operators will guarantee strict adherence to rules and ethics except the council is in place to monitor and regulate the industry.

Waxing proverbial, Udeme Ufot, Chief Executive Officer of SO & U Advertising, a former Saatchi & Saatchi affiliate said “the absence of the cat in the house has given unlimited freedom to the house rats”, but stated that the industry should move fast to curtail this trend.

Also lamenting the situation, Chief Executive Officer of Centrespread Grey, Mr. Kola Ayanwale called on all industry stakeholders to get set for a showdown with identified companies engaged in this practice. He stated that allowing foreign agencies to come through the backdoor to take away businesses meant for the Nigerian people will no doubt cripple the local industry.

He stated that foreign agencies interested in the Nigerian investment environment should come and partner. Ayanwale a past President of AAAN whose agency just got affiliated with Grey International stated that he does not believe that APCON is handicapped as he opined that the registrar of the council can issue an advertorial and get it published in national dailies to restate the position of the laws of the federation on APCON guidelines. He however disclosed that he is ever ready to support any joint action that can rescue the industry from the invasion of unregistered foreign agencies.

Meanwhile, APCON registrar, Alhaji Bello Garba Kankarofi had in a chat with select group of journalists in lagos disclosed that he is unaware of the invasion of the industry by foreign agencies. He stated that most of the times these agencies are invited by the multinational companies, they usually come into the country clandestinely therefore, he enjoined advertising agencies and industry stakeholders to co-operate with APCON by giving it requisite information on such moves.

Kankarofi who also lamented the long delay in constituting the APCON Council revealed that the myriads of problems confronting the industry could only be solved if the council is fully in place.


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