Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And Consolidation

Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And
Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And

By Ntia Usukuma

Most legitimate businesses globally depend largely on the lever of marketing and marketing communications to survive. In Nigeria, just like most other countries of the world, competitive businesses and brands are using most or all the critical marketing communication instruments – advertising, PR, branding, media, marketing and all the adjuncts to stay operational and battle for control or survival in the marketplace.

Despite the relevance of all the above in business, for a long time, no segment of the dominant media platforms or even specialized publications existed, for the coverage and analysis of brand activities, developments in marketing communications and other strategic areas of marketing.

Remarkably some positive changes emerged about 18 years ago with Nigerian dailies like Thisday dedicating pages for brands and marketing while specialised publications like Brandfaces, Brands & Products, Marketing Edge and many others joined the league. While many more publications have joined the league, most early publications have since left the stage.

It was five years ago that our publication, Marketingspace, packaged to appeal and meet the needs of all practitioners and “outsiders” who really have the desire to understand the marketing communications world, joined this special league.

In our past five years on the newsstands, producing a glossy magazine in conjunction with an online version that is very interactive and updated regularly, we have seen outstanding developments, innovations and growth in virtually all the segments of the industry.


For most ad practitioners used to practicing within a relatively serene atmosphere, this turbulent period in the industry that started about five years ago must have left them quite ruffled. APCON’s reforms aimed at protecting local players from being alienated in its own industry took off on a rather shaky note five years ago as veterans and former close pals were pitched against one another.

In this game of wits, Prima Garnet and its owner, Lolu Akinwunmi, was pitched  against  his former principal associate and affiliate in South Africa, Ogilvy Africa as well as a former AAAN President, Rufai Ladipo who was designated to manage Ogilvy’s latest agency in Nigeria, Scanad. For those who could recall, The Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) also joined APCON in this swift action to curtail the perceived capitalistic excesses of foreign agencies by speedily endorsing some reforms meant to be executed promptly.

Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And
Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And

However, a look at the regulations and guidelines guiding foreign investments in the country indicates why APCON and her cohorts had faced challenges in enforcing some of the rules drawn up in this new reform in the last few years.  Nigeria’s investment laws have been so lowered that we no longer have any no-go areas for external investors probably except the military and armament. The NIPC (Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission) law allows up to 80% foreign ownership of firms outside the petroleum sector, where investment is limited to existing joint ventures or new production-sharing agreements. The major requirements for foreign investors to operate include registration with the NIPC after incorporation under the Companies and Allied Matters Decree of 1990.

The conditions for registration have also been so lowered that foreign investors no longer need more than two or three Nigerians to be on the board of their companies before they can operate, probably for moral reasons. Although the APCON / Ogilvy issue was later settled out of court, it still seems the last might not have been heard  on this issue that bothers on the well being of local advertising agencies in Nigeria.

Another major issue in advertising in the last five years is Federal Government’s persistent nonchalance towards the reconstitution of the governing council of APCON. The smooth running of the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON) has been seriously hampered, over the years as Nigeria’s advertising control house has come under the hammer of government’s recurring breaches. Varieties of contraventions have been slammed on APCON by successive governments, subsequent to the enactment of the law establishing the regulatory body by a preceding administrative era.

For 18 months, during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the government just refused to appoint a chairman to constitute the APCON council even though Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi has served out his tenure.

It was confusion galore when President Goodluck Jonathan eventually named a new APCON council chaired by Prince Ngozi Emioma, a relatively unknown figure in the industry. Feelers among industry practitioners indicated that they were not comfortable with Emioma’s appointment  because it breached relevant act that set up the advertising regulatory body.

According to APCON rules, whoever would be the chairman must be a fellow of APCON, which they believe Emioma was not.

The Emioma saga created a lull for many months until Mr. Udeme Ufot, an advertising chieftain was finally appointed the Chairman of the council. Practitioners breathed a sigh of relief but this was to be short-lived.

Barely four months after the Ufot-led board was constituted, President Muhammadu Buhari’s blanket dissolution of the boards of agencies, commissions and parastatals dealt a mighty blow on the APCON council and the marketing communications industry. A letter, signed by the then Head of Federal Civil Service, Danladi Kifasi, vacated the council and relinquished its powers to APCON Registrar/Chief Executive Officer. This disturbing move returned APCON to comatose.

For three consecutive times, the Federal Government has goofed in nominating politicians and non-advertising professionals into the board of the council.  Funnily,  the controversy continued  early last year, when the government announced Hon. Jacob Sunday (Chairman), Chief Dayo Abatan, Aloysius Okafor, Sani Tulu as the newly appointed APCON Council members;  over two years after the dissolution of the Udeme-led APCON board.

