• Monday, December 04, 2023
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Airtel, Prima Garnet’s case: Last yet to be heard


The last is yet to be heard on the case involving Prima Garnet and Airtel Nigeria as a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos last week ordered Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) to perform its statutory obligation of vetting ad materials submitted to it by Airtel Networks Limited.

In refusing to vet Airtel’s ad materials, APCON had relied on a Lagos High Court injunction presided over by G.N. Onyeabor ordering that the status quo be maintained in the dispute between Airtel ad agency, Prima Garnet Communications and its foreign affiliate Ogilvy Africa.

Airtel had however argued that APCON extended the ordinary interpretation of the status quo order as granted by the court in the Prima Garnet versus Ogilvy Africa suit. Airtel maintains that the status quo order granted by the court had no bearing on its ad materials and vetting of same by the regulator.

Prima Garnet managed the Airtel account in Nigeria, along with its affiliate, Ogilvy Africa, but a dispute ensued, which necessitated Airtel’s termination of its relationship with Ogilvy Africa and which affected the Airtel Nigeria account.

Prima Garnet had approached the Lagos High Court to determine if it was right and proper for its partner-agency, Scanad, to set up office in Nigeria when a subsisting partnership agreement stated such should not happen. While the matter was dragging, Ogilvy Africa, its former partner, terminated the contract, while Airtel also took steps to void its ad relationship with the agency. Prima Garnet therefore joined Airtel in the suit.

In an attempt to ensure that it continues marketing its services in the competitive telecoms market, Airtel appointed STB McCann as its media agency, but APCON refused to vet the materials submitted by STB McCann for advertisement citing the earlier order.

Dissatisfied that APCON through its agency, Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) had not vetted its materials, Airtel dragged APCON to Federal High Court that granted Airtel “an order of certiorari to quash the ruling and proceedings of the ASP of May 3, 2103,” an order to prevent APCON from effecting the decisions of the ASP of May 3, as well as an order of mandamus compelling performance of its statutory function.

Steve Omojafor, chairman, STB-McCann, and past AAAN president, is quoted to have insisted that his agency committed no infraction or ethical blunder when it contested, won the pitch and accepted to service the Airtel business, contrary to a “stay off” order issued by the top echelon of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and APCON.

The court case has generated issues between the agency and its former partners. It has also led to a sudden resignation of Airtel’s chief marketing officer, Olu Akanmu, who threw in the towel recently.

In a statement stated, Akanmu quit his position “to pursue other interests.” The statement also read that: “Akanmu led the marketing function at a crucial time in the life of our organisation and brought his over two decades of marketing experience and a rich knowledge of the telecommunications market to bear on his role as our chief marketing officer.”

Akanmu spearheaded several innovative packages during his time at Airtel. During his stint at the company, consumer packages like Padi and Quick Talk were rolled out. He also ensured that the charge of voice and data usage was reduced giving Airtel the market advantage over its competitors.

Akanmu joined Airtel Nigeria on 1 June, 2012. Prior Airtel, he had worked at MTN Nigeria where he spent half a decade as general manager, consumer marketing in charge of consumer business strategy. He has also worked in marketing, banking, telecommunications, consulting, manufacturing, advertising, pharmaceutical and health care sectors.