Story by Dili Utomi.
The outdoor advertising industry has clearly evolved over the last Ninety Four years as it started as an advertising department of the United African Company and later metamorphosised into the West African Publicity Limited. Much later various new players went into the business and it has since become the multi-billion naira industry that it is now.
The doyen of advertising in Nigeria Dr. Biodun Shobanjo sitting and in a tete-a-tete.
The business has also over time become a sort of ‘low hanging fruit’ for various government regulatory agencies as well as street urchins who try as much as possible to extract so much in terms of revenue and other financial considerations as possible from it and these have become the real albatross that practitioners have to deal with over time.
In light of these challenges as well as the fact that the industry keeps evolving, the management of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) on Wednesday organised the revamped OAAN Conference Exhibition and Awards with the theme “OOH at the Edge” and a keynote paper titled “OOH Media Amidst Security, Political and Economic Uncertainties” presented by the erudite journalist Mr. Soni Irabor.
So it was that the ambience of the main ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in Ikeja was the venue of the programme which saw practitioners of advertising, students of the University of Lagos, students of the Yaba College of Technology and their lecturers, royal fathers, journalists as well as members of the public in attendance.
The unveiling and launching of the book.
While presenting his paper, Mr. Irabor noted that “There is a common denominator when one looks at the threats posed by uncertainties in Security, Politics and Economy. The Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) which was established in 2006, is the body responsible for regulating and managing outdoor advertising and signage displays in Lagos State and it has the biggest market share in Nigeria. This has made government a direct competitor with private sector that they regulate. This is conflict of interest”.
The importance of Outdoor Advertising is clearly noted in cities like Lagos where over 95% of the population are exposed to local vehicle passengers each week as it gives an upper edge to engaging the audience via OOH. However, this seeming advantage for practitioners looks to be in consonant with the African adage which says that “The man who marries a very beautiful woman and the farmer whose maize farm is by the road side have the same problem”. Billboards have become the very beautiful woman that ‘every man’ wants.
The challenges confronting the Out-Of-Home Advertising aside the pervasive nature of the target audience social media advertising and the high cost associated with the transitioning from static boards to the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs), there presently exists the constant haranguing of practitioners by regulatory agencies and this has so far posed the most challenging of the hurdles that they have to cross.
Mr. Irabor further noted as part of the imminent challenges that the industry faces “The uncertainty that the upcoming elections bring, the economic woes and galloping inflation, Nigeria is a brewing pot for insecurity crisis and challenges. There is also the ever present fear of one not offending powerful persons with the kind of campaigns that practitioners accept as it has been shown that the existing government would never tolerate advertisement that promote ideas or opinions that do not further their very own objectives or the ones that seem to promote any opposition candidate or party.
Mr. Irabor though notes that the evolution of the OOH Advertising in other climes will eventually rub of on the local industry more so when the industry has so far weathered the storm and has steadily grown.
There was a panel of discussants on the presented paper which included Mr. Akin Orebiyi, Dr. Muda Yusuf and Mr. Osamede Uwubanwen. The panelists agree that the issue of politicians trying to stifle the opposition in terms of the display of advertisement is real as it is considered by those in power that their ‘territories’ should be protected. They also agreed that foreign exchange cost is also affecting the business as a large part of the materials used for the construction and installation of these billboards are imported.
The doyen of advertising in Nigeria, Dr. Biodun Shobanjo while concluding the session accused practitioners of being lily livered and that that is why the various governments are taking them all for a ride. He admonished the practitioners to take up the gauntlet and use all necessary legal means to save their business from high handed regulatory officials and others who would always want to take advantage of their vulnerabilities.
Various participants gave the thumbs up for the conference as they say that some of the issues thrown up are quite revealing and the experience highly rewarding.
The evening session had the launching of the book titled “Out Of Home Advertising Practice”. This particular session started with the president of OAAN, Chief Emmanuel Ajufo addressing the audince. Chief Ajufo noted that “Out of home advertising is still very relevant in the Advertising Ecosystem, I am glad to inform us all that the level of our collaboration at the sectoral level is at an all time high, they stood firmly with us in recent struggles with external stakeholders for the advancement of the Advertising Industry”. Chief Ajufo also gave the thumbs up for the professional regulator, ARCON as he describes them as “wonderful”. The chief book launcher was Eng. Dozie Mbanefo who was ably represented by Mrs. Chika Ozie who also kicked off the launching of the book with the sum of Ten Million Naira as other industry personalities and companies followed suit.
The awards proper had Professor Abigail Odozi Ogwezzy-Ndisika as the head of the jury and about twelve categories were differentiated with some agencies winning multiple awards using the stated criteria for judging their performances.
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