Media advertising practitioners must invest in tech to adapt to new normal – Femi Adelusi
Mr. Femi Adelusi, Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of BrandEye/Mediaplus, was recently elected President of the Media Independents Association of Nigeria, MIPAN. During an exclusive interview with MARKETING EDGE’s Amos Oladele, he shares his vision for the association and articulates a road map for the Integrated Marketing Communications industry. Excerpts:
How would you trace your journey to this esteemed office?
I think it’s safe to say that I have been preparing for this assignment over the past 25 years in my various jobs, roles in sales and various aspects of marketing communication. However, my core specialist media career started in Year 2000 and I have spent considerable time on both the agency side and client side at senior levels rising through the ranks.
I belong to what I will call the first generation of media planners trained in the use of scientific media planning tools, data and technology in Nigeria. I have always believed in the objectives and the principles of Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), and I have been an active member since I got the first opportunity to join the association. I was the Head of MIPAN Accreditation committee (Year 2016-2020), and I represented MIPAN on LAIF Board (year 2016-2020). I have represented MIPAN at the ADVAN Awards and also represented MIPAN on different committees leading to the First National Advertising Conference Abuja in 2019 among many other roles and responsibilities. In all of the above roles, I have contributed to the development of the advertising and media industry in Nigeria. I have worked with the MIPAN EXCO in moving the practice forward in the area of training, capacity building, ethics and professionalism.
I had the privilege of serving as the Executive Vice President of MIPAN in the last four years. During this period, I promoted the purpose and objectives of our association and supported the outgoing Executive President, Dr. Ken Onyali-Ikpe in achieving his vision and goals for association.
I would qualify myself as a technocrat with courage, who truly believes in professionalism. In summary, I would say my unwavering passion for marketing communication and media, hard work, perseverance and great support system in my previous roles and my mentors and role models within the media/marketing industry have helped significantly in my journey so far.
What is the current state of MIPAN as a vital umbrella body of a major sectoral group in Nigeria IMC Industry?
MIPAN as a body has been in existence for about 20 years. Over the years, MIPAN has stayed in tune with growth and development of the IMC industry. It has also taken it upon itself to develop members of the association as well as individual members of the IMC industry.
I must commend the efforts of the past leaders of this association for the great achievements and the standard they have set for this great association. In my opinion, MIPAN has done very well as a sectoral body, we put a lot of demand on ourselves for improvement and the new Executive Council which includes our Ex Officio members and various Standing Committees, with the support of our Trustees, are ready for the tasks ahead.
What new heights should the industry and larger society expect your tenure to lead the association to?
We the members of the executive committee have a manifesto on our game plan. This is summarized in the acronym THINC. This agenda would be focused on the following:
T – Technology, Data & Innovation
Step change audience measurement, scientific planning tools & leverage the power of technology and consumer/media data to migrate to a new audience measurement system
H – Human Capital development
Develop our associates in media, digital & the marketing communications industry through our various training programs and our academy (Alphabet Media Academy, AMA)
I – Industry thought leadership
Actively contribute consistently to the development of a knowledge based economy that helps to shape policies, strategies and regulations in the marketing/communications industry in Nigeria and in Africa
N – Nclusive & Collaboration (Inclusiveness)
Break all barriers, both real & imagines, that limits the optimal self, drive gender equality & equal opportunity work environment. We must reach out to the Digital Agencies to join us in building a robust association. We will work with leading industry sectoral bodies like APCON, AAAN, EXMAN, OAAN, BON etc in our quests for a progressive industry.
C – Commercial stability of the media ecosystem
We must support our member Agencies to succeed and co-build a thriving marcoms industry for sustainability and growth of the media/marketing ecosystem which comprises of media owners, content creators etc.
You have become MIPAN’s president at a very unique period in the history of the industry courtesy of COVID-19 pandemic. What does this mean to MIPAN under your leadership?
It’s a challenging period for everyone and all businesses are impacted one way or another. We have to manage a healthy and a financial crisis as a country. Livelihoods and lives are at stake and we must make the right decisions that preserve both. We as MIPAN must find creative ways of meeting our goals despite all the challenges. There are things within our control and that’s where our focus will be. For instance, the MIPAN Annual General Meeting was held on a virtual platform because all members could not be physically present with respect to the strict Government regulations on gatherings. Our agencies have to adapt to new ways of working that ensures safety, and we must explore ways of working with our clients and media partners to deliver our services in safe & effective ways. We must leverage technology a great deal in driving our agenda forward. Our balance of year activities and initiatives are being reviewed in line with current realities.
What does it portend for the association and its members?
