How Agencies Can Rise Up to New Market Realities, Clients’ Challenges

Lanre Adisa, MD/CEO, Noah's Ark and First Keynote Speaker,  Alh. Gboyega Oyetola, Chief of Staff to the Governor of the State of Osun and Representative of the Governor at the event, Mr. Kelechi Nwosu, President, AAAN and Udeme Ufot, MON, Chairman, APCON yesterday at the AAAN 42nd Congress/AGM in Osogbo, Osun State. 
Practitioners in advertising especially heads of agencies gathered at the Osun state capital, Osogbo to fashion a way out of the quagmire in which the industry has inadvertently found itself. The event was the opening session of the association’s 42nd AGM/Congress where a fairly good attempt at soul searching was made considering the theme of the congress: Nigerian Advertising, What next?
To do justice to the theme, two ‘erudite’ professionals were, Lanre Adisa and Dele Anifowoshe, one each from the agency’s and the client’s sides respectively. The reputations of the speakers actually precede them.
Mr. Ayo Owoborode, Chairman, BOT, AAAN and Dele Anifowoshe, Director, Brands, Airtel and Second Keynote Speaker at the 42nd AGM/Congress
Speakers' Pedigrees
Lanre Adisa, Managing director, Noah’s Ark has transverse the industry working as a accomplished creative in some of the best and challenging agencies in the country before berthing Noah’s Ark. He interfaces with clients at the highest level while he is also very much aware of happenings on the global scene.  Anifowoshe in the same vein, combines impressive experiences garnered working on the clients’ and agencies sides of the business spanning Nigerian Breweries, FKG2, Insight and Cadbury. He currently serves as Director of Brands at Airtel Nigeria. 
Making his presentation, Adisa leaned on Sir John Hegarty of BBH observation “What we do has not changed. What has changed is the opportunity to do many more things. For me it’s the best time to be in advertising.” Incidentally, that best time inferred by Mr. Hegarty is not here yet for Nigerian practitioners but the good thing is that they are gathered to device means to turnaround the current unfavourable tide and align with current business realities. 
Evolution of the Industry: Four Distinct Eras
Going down memory lane, Adisa delineated four eras as follow: the “Pre-Indigenisation”  era which commenced from the founding of Lintas in 1928 till the 70’s.  It is constituted by foreign agencies such as Lintas, OBM, Grant, and Admark. Initial pool of staff came from Broadcasting.  Lintas is the only the vestige of this era. Next in line is “The Children of Indigenization” era according to Adisa. This era came in the wake of the indigenization decree of the early 70’s. It saw the expatriates hand over the reins and ownership of first generation agencies to Nigerian managers. 
“This inspired some bold Nigerians to strike out on their own (Rosabel in 1979 and Insight in 1980).They brought in a lot of local insight into their work”.  For Adisa, this generation of agencies which include TBWA and DDB, remains perhaps the most adventurous so far. Among others, “they started the wave of affiliations that characterized the 80’s and 90’s, they started the specialist agencies and influenced the birth of the next generation”.
“The Daring 90’s” era is next in line. This saw a lot of brilliance and competition in the industry. It was started by the second generation through the opening of their second line agencies like MC&A and STB McCann's. They also influenced spinoffs founded by enterprising creatives and managers that hitherto worked in the second generation agencies. Examples are SO&U, Casers and Prima Garnet. 
We are in the era of “The Milennials”.  It took a while before the birth of another era which according the Noah Ark’s boss, is credited to have been led by Verdant Zeal in 2007 while Noah’s Ark joined the wave at the onset of the recession in 2008. Other millennial agencies include Fuel Communications, Etu Odi, YBR, CreativeXone and X3M Ideas. “It remains an era like never before, especially with regards to the advent of social media and a multiplicity of platforms for content sharing” he says. 
To bring his audience up-to-date, Adisa presented a not too good situation report on what could be viewed as over hyped APCON industry reforms, affiliations and realignments and dwindling fortunes that have characterised the industry. 
