Outdoor Faces Bleak Future as Lagos Brings in Foreign Agency

The current president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), Mr. Babatunde Adedoyin didn’t have the likely incursion into the outdoor sub-sector of the advertising industry in mind recently when he declared that the Out-of-Home advertising has become an endangered species in Nigeria. During an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, Adedoyin had taken the reporters through the various challenges facing the industry. Specifically, he mentioned among other things; the issue of one billion naira owed his members by Lagos State Government, multiple taxation and the outrageous payment on vacant boards in a few states, especially Lagos.

“Outdoor sector has become endangered species in the country as practitioners contend with regulatory bottlenecks and harsh economy. From left, right and front, we are being batched. Government careless about our challenges and keep putting pressure on us, not minding the challenges we are facing as businessmen. Outdoor practitioners are not operating in isolation but within the same harsh economic environment and government appears not to be concerned about our plight,” Adedoyin had declared during the interactive session.
If the rumour making the rounds is anything to go by, then Adedoyin and his team have gotten a bigger challenge to contend with. A reliable source close to Lagos State Government recently confirmed that the state has concluded on its intention to bring in a foreign agency, Jean Claude Decaux, to take over outdoor activities in Lagos. Further findings been revealed that the agency will not come in just as a practitioner like Scan Group, an advertising agency owned by Bharat Thakrar, a Kenyan-born Indian three years ago. Jean Claude Decaux, the source revealed would be the repository of the outdoor advertising business in Nigeria. What this implies is that the agency will serve as both a regulator and practitioner as it will be in charge of site allocation to other practitioners.

The question many observers are asking are; what has become of the industry reform which was rolled out three years ago to spell out the percentage of ownership that can be accrued to a foreigner, who intends to invest in the industry, what is the fate of local practitioners and thousands of Nigerians who are employed by the industry, is APCON concern only about creative agencies or has the regulatory body gone to slumber?

Aside the fact that bringing in J C Decaux will lead to job losses, many have raised the question around local content and capital flight. At a time Nigeria is undergoing serious economic recession, pundits believe that bringing a foreign agency into an active industry where Nigerians are performing greatly is like killing the business of local practitioners, thereby creating another phase of poverty.

With the agency, it is believed that local practitioners would find it tough to compete because of the exchange rate, which will be at the advantage of the foreign firm. Reacting to this, Adedoyin said the association had heard about it but that it still remains a rumour. He pointed out that both LASAA and the Registrar of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Alhaji Bello Kankarofi, has allayed their fears that it was a mere hearsay.

Meanwhile, LASAA MD, Mobolaji Sanusi was recently reported in a national newspaper that the agency will not frustrate local practitioners. And for Governor Akin Ambode of Lagos, who is always eager to state how keen he is about job provisions, the invitation of this agency could make many doubt his sincerety.
As things are, both Sanusi and OAAN leadership are on the defensive.
Looking back at the 2013 reform, JC Decaux cannot be said to have met or prepared to meet the guidelines spelt out by APCON. As stated in December 2010, when the Committee on Advertising Practice Reforms (ACARP), was inaugurated, the condition for entry into the profession must be reviewed and that local and foreign practitioners must be properly registered before being allowed to practice, the report spelt out hitherto the condition of entranced and practice.

Meanwhile, the 2013 reform, which emphasized the need for all corporate firms to be licensed, also touched on the need for local content to be encouraged. Again, based on Decree 55 of 1988, that established APCON, the new arrangement is like a total disregard for the law of the land. According to the decree, all practitioners, whether individual or corporate, shall consider Nigerian content as an important element of their overall business management, project development and execution. With a foreign agency dictating the pace, one may be tempted to ask of what the situation will now be in the market.

With Nigeria’s market being adjudged as one of the fastest growing economies in this part of the world, it has, in recent time been attracting foreign practitioners more than ever before. Aside the fact that the situation is beginning to tell on the business of local practitioners, the belief that the foreign agencies are not following due process has since been generating controversies.

This must have informed why the reform states equivocally that qualified Nigerian practitioners shall be given first consideration in any advertising project. It also indicates that APCON shall be responsible for verifying compliance, among others.

Giving the highlights of the reform, the then APCON chairman, Mr. ‘Lolu Akinwunmi had stated that going forward, foreign agencies and practitioners must be properly certified and regulated the same way Nigerians are.

“This would present a level playing ground and would also ensure that Nigeria was not turned into a dumping ground for all manner of unqualified practitioners,” he said.

The senior advertising practitioner said the council decided to control the operations of foreign agencies because of the danger it capable of causing for the local industry.

According to him, ‘‘APCON in pursuance of its statutory obligations, and within the laws establishing it, and working with its various professional components, has taken a decision to review various parts of the advertising professional practice laws with a view to ensuring that they conform to global standards and compensate local interests. In addition, APCON will exercise its mandate in ensuring that the advertising profession was allowed to grow and mature within an equitable environment.

‘‘As part of the need to ensure strict professionalism within the advertising industry and the practice of it, it has become necessary to consider the current operating rules and environment with a view to ensuring that advertising, like other recognised professions, was regulated in such a way as to protect the integrity of the local interests and global standards,’’ he said.


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