Our Code Is Our Promise To The Industry-Kayode Olagesin Exman President

The Experiential Marketers Association (EXMAN) a body set up to represent the interest of experiential marketing agencies, actually started some years back. The first attempt was a still birth and I think another effort started about two and half years ago which crystallized into the
Association we now have. We inaugurated formally I on the 3rd of July in 2013, and so in a couple of months, we will effectively be two years. One of the first challenges we faced was how to get those people out there who practice experiential marketing to be able to come together.
We are happy that we reached out to as many of our colleagues as we could, and were able to get started with membership of 30 agencies, which was quite good for us.
The challenges that we face, have to do especially with survival and the operating environment that we are compelled to work in. When I talk about survival, I talk about business terms under which our members are engaged by clients, and those business terms over the years have become a lot tougher for us, and many of our members are just hanging there and trying to make ends meet. It looks rosy from the outside, but those of us who are in know what challenges we are facing.
That’s the reality of what we are facing now and that’s the reason why it’s a matter of serious engagement, we intend to visit some clients, the election is keeping everybody sort of distracted now but the intention is to visit a number of major advertisers and make our case to them. So they can see our point of view and hopefully begin to take a look at some of their procurement policies and see how we can make it more bearable so we are able to remain the business.
There is also the issue of professionalism. Because we need to be able to add value to those who are also giving us jobs, it is important for us to also look at how we can raise standards and get our members to to perform to a particular level which we believe will give the kind of value that our clients expect from us.
Training is also key for us and on account of that we organized a training program entry level staff in agencies as well as client sides. Our first training effort last year was fully subscribed to and very well received.
Another part has to do with our experience operating in the field. We face incidents of multiple taxation, we face incidents of harassment from local government and state authorities across the country. A lot of things that we have to pay for are not receipted which means we cannot also get reimbursed for some of those expenses. If you spend your money and you are not reimbursed for it, it will actually hit your bottom line.
The first thing that we debated among ourselves essentially is what is going to be the nature of our engagement and our relationship with APCON which is the body that regulates advertising in Nigeria.
You can draw a very thin line between advertising and experiential. The way the APCON decree and the wordings of the decree have been couched gives room to say that perhaps experiential is out of it, and so we had to spend some time within our Association, took a very meticulous process of developing position papers, consulting before we arrived at the decision that yes, it is in our interest to have a relationship with APCON, and for which we started engaging APCON.
That engagement was truncated because of the problem within APCON then. There is a new APCON chairman in person of Mr Udeme Ufot and so we believe that we will reopen our discussion with them and be able to finalize our relationship with that regulatory body. We believe that will give us some measure of the force of law to back up what we are doing, and we think it’s in the interest of the larger IMC industry for us to have that kind of relationship.
We are being guided by some international code which we also try to bring and relate to our own environment. We have sent the code out to some professionals’ bodies. We shared with AAAN, we shared with APCON, and we shared with ADVAN, so that they can also have input to the code as it also affects their business.
So that code is our promise to the industry, and to our clients that we will perform according to this standard for which we got all of our members to subscribe to it, and to do business according to it and for which to get it started, we actually ran a workshop on the code during our AGM.
The code is very important because it will ensure that we do give value, and then we work responsibly, and that’s the document that I am very proud of that we were able to accomplish within a very short time of our getting started.
I must point out that it is voluntary self-regulation that we are trying to do, rather than wait for somebody to regulate us. We saw the need for us to be able to work according to a professional code and we believe it will be the distinction between those who choose to engage an EXMAN agency and those who choose to engage some fly by night operator out there.
First, you must practice experiential marketing, and the way we’ve looked at it is that you must either be engaging the consumer in a one on one situation or engaging the trade. So we look at it from the perspective of consumer or trade engagement but engagement is a very key word, and it means that you have a direct interface with them in the course of activating.
You must have a registered office which means a physical place that we can visit, you must have some functional departments, we look at functions not exactly physical departmental structures but you must have functions which means that there must be somebody handling the client service function, somebody must provide a creative function, you must have the operations function and you must also have the administration and finance functions.
We have had a number of interests since we had the publication on the agency remuneration in the papers and the admission process is ongoing for them.
If an agency does not qualify for membership; we will tell them the areas that they did meet up, and give them time within which a follow up visit will be made to ensure that they can meet up. At the end of the ongoing admission process we should have 35 members.
What we have decided to do as a body is that we are going to engage a law firm to protect our members around Nigeria wherever they are, so where any of our members suffers any harassment or any undue tax, we will engage that body through our lawyers.
They must take us serious that we are doing legitimate business and we have the right under the Nigeria constitution to be able to do business and earn a livelihood without fear of being harassed. Our profession needs to be respected; we need to be well renumerated for the services that we provide because we do provide a value that has a definite impact on the bottom line of the clients that we work for, so we believe that we are part of the wheel of commerce, we keep it going and turning and as such we should be giving the due respect that should come to us.
There is improvement in terms of the middle class and of course that is what translates to people having more disposable income to spend on basic and luxury goods and so once that is happening, you can expect that the advertisers also have some more money to spend. So I will say generally it has been a good one, challenges here and there but it comes with the territory.
I believe, I came across a definition of leadership, at the LBS, it was giving by Dr Christopher Kolade and its says ‘’leadership is the development of men through the accomplishment of tasks’’ From the moment that definition came as they will say in religious circles, it became a Rhema. Really we have different definition of leadership but that one is kind of unique to me and it sort of aligns with my own philosophy.
As a leader, I believe in empowering people, I believe in challenging people, I believe in encouraging young people. I believe that you will stumble across the way but as you stumble, you will find your feet. So as a leader, I believe that there is a lot in people, that if you challenge them, they will discover what they did not know they had in them, and so I like challenging people, I like getting them to go explore.
As a leader, I don’t encourage people to come and dump their problems on me, so people know, you don’t come to me and say I have a problem, once you start from that, I just won’t listen to you. So if you say to me, there is this challenge and this is what I want to do about it, what do you think? Then, I am all ears.
I believe that you should as a leader create the environment, that is fair, that is a level playing ground, you shouldn’t have favourites , you shouldn’t place one person above the other and you should be fair and consistence with people, I believe that once you do that then you should be fine.
Who am I as a person?
Principled, Honest, and business minded. I take a very serious view to life and tend to take a long term view. In the office, I believe that we are here for business and we get straight to the business. Outside of work, in the right company, with my family, friends or colleagues, I am a different person entirely. You can say, I have a sort of dual personality. I am an introvert by nature but mix well in the right company.