Expectation was high in January last year that 2009 would be a better year, considering the various challenges advertising practitioners contended with, at both local and international markets.  For those who hit it big in 2007, as a result of consolidation in the banking industry, which encouraged more marketing activities, 2008 was like a nightmare, as banks had been cautioned from adopting an unbridled approach to the market for public offers.
However, 2009 ushered in hope that the drop in the volume of advertising business could revive. While some analysts were trying to highlight the fact that the global meltdown, which was already telling on the marketing budget in the advanced economies, might do the same locally, practitioners were optimistic that things would improve.
 
In an exclusive interview with THISDAY, early last year, then president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, (AAAN), Mr. Lolu Akinwumi, admitted that the meltdown would negatively affect advertising business, though he was optimistic that all would be well soon, adding, “This is not the first time there would be meltdown. It would always come and go, but brands and their owners would remain.”
 
Speaking further, Akinwumi called on practitioners to be more creative and urged business owners not to leave their brands unattended to. “Our members should be more creative in 2009, they should think of ideas that would sell and at the same time be cost effective. Meanwhile, brand owners too should not relax, this is the time to support their brands and make sure it survives the turbulent times,” he said.
 
As predicted by Akinwumi, despite the various challenges, the year still offered practitioners lots of opportunities. Though many companies cut their budget, it was not enough to break the backbone of the top players.
 
Compared to previous years, agency owners looked beyond advertising and explored opportunities in other areas of brand management. Aside those who diversified, advertising practitioners went full blast into integrated marketing, which made it possible for them to think beyond advertising for their clients.
 
As practitioners set for business in the new year, the Chairman, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Mr. Chris Doghudje, has called on them not to relax yet, as the challenges of 2009 would continue.
 
Speaking with THISDAY recently, Doghudje said the extent of growth or recovering from the current crisis in the banking sector, would determine when the coast would be clear.
 
“To say things would immediately pick up in 2010 is like deceiving ourselves. Banks are still recording losses; they are still being watched to prevent careless spending. Definitely they are going to be conscious and can’t afford to be reckless in their expenditure. Bear in mind the fact that the sector is one of the highest spenders in the industry,” he stated.
 
The APCON boss urged practitioners to take solace in the fact that spending would continue among the top players in the telecoms sector and politicians ahead of 2011 general election and this year gubernatorial election in Anambra state, and predicted that the 2010 business volume would not go down below the 2009 level.
 
 
Calling on ad practitioners to be more proactive in their business approach, he said, “This is the time to take advertising along with strategy. Practitioners should begin helping clients to develop strategies that would add value to their brands. By doing this they are helping the brand to grow in the market place and making more money for themselves.”
 
Speaking on what to expect this year, Managing Director, Next Media, Mr. Dada Ajayi-Ikhile corroborated the position of the APCON’s Chairman that what the industry experienced in 2009, would continue, with the need for people in advertising sector to be more creative and innovative to be able to face whatever challenge that would arise.
 
“I advise practitioners to be cautious in their optimism as they approach the new-year, because I expect a continuation of the challenges we had in 2009 or even worse. It is already written on the walls that petroleum prices would be fully deregulated, which would naturally lead to price increase;
 
“Expectedly too, related products and services downstream oil and gas sector will become active with marketing activities, but due to preparation for 2010-11 elections, politicians who control governance, civil service and the public sector-driven economy will worsen current liquidity squeeze by holding on to funds and giving it out only to people and areas they can get advantage from;
“The truth is that the real sector, i.e. productive sector will continue to suffer. There would however be a measure of improvement in the cross border trade, especially with Ghana,” he added.
 
Head of Public Relations Affairs in the APCON Secretariat, Mr. Joe Onuora, also agreed that it is not Eldorado yet for marketing practitioners, but he was optimistic that the year 2010 would likely be better than 2009. According to Onuora, election, the FIFA World Cup and other related activities would make the year swell for advertising business.
 
Meanwhile, in the United States, new legislation was expected as early as November 2009, but it did not come to fruition. That bill is now likely to be introduced in the New Year. According to US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2009–2014, as a result of this development, 2010 could provide a few headaches for online ad firms both in the US and across Europe.
 
In advanced economies, it is believed that advertising spenders, who were careful last year, are ready to spend more money this year, particularly on new media such as pay-TV and the Internet; to explore business opportunities.
 
"I would say 2010 is the year of opportunity for new media to emerge. Advertisers will explore non-traditional media, as traditional media, in particular TV, are more expensive," said Wannee Ruttanaphon, chairwoman of the media-buying agency Initiative.
 
Advertising industry struggled in 2009 but was estimated to have eked out a 1 per cent increase over 2008 in overall media spending.
 
According to the media research agency, the Nielsen Company, ad spending from January to November totalled 81.9 billion baht, down 0.5 per cent year-on-year. The smaller decline than in previous months made people in the industry optimistic, leading to predictions of full-year growth of zero to 1 per cent, much better than the forecast contraction of 5 per cent made at the beginning of the year.
 
As the global economy revives gradually, multinational companies are expected to start spending money this year, said Ms Wannee, who projects 5 per cent overall growth over 2009.
President of TME, an India based organisation, Divya Radhakrishnan, has also called for more innovative works as practitioners begin the New Year.
 
In an online report, he stated that “Media industry needs to get back to where we belong, scrambling for inventory has thrown all sensible media strategies out of the window. All product categories, at all times, across all TV channels has been the norm, this herd mentality needs to go;
 
“Consumers are fragmented, but the gadgets are converged. This paradox is the reality and it is high time we take cognizance of the same. Second would be research, especially TV, which garners Rs 7,000 crore of the pie, needs to expand to cover the rest of the 50 per cent TV homes in rural areas;
“Third, recognition of the role of media as a critical component of the mix has happened, but evaluation of media agencies is based on a procurement process, which makes it a mere transaction role. This needs to change.”
 
SOURCE: Thisday (www.thisdayonline.com)

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