APCON Reforms and Leakages in the System
He reminds gathering,  “In 2013, the APCON Reforms took effect with the gazette of the 5th Code. The main objective was to shore up the fortunes of advertising businesses through licensing and protection of our self-interest. A critical part of this was the delineation of agencies into national and foreign categories depending on their ownership structure”
Despite the laudable objectives of the reform, it is not the best of times for players as most are struggling and barely surviving.  Affiliation he says is longer a guarantee for getting business. 
The reason for the poor outing for the reform is not unconnected with “evident leakages in the system with unregistered practitioners and foreign agencies feasting on the industry with impunity”.  To bring this home he recalls some affected brands and campaigns claiming, “It is disheartening that critical part of the last presidential campaign was handled by foreign agencies unregistered professionals, this dealt a blow on the industry, in other climes practitioners look forward to elections”. 
Toye Arulogun, Tall & Wide; Olakanmi Amoo-Onidundu; Kanmi Da'Silva and Samson Osunsoko all of Insight Communications at the AGM
Similarly no agency registered in Nigeria works on Ecobank advertising, the ads are done by agencies in London just as Star beer Advertising at a certain point was handled out of South Africa. Peak Milk also used to belong to this category.
Most of these foreign agencies and accomplices take advantage of the system by using the unwary registered agencies to get the APCON seal of approval to run the ads and the economy is the worst for it because revenue that would have added value are on capital flight. Hence, Adisa’s submission that the industry’s “competition today is hydra-headed; it’s both local and global”
Creativity as the Currency of the Business
Emphasising the truism that Advertising thrives on one currency: ideas that shape the fortunes of brands, Adisa tends to believe that agencies are not pulling their weights enough therefore advised “it is not just enough to think you possess that power, it’s for your peers and the world to acknowledge you do”, an indictment on larger population of the agencies’ recluse attitude.
This indicates practitioners should not be complacent with AAAN Lagos Advertising and Events Festival (LAIF) awards but rather get on the global scene to raise the bars and get Nigerian advertising unto higher pedestal of recognition such as being recorded by Brazil, Agentina, India, South Africa, Morocco and Kenya. These are fellow developing countries whose advertising have been recognized and awarded for their creativity. “Kenya, got its first Cannes lion this year, Egypt also won its first Cannes Titanium this year”. 
In recognition of their efforts while Nigeria is in solitary, African Cristal Festival now has a special segment for Egypt, Morocco and Kenya. Adisa confirms “while Nollywood speaks for Africa around the world, we (Advertising practitioners) remain silent”. This he says has to change in the coming years. 
Shift the Coversation
The what is next? Question , he seems to answer albeit bluntly, “We need to shift the conversation from the fear of foreign invasion to foreign collaboration”. The APCON muted ideas of foreign agencies servicing foreign accounts out of Nigeria is a fallacy, he therefore proposes that arrangement is altered from 25% foreign stake to 49% where the majority 51% is held by Nigerians. 
Defending the above position, he claims, the change will engender the following benefits for the industry: “An injection of cash and new thinking, Inclusion and not seclusion, or worse, isolation; A more competitive industry; Surer grounds to train the next generation through exposure and confidence building and a surer way to register Nigeria on the global advertising map”.   
Igbo Amadi-Obi, DDB Lagos, Demola Olusunmade, Managing Director, BBDO West Africa, Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas, Jenkins Alumona, CEO, Strategic Outcomes during the AGM/Congress
Need for Stricter Enforcement
It will also ensure a stricter enforcement of the APCON reform in the realm of advertising practice and media placements according to the Adisa “this is where the bleeding is coming from on the local front” APCON must be seen to mean business in this regard, of course he expects industry players to lend their unalloyed support to take the industry forward. 
Understanding the Consumer is Critical
Aligning the Business Dele Anifowose’s presentation tagged “moving forward in a changing world Global Trends and Expectation of Clients is no lees inspiring, intriguing and challenging. For the Airtel’s Director of Brands,  the fact that emerging markets and developing markets are driving growth compels global corporations to have a common aspiration to drive growth through presence in markets with headroom for growth. Nigeria, like the BRIC nations, is one of such countries with vast growth opportunities for brands not minding the socio-economic challenges.  
