How AfCFTA, recurring debts, COVID-19, others will shape IMC in 2021

January 4, 2021
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THE successful completion of Year 2020 has no doubt brought a huge sigh of relief to many especially, practitioners, from various sectors of the economy. The general consensus, among such business owners  is that the outgone year had done more harm than good to businesses, and were therefore in a haste to see it end. They are however optimistic that Year 2020 would be a clear departure from the previous thorny year.

Interestingly,  while the nation’s integrated marketing communications industry is not left out of such optimism about the new year enhancing their fortunes, not a few are, however, of the belief that such optimism must be guarded. They insist there are some factors that will determine where the pendulum of the industry will swing in the new year.

The commencement of the AfCFTA Deal

The coming of Year 2021, without doubt, signifies the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area  (AfCFTA), a deal that allows free movements of goods and services between the markets of those African countries that are signatories to the agreement.

Nigeria remains a signatory to the agreement, and its over 200 million human populace no doubt holds its attractions to prospective investors. Not a few believe that the extent to which practitioners in the nation’s IMC sector are able to leverage this agreement would go a long way in determining the extent the industry would go this year.

Practitioners and brands, in this part of the world must be prepared to explore and exploit the AfCFTA to avoid being ‘overrun’ by foreign brands and practitioners.

Not- too- friendly government regulations

Regulations and government policies will also go a long way in either making or marring the fortunes of businesses in this sector this year, especially at a time when such businesses are still gasping for breath, due to injuries inflicted on them by the COVID 19 pandemic.

For instance, many practitioners had, in the past, complained of harsh government’s policies and  over-regulations being major disincentives to businesses.  A very good example has been the outdoor  advertising sector, where practitioners are of the firm belief that those not –too- business- friendly policies might sound the death knell of businesses in the sector.

“I think one of such nasty policies is for practitioners to be asked to pay for vacant billboards by the agency in charge of billboards and signages, LASAA, in Lagos. I think it’s rather harsh to demand payment for a signage that has not been bringing any business to the owner. It’s the height of insensitivity. We just need to be careful how we handle this critical issue this year,”  said a practitioner, who would not want his name in print.

Non-constitution of APCON Board

The non-constitution of the board of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), the apex regulatory body in the nation’s IMC industry, is also believed would go a long way in shaping the industry this year. For more than five years, the industry has been without a council, that can oversee its affairs.

Interestingly, the fact that the sector had not produced a new fellow of the profession in the past five years is believed to be one of the fallout of an APCON without a council.

Industry debt

The issue of debt is fast becoming intractable, a development that has continued to impoverish practitioners and agencies in the nation’s advertising industry.  For instance, at the Annual General Meeting of the Outdoor Advertisers Association of Nigeria (OAAN), held last year, its president, Mr. Emma Ajufo dwelt on the issue. He argued that a substantial amount of debts owed by association’s members, could be traceable to bills sent to billboards that never enjoyed any display.

“Our members will be happy if pronouncements can now be made on the vacant site policy of government. A lot of these debts are traceable to bills sent on sites that did not enjoy any display,” he stated,

Interestingly, the outdoor advertising is not the only sector having goose pimples on the issue.

The issue was again brought to the fore at a recent visit of the newly-appointed  Registrar/ Chief Executive of APCON, Dr. Lekan Fadolapo to the Acting Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Professor Armstrong Idachaba.

At the meting, the APCON boss hinted plans by the council to come up with a new business framework and Standard Operating Procedure that would effectively address the N8bn industry debt issue.

Not a few however believe that the manner this issue of debt is handled by the relevant authorities this year will go a long way in shaping the industry.

The COVID-19 factor

While individuals and businesses were about ‘celebrating’ the gradual exit of the COVID-19 pandemic from the country at the twilight of last year, the advent of the dreaded second wave of the pandemic has made such celebrations misplaced. Just like it did last year, the pandemic might also slow down business activities this year; since legislations bordering on partial restrictions are gradually being put in place. The way the situation is handled this time by practitioners will determine the extent of the effects it would have on businesses.

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