According to the advertising practitioners, the appointment is still contrary to the Nigerian Advertising Rules, Laws and Regulation, Act 55 of 1988 (as amended), which states that a chairman, who should be appointed by the President, shall be a distinguished fellow of the profession. The APCON council has remained virtually in limbo, till date.

Players in the marketing communications industry are extremely disturbed over the Federal Government’s seeming nonchalant attitude towards the reconstitution of the governing council of APCON. Almost five years down the line, there is still not a functional APCON council and this is obviously affecting the growth of the multimillion naira industry. Perhaps, out of frustration over the impasse, some of the industry players are clamouring for the removal of APCON from government control, to enable it run as an institute, which of course will be managed by practitioners and ‘free from government interference.’


For ad practitioners under the umbrella of the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria (AAAN), from the tenure of Rufai Ladipo five years ago to that of the current President, Ikechi Odigbo, it has been a time of increased collaboration among various sectors of the marketing communications industry. In between these two, we have the Presidency of Kayode Oluwosana, Bunmi Oke and Kelechi Nwosu. Interestingly all of them have always realised that as the market becomes more dynamic, the association must promote increased partnership and collaboration to be on a good stead to do more business with clients and government. Another commendable trend is the smooth transition from one tenure to the next.

It has also been obvious in the last five years, that advertising creativity in Nigeria has grown and some of our agencies have attracted global accolades, as they continued to prove their worth by winning awards outstanding creative agencies.

Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And
Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And

Within the past five years, the Nigerian advertising scene has witnessed some radical changes that are totally differ from what had happened in the industry in over one-and-half decades ago. These changes have not only set so many agencies on their toes but have also revived the industry and reminded so many on the need to bring back creativity and build new capabilities in order to meet clients’ ever-increasing expectations. At the vanguard of this radical drive to place Nigerian advertising alongside their global peers are agencies like Noah’s Ark Advertising, Insight, X3M Ideas, SO&U and a few others.

For instance, Noah’s Ark Advertising headed by the vibrant Lanre Adisa, became the first in Nigeria’s creative industry to be listed on the prestigious and world renowned Lürzer’s Archive. The Lürzer’s Archive, which is published six times in a year, is a worldwide advertising archive that is globally regarded as the ‘Bible’ of advertising. It showcases the best of advertising from around the world. Out of the thousands of entries received, only 70 of the best get published in each edition of the high end publication with global circulation strength.

This achievement put Noah’s Ark in the league of global advertising agencies. Through this feat the agency was also listed among the top 16 World’s leading Independent Agencies for 2015. The World’s Leading Independent Agencies is published annually on a non-profit basis by thenetworkone, the world’s leading independent agencies organization, in association with Campaign Magazine, London.  This is just one of the many accomplishments of Nigerian agencies. Other agencies like Insight, SO&U, X3M Ideas and many others have equally achieved remarkable international recognitions leading to various reputable awards.


The sphere of Public Relations has elicited a deluge of criticisms and postulations especially in the last five years. In spite of the milestone garnered by the leading bodies in this sector, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and Public Relation Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) over a decade now, industry observers still opine that Public Relations engagement still falls short of acceptable standards in Nigeria.

Some of the issues listed include the infiltration of largely untrained and unregistered individuals masquerading as practitioners, and the ugly trend of organised bodies bypassing legitimate PR firms in awarding jobs to foreign agencies as seen in the last two general elections in Nigeria. The sector has its hands full in the last five years in instilling professionalism and institutional decorum in a profession that has been in existence for over 150 years now.

In the last five years, PRCAN has made some efforts to explore various avenues provided to them by NIPR, which is backed by law, to stamp out illegal PR practitioners as part of measures that will inevitably bring sanity to PRCAN.

Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And
Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And

When he became President of PRCAN over half a decade ago, Chido Nwakanma had overwhelming pledge to deliver a “Bigger and better PRCAN’’.

In the words of the former PRCAN President, “many firms are offering public relations consultancy services without due registration with both NIPR and PRCAN. Many corporate bodies, institutions and governments at Federal, State and Local Government levels are giving out public relations and communication briefs to agencies with unregistered individuals and with no legal standing to practice or offer public relations services in Nigeria.” Nwakanma pledged the commitment of PRCAN to partner with NIPR to raise the standards and foster professionalism in the public relations profession in Nigeria. He made remarkable efforts in his tenure. He also drew the attention of NIPR to the setting up of public relations practice in Nigeria by foreign agencies without complying with the NIPR Act 16 of 1990.

Nwakanma ran an aggressive advocacy programme, before handing over to the current President, John Ehuguese.

 The current PRCAN leader Ehiguese has been focusing more on trainings and capacity building with a monthly breakfast meetings organised in partnership with other professional associations in the IMC space. An annual (PR) industry survey championed by a PR firm Black House Media (BHM) has been endorsed and institutionalised by PRCAN. Ehiguese believes in a strong Nigerian voice in the global PR community and so PRCAN’s global outreach programme has advanced with more vigour by participating more actively in the last four years in global PR platforms – APRA, ICCO, Cannes Festival, and Global PR Summit.

