Agencies must have clear-cut and mutually beneficial terms before going into collaboration – Sola Antwi

By Kasim Bakare

Sola Antwi is an experienced practitioner with over two decades of industry practice. The Chief Operating Officer at Divergent Marketing Services, a fast growing experiential marketing agency has expressed her reservation on the calls for mergers & acquisitions as a panacea to reverse the dwindling fortunes of agencies in the marketing communications industry.

In an exclusive interview with MARKETING EDGE, Sola stressed that agencies should be open to mutually beneficial collaborations in the form of mergers & acquisitions provided the terms of agreement are well spell out and followed to the letter.

“For us, we wouldn’t mind collaborating or merging with another agency but the terms of agreement must be clear from the beginning. We must be ready to honour agreed terms and conditions. We must be ready to believe that whatever we plan to do is workable and achievable, and go all out for it. Once we have that clear cut understanding and we all work towards this, I think collaborations would work out”.

Expressing her views on why some collaborations have failed in the past, the seasoned experiential marketer noted that trust has been a major factor hindering the consummation of mergers in Nigeria’s IMC industry and other global markets.

“Everywhere in the world, there has always been issues of this trust. If I have toiled so hard for a business and I am to merge with another business to increase business strength and profitability but on merging I get nothing in return. I would rather die with my business than merge! The trust issue is one factor that affects mergers & acquisitions. Are we able to trust ourselves? Are we able to get the benefits out of this merger & acquisitions?

She further explained that agencies must not just jump at collaboration without having well defined terms of collaboration that is equally beneficial to all parties in the merger or partnership.

“It’s not a question of whether you have a big client and another has a small client. We bring everything into the kitty and we split everything both ways..  But in a case of someone who wants to have 51% and the other person wants to have 49%, which is not an anomaly so to speak but issues of higher equity always ariset

Commenting on the multifaceted challenges facing he experiential industry, the Divergent boss noted that the decline in marketing budget by clients and the issue of payment terms remain the major albatross bedeviling the burgeoning industry

“One of the major challenges is the budget cut by our clients. It’s a huge pain for all of us in the industry. The fall out of the budget cut by the clients has also affected our own projections for the year. It is similar across all agencies. We are all groaning under the pain of budget cuts by our clients”.

Continuing, she added:”Payment terms is also another challenge. A lot of our clients are offering us a 90 day payment cycle. That’s killing because the interest rates of the banks are just not smiling. They are not coming down and it keeps increasing. Inflation rate has been on two-digits for a long time and no one knows when it’s coming down. When you calculate all of that, the business is struggling most times to make ends meet. We still have to manage our staff costs and pay our salaries and then look for profitability at the end of the year.

“So, it’s a tough one for all of us in the industry and I think I speak for all agencies. Our clients need to see us as a business that needs to survive. Clients need to look at our payment terms. 30-45 days, we can manage but when it goes to 60, 90 or 120 days, it’s killing our businesses and I think it’s something the Federal Government should give us some backing on. Multinationals working in our space should understand the prevalent industry standards they also need to pay attention to”

Asked to comment on the future of the experiential marketing industry, the cerebral amazon had this to say:

“Honestly, experiential has come to stay. Experiential is like the go-to place right now in marketing communication. We know that T.V will always be relevant to us every time, same with radio. We are lucky to play in this market in this present generation.  They have their spaces but looking at the next generation, it’s either you find them online or outdoors. They are not those people that sit with T.V for hours anymore or listen to radio for that long. We can catch them when they are out in their spaces normally with experiential or we can find them online via social media. So, experiential will stay, outstay and will always be relevant in terms of marketing in this market”.

Having been elected the Financial secretary of the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria(EXMAN) during the last AGM of the association, Sola disclosed that the new elected Tunji Adeyainka-led exco is poised to build on the successes of past administrations of the experiential marketers’ body. She equally expressed the new exco’s willingness to protect the interest of its members.

“We are keen about offering benefits to all members. So, why am I a part of EXMAN? What are the benefits of EXMAN? Those are things we are going to work on as members would see the tangible benefits. We are working on industry standards like payment terms, issue of debts, professionalism and all of that..The past excos did quite well and we are going to build on the process already in place” She concluded.



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