THE decision of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) to review downward, the commission rate to 15 per cent with its attendant implication on the revenue of advertising agencies notwithstanding, there may be rise in the number of marketing communication firms this year.

This is the prediction of Mr. Henry Alade, Chief Operating Officer, Troops Integrated, a Lagos-based marketing communications outlet.

His forecast is premised on the expansion that the Nigerian business environment has continued to witness in the last couple of years.

As part of resolutions reached at its Annual General Meeting held on October 24, 2007, the association had expected its members to commence the implementation of the new commission rate regime from January 1, 2008.

In the last couple of weeks, members have embarked on enlightenment campaign sensitising the public, especially stakeholders in marketing communication industry to the latest development.

The NPAN claimed that the decision was not new, “it was first taken at the NPAN’s general meeting of August 26, 1999, held at the Champion House, Isolo, Lagos.”

The association explained further that, “in many parts of the world where agencies are still on commission, the rate is within the new margin decided by the NPAN. In fact, in Portugal in 2005, some agencies agreed to unilaterally slash commission rates to 10 per cent to shore up the dwindling fortunes of newspaper industry there. In India, the world’s largest democracy and a reference in pluralistic media, agency commission remains 15 per cent. In South Africa the rate is 16.5 per cent.”

Although, the regulatory body of advertising in Nigeria, the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON) was quoted to have recommended the new NPAN’s position, investigation revealed that the Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) as well as the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) was not in support of the decision.

Their argument was that a reduction in commission would reduce their budgets and upset their schedule. It was even claimed that some ADVAN members earn the commission directly and pay their agencies fixed, negotiated rates.

Rather than reduce the commission, it was gathered that ADVAN members preferred a slight increase in rates.

But NPAN President, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola insisted that reversal of the decision was unlikely more so when some media houses had begun implementation.

On whether there would be sanction for any defaulting publishers, Chief Ajibola said “sanction has not be considered”, expressing optimism that it “is a popular decision” that meets the aspiration of print media owners.

The boss of Troops Integrated, Alade, however believed that, commission rates reduction or not, there are signs that the New Year portends business breakthrough for agencies. “I can see the feeling all over. I know by the end of this year, many of us will be counting our blessing. At Troops, we will have one or two brothers that will follow us soon. Even, there are a whole lot of undercover agencies that is yet to come out in their true colours. So, I see a great industry doing a great thing this year 2008.”

He said his firm is not afraid of competition, the expectant result of rise in marketing communication agencies. “We are ready for the battle, although we are still young, but we are not young because all of us came from a different background, all of us came with different experiences and the guys you see, everyone of them have done one or two great things in the industry, but on various great grounds, so we are really old schools, and we all have what it takes to take the industry by surprise.”

Alade explained that the name of the agency was a reflection of owner’s desire to “look at marketing from the military position. We are trying to change things, try to do some things right, and the only way you can do such thing is by coming in with full force to gather armies that are of like minds to face the battle. So, that is why we picked that name Troops from the military setting.”

He does not believe that the market is already saturated. And with more than 70 marketing communications agencies in the country, the Troops, he stressed, is already creating a niche for itself. “This occurrence is not yet over. A whole lot of agencies are still coming behind and the fact is not far fetched. It is a pointer to the growth of the Nigerian economy at large, because right now everyday is like the general scenario around human beings, they give birth to a child today, definitely there is somebody that is going to drop dead today, it’s just a vicious circle. Everyday brands come in, ideas and strategy for brands come in, and everyday the people who will push the brand forward are forming things to be on ground. It is very big, but though a small market. For every player, there is always a way to go. For every player as long as you know what you are doing and what you are in for. So more are still coming”.

The strength of his outlet, according to him, lies in the deep appreciation of what he termed ‘Active Engagement.’ He explained: “Active Engagement evolved over the years. What we knew was the traditional set up of below the line, along the line, through the line, down the line, that is what we have been hearing, but right now, we are looking at the marketing setting from a different angle, and now we need to do something that will take everything together, as a brand. When you are working on a brand, you are looking at the brand, engaging the consumer full time. You look at the brand from the strategy angle of it, you dissect it, and you look at the suitable way to attack the problem of the brand or the brand features. So, you are looking at a full time Active Engagement all around our services coming in with new rules of engagement, not the old way of doing things.”

The firm, he revealed, has propriety tools which Alade called ‘the intelligent stamp.’ “It is like you write a document and you put your stamp on it. The intelligent stamp indicates our approach to brief. Once we receive your brief, we dissect it and execute it. We put our stamp on it and say, yes!, this is powered by Troops, and then post, and the pre-activation, this means that the processes of activation is being followed strictly by Troops.”

His assessment of the industry underscored the fact that there exist loopholes that his company has come to correct. “There are loopholes.

But I wouldn’t disclose them. It is part of our strategy. Those holes are what we are coming in to close and closing them right now to the glory of God. One or two things are already on board, that we have tried out some of our strategies and I can say at the moment it is working.”

Although, the market is growing, the enabling business environment is yet to be created, Alade lamented while calling on government to focus on creating social amenities that facilitate rapid economic growth. Provision of uninterrupted electricity supply is one of them.

Alade began his Marketing Communication career from the old Group Africa where he retired as a compere; moved to the Creative Office, later to the Client Service Department and ended up in the Operations Department before he later moved to ESP communications as a Client Service Person. He was moved to Operations, and later left for TQA as Head of Experimental Marketing before he final quit to pursue his dreams.

Source: The Guardian


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