Therefore, clients product portfolio will continue to be inspired by the imperative to grow revenue and boost the bottom-line by attracting the high value consumer segment. To do this effectively, Anifowoshe says,  understanding the consumer journey is critical for agency value added contribution; likewise investment in market study to unearth the dynamics driving consumer behaviour is also critical to meeting client’s expectation just as the agencies also need to the insights in building client’s business and nourishes the relationship.  
Agencies Must Keep Pace and stay ahead
In the area of consumer evolution, the Brand Director challenges that as much as clients recognize the speed at which consumers are evolving, Agencies must keep pace and stay ahead.
The signposts of Increasing customer sophistication dictates that Market space will be redefined beyond the urban middle class; explosive growth in data and information have given rise to a more empowered global consumer, while he also noted the gravitation from physical market place to virtual market space.
In view of the above hindsight as a client, Anifowoshe says the challenging business environment is driving client’s decision making and defining relationships with it’s partners (agencies). “Clients now have to deliver more with less and are seeking a ‘Better, Faster, Cheaper’ attitude from agencies”.  As highlighted in Adisa’s presentation, Anifowoshe also emphasizes that current fundamental tension between clients operating in the current tough environment, informs the notion that “agencies are not pulling their weights”.
Agencies Must Prove their Value
This is contrary to the CMOs challenge to account for returns on their advertising investment as agencies continue to struggle to prove their value.  This becomes critical as higher level of accountability is demanded from all parties.  The client according to Anifowoshe has developed sophisticated ways of measuring value, the onus is therefore rests on the agency to follow suit and eventually lead the battle cry. 
Against agencies’ age-old excuses of long term equity building there is pressure to deliver short term financial results and impact on long term brand building. “Businesses are managed on a week-on-week basis, rather than wait for end of quarter which in view of the current realities, is too late to respond to fast changing market and competition. 
Behold the Officers of the Association: Sule Momoh, 141-Worldwide, Babaeko, Tunji Olugbodi, Verdant Zeal, Chairman, AGM Organising Committee, Mr.  Nwosu,AAAN  President; Mr. Oluwasona, V.P, AAAN, Samson Osunsoko, Insight, Sola Adegboroye, ED, CreativeXone, Feyi Olubodun, GM/COO, Insight and Lekan Fadolapo, Executive Secretary, AAAN
Stuffs Agencies of the Future Must Display
In closing, Dele’s scan for the agencies of the future presents the following as necessities: Agencies must have a greater knowledge of the digital space to thrive; More use of pull-interactions. This is backed by a survey in which over 90% agree that it is becoming increasingly important that their agency uses ‘pull interactions’ such as social media and online communities rather than traditional ‘push’ campaigns. 
Agencies of the future also need to demonstrate strategic thinking as brand managers rely more on the agencies. He also noted that client will appreciate the more, partners with skills in branding and creative capabilities. The ‘lecturer’ hinged this on the fact that “76% of marketers surveyed ranked strategy/brain trust capabilities at the top of their agency wish list”. 
Also important is that ability to measure. According to the Airtel Marketing egg-head, marketers want an agency that can report on where campaigns succeeded, fell short and where they should be fine-tuned.  Therefore, in taking on the future, agencies must invest in conventional market research methods to track campaign resonance and effectiveness and also track competition. “The reason digital marketing will thrive even when advertising budgets are cut is its targeting and tracking capability”. 
Ditch the Current Model!
Going forward he charges, “Agency business model is structured to suit the agencies, not clients. The current “economic” model is unsustainable!!! Hence there is need for agencies to redefine their value proposition to focus on commercially driven business building ideas, supported by well-tailored organizational structure, adopt measurement and drive integration”
To deliever on the above, he posits a service an agency service evolution grid, aimed at moving away from tradition agency which does adverts and events to full understanding of client’s business needs in a highly competitive environment. He counsels Agencies should evolve people and processes to drive the business; and drive business initiatives through the Channel all aimed at achieve business objectives of clients.