Ehiguese himself was appointed into the Board of ICCO at its Annual Global Summit held in Milan, Italy, in October 2015.The association was also able to continue with its Masterclass training series, at which upcoming and mid-level PR executives from both client and agency sides are trained.

NIPR, from the days of Dr. Rotimi Oladele as President till the tenure of the current President, Malam Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo has been a strong backers of PRCAN’s sanitation war. They had formed a strong tag team to shore up and protect professional excellence and viability of the image-making business in Nigeria.

However many commentators feel a lot more should be done by stakeholders in the sector to holistically create an enviable, enduring and qualitative interfacing mechanism with government, corporate organisations, public institutions, brands, multinationals and other to mitigate the seemingly mountainous challenges facing the growth of PR in Nigeria.


Sometimes, many observers tend to mix up the function of media independents in the marketing industry. Tolu Ogunkoya, the man who has been the head of Nigeria’s media independent body since 2001 until a few years ago explains it clearly: “Media independents focus on media buying and planning. We don’t do creative works. What we do is to focus on using data to advise clients on which media gives them the best return to reach consumers. That is what it is. We are into planning and buying. We are referred to as media independents because of our history when we broke out of full-service. It was almost like media standing alone hence that name. We use research to plan first before we start buying”.

Until he recently handed over the baton of leadership to Dr. Ken Onyeali Ikpe, another leading practitioner, Tolu Ogunkoya has been the President of Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN) since 2001.

Examining the long term stewardship of Ogunkoya’s leadership in MIPAN, especially a greater part of the last five years, the association has been able to set standards for the profession as well as introduce research angle to advertising business. Three key things were done in the last few years to help raise the standards of the profession. First, standards to which company qualifies to be a media agency. Secondly, introduction of training not just for practitioner but also for media owners they patronise. Thirdly, seen by many as one of the most significant things that have happened in this country’s advertising industry was the introduction of research into media planning. MIPAN was at the forefront of this. Looking at the area of research, training and development, the setting up of criteria to become a media agency and MIPAN membership, these three have combined to help raise the standards of media buying in particular and the marketing industry in general.

Industry observers feel one challenge the Ken Onyeali Ikpe tenure should help entrench is the establishment of the ABC which would strongly enhance media planning decisions.


At his last general meeting as President, just before he stepped down for Rotimi Olaniyan to begin his tenure, Former EXMAN President, Kayode Olagesin revealed that the experiential sector, which  believes controls over 40 percent of the estimated N150b budget of the integrated marketing communications industry in Nigeria must ensure that its value and functions are sustained if they must remain relevant. It is therefore not strange that Experiential Marketing Association of Nigeria in the last five years had constantly made efforts to evaluate her capacity to provide quality services, examine her code of conduct to ensure that standards on ethics are maintained, while overhauling its strategies to overcome emerging challenges. Analysts believe these are the issues that the current President, Kehinde Salami should tackle vigorously.


Many communication analysts believe Outdoor is the oldest advertising medium in Nigeria, though the print as a platform was few years ahead of outdoors. Outdoor advertising however has witnessed its challenges over the years and in what looked like the major steps to address the problem facing the outdoor sub-sector of the advertising industry, stakeholders in the industry, including government, practitioners and advertisers have identified areas of conflict between practitioners and regulatory agencies, especially in the last five years.  This has indeed helped to chart a new way forward for a thriving and mutually rewarding outdoor advertising industry. Despite the challenges faced by the sector, there are over 150 outdoor firms still existing in the market, managing over 20,000 boards, pan-Nigeria.

In the last five years or so, out of home (outdoor) advertising has gone far beyond rusty poles signage in Nigeria. The major turnaround featured segmented scrolling billboards, unipoles, ultra waves, crossway billboards (gantries) backlit, Hexa signs and the most admired of them is the light emitting diodes (LED) screen billboards. These evolutionary billboards designs are meant to make the outdoor advertising functions more effective, less stressful yet delivering value for money.

Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And
Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And

Obviously digital outdoor has generated tremendous positive reaction on the part of clients. Clients are really buying into this use of high-level technology because it is just perfect and in tune with driving their brand objectives.

However, there are series of challenges facing Outdoor advertising in Nigeria in the last five years or so that the current OAAN President, Tunde Adedoyin must tackle. Among these challenges are conflicting regulations and multiple taxation, huge debts and demolition of their billboards. In the face of all these, the practitioners have remained undaunted. Other knotty issues in outdoor advertising in Nigeria include clients indebtedness, and over regulation. Clients’ indebtedness remains one of the issues that has plagued the outdoor advertising industry in Nigeria in the last five years.

