Dr. Olalekan Olumuyiwa Fadolapo is the Registrar/CEO of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON). He is the fourth registrar of the regulatory body. Until his appointment, Fadolapo, a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and holder of a Ph.D Degree in Marketing with specialisation in marketing communications, was the Executive Secretary of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). He spoke with GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR his vision for the body.
At what point did you meet APCON and where are you taking the body?
The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) I met was without a substantive registrar and the entire industry was clamouring for a change — not a change in the management, but a change in the way and manner things were done. I met an industry that was yearning for implementation of advertising industry reforms.
Your vision for APCON?
I see an APCON that plays the role of an industry regulator — not regulating to strangulate or regulating to kill, but a regulator that is there for the stakeholders and players in the industry. My vision of APCON is that of a regulator that will provide a healthy environment for all competitors within the industry. An APCON that is closer to the people, players, practitioners and stakeholders, that is, the advertising community.
What was the state of regulation before you came in?
Fortunately, I was the secretary of the Advertising Industry Reform Committee that was set up some years ago. We took a look at the industry, found the challenges that the industry was facing. So, we came up with so many things. We looked at them vis-a vis other professions in Nigeria and the global practice — the best business practices. It may interest you to know that in other countries, there is a standard operating framework that guides the relationship of every stakeholder in the industry: the client and agency, and between the agency and the vendors. But in Nigeria, we do not have anything we can hold on to. So, we are looking at a new APCON that has a standard operating manual for the entire advertising industry, even in the issue of contract and payment policy. These are some of the issues we are going to look into. For now, I’m consulting. I’m talking to all the sectoral groups. Asking them: ‘What are the major challenges you want us to address?’ All this, put together, will form our new operating manual.
How soon will this be?
Well, we would take the remaining part of this year to take a detailed look at it. So many things have changed between the last time the industry reform was done and now. For example, the new government policy on ease of doing business, you also need to take that into consideration. The Company And Allied Matters Act (CAMA) have been amended, you need to take that into consideration as well. For you to apply for corporate licence before, you needed to be a company with a minimum of two shareholders. The amended Company And Allied Matters Act said it is one shareholder. There is also a provision for liability partnership, which was not there before. We are looking at the new provision of CAMA and how we are going to situate our own industry reform into this and how we are going to make it better. Let me tell you this, if we start this, the advertising industry can create 5,000 jobs immediately and that is part of government’s policy: job creation. You can quote me on this that if we implement the APCON reform, we will create 5,000 jobs.
In what ways has APCON carried along all the stakeholders in the discharge of its mandate over the years?
Over the years, there has been a council with a representation of all the sectoral groups. Now that there is no council, what I am doing is consulting with all the groups and I’m calling them up. We will be having a meeting, which will be more like my own consultative body, because we are not going to take any decision that will impact their business, negatively.
Looking at the emergence of social media, and suddenly, offensive adverts are becoming the norm, how will you rate the performance of Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) over the years?
You see, the thing is this; do not forget that for years, APCON did not have a council. Neither did it have a registrar. I’m not holding brief, but I am saying that some of these things might be responsible for this. Social media caught APCON unawares like many other government agencies. Some countries are just developing regulation for social media, this year. Now, the challenge is, let us even define the social media players and social media space owners. They are not practitioners; they are just media space owners. Look at Linda Ikeji, for example, she is just a social media space owner, she is a blogger. There are digital creative agencies. Those are the people that do creative things that are exposed on those social media space. Now, we can only regulate the digital creative agencies or the digital buying agencies. We cannot regulate the digital space owners. But what are we going to do? We need to engage the social media space owners. We are going to identify and take a pitch to them. We will not engage them in warfare because we want to regulate. We will sit everybody down and ask questions, we will plead with them. It is going to be a win-win situation. It’s not because we have the Federal might behind us. What we want to do is to sit down with each and every one and discuss where the infractions are coming from.
For somebody who is just assuming the office of chief executive of APCON, how are you going to effect a prompt inauguration of the council?
First, you know, it’s a step at a time. Before now, we didn’t have a registrar and also, we didn’t have a council. The government had magnanimously appointed a registrar for APCON. We believe that the next step would be to appoint.
The second is that there is no vacuum in government, and the fact that we did not have a council, is not an excuse for us not to succeed. Now, if you check the same APCON law, we have a supervising minister, and the same law states that even when the council makes a decision, they still need to get back to the supervising minister, and in the absence of a council, the minister shall act. So, it is a function of us putting our proposal together and presenting to the minister. Instead of the council doing this, the management will present our proposal to the minister and get necessary approval. That is what is in the law. However, I am sure it’s also a top priority for the government, but the absence of the council is not enough to justify our failure.
Another issue in the industry is preference for foreign agencies to handle campaigns at the expense of local players. What do you think APCON can do, especially in the promotion of local content?
We are going to review the local content law of Nigeria and see where they can situate our own proposal there. Don’t forget that currently, the APCON law states that any company that is to operate here, Nigerians must own 75 per cent of the shares. We are going to look at that local content law and see ways we could get empowerment from it. We are going to look at how we can collaborate. We would send a letter to all of them. If your agreement before flouts the APCON law, between now and January, clean it up, so that by January next year, APCON will go out as inspectors to all the agencies with foreign affiliation.
What is the state of the media debt?
Several years ago, a Special Committee on Media Debts Issue (ACOMDI) was set up. Members of the committee were drawn from the major sectoral associations, namely ADVAN, AAAN, BON, MIPAN, OAAN and NPAN. I served in that committee. The media houses were requested to bring their statement of accounts because the thing was more to reconcile the debts. At the end of the day, most of the media houses did not respond because of business relationships with the agencies of the parties involved. The people that responded also had so many reconciliatory issues. The issue is also coming up again. I have been meeting with the Director General of NBC, we are the two regulatory bodies involved in this, and we both agreed that going forward, we would have zero tolerance for industry debt, and that is where our standard of practice will come. We will also define business relationship and what is classified as debt. Now, if any organisation owes a media house, and it is confirmed that they are not paying or have been paid but are not remitting, we would take a decision. NBC and APCON will make a pronouncement. NBC issues licence to the media house, while APCON issues licence to the advertising agencies, so as their regulators, we have resolved to come in and ensure we bridge this gap and to ensure we resolve this issue and give you the permanent solution.