Adapt, adjust, and pivot into new areas of opportunities. Find segments and sectors that are thriving so you have a more balanced portfolio and drive a diversified service offering. Help struggling sectors to find relevance that can stimulate faster recoveries. Some strategies could also require focusing on your areas of strength to reduce operational waste. Explore areas of collaboration and partnerships with other agencies.
How has the media advertising business been impacted by the pandemic?
We empathize with many of our clients who have seen brand equity and brand value decline in this period of the lockdown and this is unlikely to go away quickly for many product categories. This has also inevitably led to significant decrease in the level of investment for a lot of sectors as the consumers are having to make tough decisions and prioritize expenses on essential products and needs over wants. The pandemic has forced the media industries to revisit their strategies and we have to keep evolving based on consumer and market insights. Business and brand planning have to be more short term focus due to the unpredictability of the market in certain sectors. It is important to also note that it is market & consumer behaviour that is driving shifts in advertising expenditure, so things will get better as the health concerns and lockdowns reduce.
The pandemic has caused a rapid fall in some media channels. For example, Out-of-home suffered significant decline in advertising investment during the lockdown and same with cinema advertising, cinemas are still closed. Newspaper readership online and even online radio is also growing. Other areas such as TV, Online movie & music streaming grew significantly and Video Gaming has increased also and this is obviously positive for online advertising being the biggest gainer. As confinement measures were introduced around the world, out-of-home and cinema advertising shrank almost instantly, traditional print advertising also fell.
We have to keep tracking these dynamic changes and science has to drive our decision making more than ever before. I believe marketing budgets will rise steadily as we get out of the lockdown/restrictions, advertisers will need to invest behind their brands to recover some lost grounds. However, prioritizing marketing expenditure will be a more rigorous decision, the choice may not always be in favour of above-the-line advertising, and brand teams will be very ROI sensitive as they make marketing decisions. The ROI consideration will more often than not be short term sales focus and less on brand equity development.
From the look of things working remotely has actually helped in driving greater investment and adoption of technology based work tools & work processes, helping to reduce operational expenses. We have been forced to make decisions that perhaps we should have made even before now.
What would you say is the new normal in media advertising in this pandemic period?
We have a very youthful population of millennials and gen Z, our internet penetration is rapidly growing and smartphone ownership have become increasingly democratized. Data costs are also reducing, though there is still a long way to go and we need to still accelerate broadband access, but these all make it inevitable for investment in digital advertising to grow faster than other channels. In Nigeria digital advertising spend has been rising steadily in double digit growth year-on-year over the past 5 years, revenue has also been growing. This is highly enabled by content moving digital as well. The market is experiencing growth in music/movie streaming, video gaming, eCommerce, even radio and TV broadcast is moving online, so that’s the reality of today. Our work processes and work spaces have also evolved, This is our new normal.
How have MIPAN members been adjusting to the new normal? What are they doing right?
Pivoting and finding creative ways of staying in business, recognizing the need to collaborate more. We have a lot of empathy for the consumer and for our clients.
What are they doing wrong?
Worrying too much about decreasing advertising budget, we must adapt and make operational changes. Let’s focus more on helping to find new consumer and brands insights that will prompt the next wave of growth.
How do Nigerian media advertising operators’ responses compare with what obtains in other markets across Africa and the globe?
Similar ways. The world is a global village, many of our members are affiliated to international media networks and so transfer of knowledge is fast. We have been lucky that we had the opportunity of watching C-19’s impact abroad before it really hit us and therefore more prepared, though you can’t quite be fully prepared for the overreaching impact.
What future do you foresee for media advertising in view of current realities?
With the pace of technology, media fragmentation & consumer sophistication, our job is well cut out for us. I can see more disruptions, not necessarily a pandemic. More around technology e.g. impact of 5G, big data, AI, AR, IoT etc. I think there are exciting times ahead when we cycle out of this pandemic and recession. With the pace of Technology innovation, digitisation and the internet of things, it is impossible to see too far ahead, so much can happen so quickly. Our work place, work processes and tools would have completely transformed in 5yrs. We hope more wise men come from the East and not pandemics. Our media decisions making would be highly machine led and our understanding of consumers, cultural relevance and our creativity/Art might be the only edge in getting ahead and standing out. Even folks like us must be retired or reborn because the industry would have completely evolved.
What survival strategies would you recommend for your members, going forward?
Adapt, pivot around all business operations, embrace technology in processes, and embrace smart work space. Leverage on free and online training because people development will still be very important. Invest in tools, invest in technology and embrace the change. Understand the brands and the business challenges of clients more and be true business partners that help the client to succeed. We need to be more immersed in the brands and the consumer, so we need to seek fresh insights that will point us in the right directions.