According to a report by a business columnist, Bernard Okhakume, “because of debt burden, many outdoor service providers have closed shop. Over 70% of agencies today are so heavily indebted they can barely run their offices. At the close of business year 2016, some of them simply disengaged their staff and opted for one-man show pending when situation improves. The situation tends to be as a result of the fact that crafty clients simply take their wares to other practitioners after heaping up debts in one agency, a strong association between practitioners can help to reduce Nigeria’s size enables the association so much power to establish and enforce practice rules, code and ethics.”

It is also noticeable that the need to curb haphazard and chaotic outdoors practice in the country led to the emergence of regulatory bodies in most states of Nigeria in the last few years. However, practitioners have continued to complain over what some call “Strangulation”. In Nigeria, following the establishment of The Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), several other states followed this step to establish state regulatory agencies to help manage a seemingly rowdy outdoor environment.

Oyo State has the Oyo State Signage and Advertisement Agency (OYSAA), in Ogun State, the Ogun State Signage and Advertising Agency (OGSAA) is doing the job while in Ekiti State, the Ekiti State Signage and Advertisement Agency (EKSAA) is responsible for the job. In Rivers State the regulator is Rivers State Signage Agency while The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, gave the responsibility to Afromedia. Other outdoor regulators  are Cross River State Sign and signage Agency (CRISSA), Kwara State Signage and Advertisement Agency (KWASAA), Anambra State Signage and Advertisement Agency (ANSAA), Bauchi State Signage and Advertisement Management Agency (BASSAMA), Kano State Signage and Advertisement Agency (KASAA), Ondo State Signage and Advertisement Agency (OSSAA) amongst others. Most of these agencies were created in the last five years.


The Advertisers Association of Nigeria was founded in 1992. In 2012 the association celebrated its 2 decades of existence. The association was formed as a platform for advertisers to interact and exchange ideas on problems of common interest. Over the years, the association’s membership has increased to about 56 members from all sectors of the economy.

Although the association is not backed by any legislative act or executive order, it has been able to register remarkable progress as a pressure group through persuasion and collective bargaining, various elements that have propelled its achievement especially in the last five years.

Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And
Marketing Communications In Nigeria: Half Decade Analyses Of Innovations, Creativity And

Kola Oyeyemi leadership was passionate about creating a world class intellectual data bank where young marketers can look forward to grow their career in the marketing field. A recognised quality world-class training. This developmental agenda has been effectively sustained by the David Okeme’s presidency that followed as well as the current leadership under Folake Ani-Mumuney.


The last five or six years, will continue to resonate in the minds of players within the Nigerian marketing communication orbit, notwithstanding the shadow of gloom cast on the Nigerian economy by the slide in global oil price towards the second half of this period. The intense competition witnessed among players within the telecoms, brewery, banking, non-alcoholic, noodles, beverage, detergent, FMCGs, smart phones, cars, seasoning, and other brand sectors, no doubt, has made the last few years not only accruing increased brand valuation and visibility to discerning brands, but also according consumers their full rights as enshrined in the ‘Consumer is King’ mantra hinged on the economic advantage of varying brand options.

Top quality brewer, Guinness Nigeria pulled off a huge rabbit with the launch of Orijin, a blend of fruits flavours and African herbs. Not only was this an African herb solution, which is essentially targeted at the male sphere of the consuming populace, it became an instant hit. The Orijin brand has clinched many awards as a clear demonstration of its brand success.

Within this period too, Nigerian Breweries unveiled a new-look Gulder bottle after 40 years. No doubt, it must have taken a bit of marketing research and consumer insight for the company to have made such a daring move. Some major innovations came to the fore in the carbonated soft drink market in 2014 as Coca-Cola came up with Fanta Apple while the La Casera Company added another product, Smoov Chapman – a ready-to-drink drink in an ‘on-the-go’ plastic bottle. Many brands like Budweiser, Bigi entered the Nigerian market in a highly disruptive manner.

Also, Nigerian reality T.V shows in the mould of Gulder Ultimate Search, MTN’s Project Fame, Maltina Dance All and others that elevated the dreams and professional aspirations of Nigerian youth fame lost their mojo within this period. Virtually all of them dissolved into oblivion within this period. The reason given by most brands was the economic recession that eroded their bottomline terribly. Hopefully those reality TV shows will return in future.

Another momentous and record-shattering feat which Star Lager had instituted was the world’s largest bottle “tree” in Lagos State, Nigeria. The record-breaking “tree” is made with a total of 8,000 star bottles as against 3,000 bottles announced during the commencement of the project. This development was as a result of the excitement the project elicited in the minds of consumers and Lagosians who trooped in to submit empty bottles as contribution towards the project. It is obvious that the last half decade has been a thoroughly engaging period for brands and consumers alike.