When the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed declared a few weeks ago that Nigerian brands that run their adverts with CNN and other foreign outlets will be fined N100,000 for every time the advert is aired, some industry players thought it was a bluff. However, they should be remarkably rattled, now that the minister has reiterated this on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). He vowed that his ministry will execute the plan to the letter.
According to Lai Mohammed, this action is in line with the amended broadcasting codes that adverts of products that are meant for Nigerian audience must be aired in Nigeria. In his words, “What is common today is to see products made in Nigeria, but the adverts for those products are actually done in South Africa or in the US. So, we amended the code to say that if a product you want to advertise in Nigeria territory is made in Nigeria, grown in Nigeria or processed in Nigeria, then you must make sure that the advert is also produced in Nigeria.
“We are not stopping you from making your production in America or South Africa, but if you are going to advertise in Nigerian territory, you will pay a fine of N100,000. In other words, if Gulder makes an advert in South Africa and it is shown even on NTA, if it shows it 10 times a day, it will pay N100,000 fine 10 times.
“We went further to say that if a company should invest $1m in bringing EPL to Nigeria, that company must also be ready to spend 30 per cent of that $1m in producing a local content along the same line. In other words, if Maltina or Guinness decides to bring in EPL, which is English football, we have no problem with that. But they must also invest in covering our local league to the tune of 30 per cent of what he (sic) has paid.”
Lai Mohammed added that adverts made to promote local brands must be directed and authored by Nigerians in the country. It would not be out of place for any patriotic Nigerian to be livid that a brand like Guinness will make its billions in the Nigerian market, but will go to South Africa to do its commercials and run them either directly or on programmes they sponsor on CNN, BBC, Supersports, and others. They will still come back to the cycle of milking the economy, yet would not be ready even for a shirt sponsorship deal with any local team.
From the angle of patriotism, Lai Mohammed’s new found passion for promoting local content is commendable. However, some analysts feel it runs against the tenets of a free market economy that Nigeria stands for.
Emmanuel Young, a market researcher and online commentator says, “If Nigeria wants to go the way of China, North Korea or Cuba, we should clearly say so. But to promote a free economy and suddenly turn round to control how companies spend their profit, under any guise, can be counterproductive and affect negatively the drive for Foreign Direct Investments. It is really strange that such a thing can find its way into the country’s broadcasting code. It should be expunged.”
Some analysts see it as a smack of hypocrisy as many top government officials are secret or open supporters of foreign clubs which they follow religiously. To put pressure against this plan by the Ministry of Information and Culture, and probably coaxed by the guilty brands, the Heads of Advertising Sectoral Groups (HASG) held a meeting to examine the pronouncements.
Many others have pointed out the strong presence of Nigerian movies and music abroad, especially in other African countries, without any government push or fine. This, they believe, reveals that with time, other sectors will join the league as they learn the ropes. Nigeria for instance, produces around 2,500 films a year, with a projection of US$22 million by 2021 for total cinema revenue.
Total music revenue in Nigeria is estimated to rise to US$73 million in 2021. Nigeria’s TV and video market revenue grew by 7.49% to reach US$732 million in 2018, and reached US$806 million in 2020. With players like Netflix and Iroko TV linking up the global audience, the future looks bright. A clear case many feel government does not need to hold any brand by the balls.
The HASG is the joint body of professionals across advertising, media, and experiential marketing, as represented by the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), Media Independent Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), and the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN).
At the end of the marathon meeting, a statement jointly signed by the groups was issued. Although the body agreed that there are some merits in the bid to encourage and support local production of contents, they feel using legislative fiats would be counterproductive.
Part of the statement reads thus: “The media decisions are driven by the consumers’ interest, passion, inspiration and aspirations. CNN and other international news channels are watched by Nigerians locally and internationally. The world is now a global village and Nigerians do not only live within our physical boundaries.
“Nigeria based news channels and contents developed locally are also consumed across many countries beyond our borders, with no special fines and levies imposed on companies who place adverts within them.
“While there are some merits in the bid to encourage and support local production of contents in a bid to support the local industries, the Minister must understand that this has to be allowed to develop organically.
“Also, many leading advertisers are multinational companies who rationally seek to explore economies of scale in the production of materials, negotiation costs and broadcast of their contents, which run across many countries. Even with this said, empirical information and trended data shows clearly that investment in local broadcast stations still outweighs that of foreign channels.
“There are many areas where the government can support the industry to grow. This includes funding in the areas of technical infrastructure, content development grants, and investment in tools of measurement of advertising effectiveness and efficiency. With the right support for the marketing communication industry, content development, local media investment and media infrastructural development will grow and improve organically.
Looking at it globally, unfriendly government legislation has never forced a balance in any sector of the economy with serious deficiency. Government and players in the industry can benefit more from working together and in addressing the key issues pointed out by the minister of Information. It is still vital that production and content development capabilities of the marketing communications industry be allowed to freely develop organically and improve as technology and funding grow.