The beginning of the Integrated Marketing communications (IMC) practice, in Nigeria dates back to the times when the earliest products or what today have become brands sourced for ways to reach their market or target customers through advertising. Though many will argue that Public Relations practice precedes advertising, advertising as a form of consultancy or marketing activity began before any other marketing communication activity in Nigeria. It was Lowe Lintas, an advert company that opened up the business terrain over 80 years ago. Since then, marketing has been moving in leaps and bounds and any industry veteran would point out that there have been significant improvements over the years. As the years sped on, some level of attention was paid to sales promotion, PR, sponsorship, events and direct marketing. The emergence ofsocial media as a direct marketing tool as the latest and fastest growing marketing communication technique has opened up many more aspects of marketing many would have thought was impossible.
A significant boom for the industry came in the 1980s when telecos entered the scene. Wanting to aggressively push their brands in the market especially when competition began to emerge, brand custodians began to come up with creative marketing ideas that began to create the sort of consumer engagement advertising might not have for their brand. Despite this growing trend, it seems brands still focus most of their marketing activities on advertising. Nn’emeka Maduegbuna, Chairman C&F Porter Novelli explains that this trend is one of the reasons the industry has probably not reached the level it is supposed to. Having pointed this out the question one might be tempted to ask is how integrated are marketing techniques that are applied on a brand. Muyiwa Moyela, senior consultant with The Quadrant Company says “as our market economy develops, consumers become more discerning and as practiced knowledge of marketing communications professionals (agencies, client-side practitioners and the media) increases, we can expect better and optimal integration that will deliver quantifiable value for the end user.”
Trying to point out which segment is doing better, the effectiveness of any of these numerous branches depends on whether or not it is used appropriately for a brand. Maduegbuna explains that the success of integrating marketing activities majorly lies on the client -that is the strategies he deems fit to employ. Now that clients are becoming aware that there is more to marketing a brand than advertising, the IMC is sure to experience a boom in the nearest future. Maduegbuna however believes that one other factor that can improve IMC practice in Nigeria is education. He points out that regulatory bodies such as Avertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) are yet to develop strategies through which young and aspiring practitioners can be groomed for future challenges. “Know how is important and regulatory bodies should begin to take particular interest in that if the industry is to grow in the next few years.” He also explains that this move is necessary because “in a few years time new companies will begin to flood Africa and Nigeria and if we don’t want foreigners to take over the leadership of the industry under our noses, we have to equip the next generation of the IMC industry.”
With the economic downturn and the clampdown on banks in Nigeria, the industry suffered some setbacks but with ad spends on the world cup championships and the country’s 50th independence anniversary IMC practitioners believe the storm is gradually receding. Having overcome these setbacks, could there be a light at the end of the IMC tunnel? Maduegbuna optimistically projects that the growth to be experienced will be near overwhelming. “I see growth in the nearest future but how far this will go will depend on the quality of practitioners our institutions churn out and the efforts of the regulatory bodies to equip the young practitioners.” Moyela on his part says he expects to see some improved dynamic practices in IMC. “I expect to see our practitioners ‘running things’ across the sub Sahara Africa market. I expect to see the Nigerian IMC industry determining strategy and spend for the rest of the AMEA (Asia, Middle East and Africa) region, as Nigeria becomes the business, leisure and entertainment capital of Africa, South of the Sahara.” With so much enthusiasm for growth, it is believed that industry players and aspiring practitioners would build a strong IMC industry that would stand the test of time and be a force to reckon with in the next fifty years.