• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Re: Advertising industry reforms – in praise of APCON’s bold steps (2)

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Opening the flanks of Nigeria for all manner of foreign agencies to play in is the same as our government opening the borders of the country for “garri” or even “amala” to be imported from Cameroun and Benin Republic in the name of globalisation. We have these products. We have the capability to keep producing them. What sense does it make to have them imported?

What we should not do is fail to learn from the examples of those who have made mistakes and in saying this, the great United States comes as a handy example. China is what it is today largely because Americans became too “big” to work and earn what they considered to be peanuts in their country. But across the seas in China were a people who were ready to work and earn money for themselves even if that income was mere peanuts. American capitalists therefore calculated that moving most of their productions to China was the best way to lower overheads and make more margins.

This worked like magic and they were making money. But what they failed to realise was that they were sending away valuable foreign exchange and empowering another nation to fight a future economic warfare with them. This was one of the factors that made the Americans go through the meltdown crises that they are still fighting to come out from.

Today, the world is seeing an Obama administration that is making every effort to reinvent their automobile industry that has badly slowed because liberalisation allowed Japan and lately South Korea to penetrate with cheaper, more fuel-efficient brands of cars. The likes of General Motors are today suckling from government stimulus packages all in an effort by the US to right the wrongs of yesterday. I am sure this will cost them a lot more than if they had worked to avoid it in the first place.

Those of us like Akinsanya that are deliberately trying to put the current advertising reform regime in the wrong context of discouraging FDI must be made to understand that foreign investment must be properly focused to attract capital in those areas where there is lack of capacity by nationals of the potential capital destination. It is still very difficult to situate the values the so-called foreign agencies are bringing to the table. Nigerian businesses must benefit from any foreign inflow of investment, otherwise the whole idea would be totally defeated.

I am saying this because already there are hues and cries by some sections of the Nigerian business community over the choking business practices of some of these foreign investors. Just last week, traders at the popular Oke-Arin market in Lagos Island staged a peaceful protest against the practices of some Chinese “foreign investors” that have practically taken over trading in the market. They came in as investors but eventually began very dangerous practices that make it impossible for Nigerians to sell. As a matter of fact, Nigerians who wish to remain in business in that market are made to buy from these Chinese who are also competing with them in the same retail and wholesale business. What this means is that if a Nigerian trader buys a bale of lace material from these Chinese traders at N5,000, for instance, he or she is going to sell at higher value for any margin to be possible. But this margin is being made difficult by the fact that these Chinese who are now representatives of other traders in home country get their goods at cheaper costs and would definitely sell at lower values.

This group of people are also among the foreign investors Akinsanya is trying to protect. But they are here, adding no real value and at the same time choking Nigerians in the same market. The economy that opens its doors to virtually everyone is doomed to failure in the medium to long term. While APCON should not be unreasonably protectionist, it must be commended for working to protect the interest of the Nigerian business.

Akinsanya also referred to the benefits Nigerian agencies get from affiliations. Here also, he wrote like someone from outside the industry. Affiliations, as far as those who know the industry are concerned, have not benefitted Nigerians. Agencies went after affiliations when they did because it provided shortcuts to winning multinational accounts. And even then, of recent there have been many sour endings to some of those relationships. PrimaGarnet and Ogilvy is the latest. Before that, there were Concept Unit and TBWA. There was also Cosse and Bates. In the future, there will be more of such examples because these foreign agencies have been proven to add little or no value to the briefs. On the contrary, they are known to make very unreasonable demands on the inflows to the Nigerian affiliates. Those in the industry know this.

The Nigerian government must stand behind APCON in its current drive, especially in stopping the importation of resources, the calibre of which we have in the country. In Brazil and even India, you cannot play in the advertising environment if you are a foreigner. The Brazilian case is such that the window is only open if you are prepared to expose your material to foreign audiences. Since Nigeria is presently desperately seeking FDI, foreign agencies in the country should have their jobs cut out for them in communicating to the world’s deep pockets on why Nigeria should be the preferred destination for their investible capital. 

OLAWALE TANIMOWO

Tanimowo is a marketing communications executive based in Lagos.

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