Enterprising and very officious Folake Ani-Mumuney is the President, Advertisers Association of Nigeria, ADVAN, aside her tedious and very demanding job as a top notch of the numero uno commercial bank in Nigeria, First Bank Nigeria Plc.  In this interview, the marketing communications Amazon, speaks extensively on the challenges and new trends in marketing and brands generally. She also calls on government to take cognizance of the place of experience and industry knowledge when constituting the council for the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, just as she frowns at the idea of APCON being run without a complimentary Council. Excerpts...

ADVAN recently organized a conference tagged ‘Chief Marketing and Communications Officers’ Forum’, which was like a new approach to stakeholders’ engagement. What informed the forum?

We thought it was critical for us to take a step back, as it is in any association. So, we took a step back and measured our impact and looked at the gaps and areas where perhaps we needed to re-assess what our goals and priorities would be. Who is better to do that than robbing minds with the Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Corporate Communications Officers (CMOs) of the leading brands in Nigeria? That was what informed the conference. It is important that we sit down together whether you are a member of ADVAN or not, it is important that we all sit down to say, how do we drive our industry and our sector forward? Therefore, that day, we sat down and asked ourselves; what are the key issues that impact our sector? Of course, we can’t know it alone as ADVAN. If we sat in our ADVAN office, we wouldn’t know it, so it was important to have a session which is like a “no holds barred” type – an open session, where we can be honest with ourselves.

What were the take-aways from the forum?

Let me start by giving you this background. The forum was birthed out of the need to provide the nation’s marketing and communications leaders with a platform to better navigate the fast-changing marketing communications landscape, as well as provide insights on changes in local and multinational marketing and communications, which leaders need to make in order to effectively deliver profitable brand equity as they equally grow in their chosen career. Specifically, we concluded that the easiest place for us to start from was to start locally, and because it was a no holds-barred discussion, the take-aways from the event were unquantifiable. This year’s edition was themed, ‘CMOs as the CEOs’. Your question then, I believe, will be: why did we choose that theme? We wanted a discourse around the fact that CMOs and CMCOs need to have the mindset of a CEO. Why must they have the mindset of a CEO? It is because they must be aligned to the CEO’s vision, the CEO’s aims and objectives and of course the goals of the institution. The mindset of the CEO allows you to think about profitability and to put that at the fore front; to think about the returns to shareholders, to put the customers at the heart of your business. We are not advertising for the sake of advertising; we are not marketing for the sake of marketing, we are marketing to give consumers what they need, but we are also marketing to ensure that we return on investment and we turn in profit for our institutions and therefore return to shareholders. So, for that reason, we felt it was very important that we look at the topic that speaks to, for instance, the state of the economy, which we all know. How do we make sure that with the shrunk in budget, that we are all faced with, how do we do more in an ever-shrinking environment? We are lucky the economy is improving; there are things that we can look up to. Again, this is the time for us to say guys, let’s come together and really focuses on how to proffer a lasting marketing solution. Then we came together, got drilled to help each one of us to be more efficient.  At the forum, we talked about efficiency of our marketing budget and of course, we talked about efficiency of the sector. To strengthen professionalism, we spoke about fair play, we talked about ethics in the industry because ethics in the industry is a critical one and governance and self-governing are also very important. Like I said, in a no holds-barred environment, we thought we should be able to talk amongst ourselves and share industry practices that we thought we needed to shed light on. So, I assumed all of that is local.

And what is global?

There are a number of global issues that were also treated, which we believed would impact and affect us here in Nigeria. As a result of this, we also have among our resource persons, experts who are deep in global marketing trends. For some of those global issues, if you remember when I became president, one of the things that I spoke about during the AGM was that, come May 25th, 2018, the GDPR policy coming from Europe will be played. Are we ready for that? Everybody said yes, but then, that is a European law. It is a European law that will affect those brands that are truly global, and even if you don’t have a global brand, it will affect you, so far as you are in the data play. That was what we saw at the conference and those were some of the key issues. We took some of the global issues and addressed them. We looked at them and asked; how do we want to have a position and there was another paper on how we thought this would impact us. Two, another set of experts discussed how we could engage the regulators and the authorities to understand the policies we have in place. Do we have adequate laws that will protect us and guide us? We must have a response to it as an industry. We discussed how we thought it would affect us and even if it would not affect us much – at least it means that we are prepared. That was one of the global issues treated. Another global issue that we looked at was considering what happened recently with Facebook and the whole issue around data transparency. We looked at how people collect data and what they do with their data. In Nigeria, we need to realise that we must be questioning whether our data laws are strong enough and whether they protect us. Therefore, it is not just about us wanting to push the marketing out there, we want to ensure that we have a robust marketing ecosystem that protects the consumers and protects us as marketers as well.

For three years now, APCON is yet to function appropriately due to the absence of a council. What efforts has your association made in this regard in conjunction with others to advocate for the setting up of a council?

Let me start by stating categorically that ADVAN insists and reiterates that we will use every opportunity that we have to join this clamour for APCON to be properly instituted. It is embarrassing for us that three years down the line, we don’t have a functioning APCON council. We take every opportunity to engage directly, indirectly with the powers that be. Of recent, as a body we all came together, driven by Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Association Of Advertising Agencies Of Nigeria  (AAAN) and of course ADVAN. We jointly wrote a communiqué which was sent to the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and within there, we made our request quite clear. We demanded for a proper constitution and we demanded people with industry knowledge and experience. This became necessary because part of what we found out after the last council was constituted was that it was not in order. We thought we had made progress, but we also felt that people who were nominated were not industry practitioners and as we all know that will not happen in other professions. It will not happen in the legal profession and it will not happen in medical profession.  Why will it happen in advertising? So, we were quite clear, that we felt that we will be doing ourselves a disservice and we will be doing the nation a disservice, if we do not bring in experts to regulate us. It will be to our own disadvantage if we do not ensure that we call to question some of the nomination in that council. Every board needs diversity, we recognize that strong boards are boards that include diversity but, professionalism, expert knowledge, a knowledgeable board are also critical. So, we are insisting that we want to see practitioners and we have enough of them, fully qualified, we mentioned Mr. Udeme Ufot  and till date I see no reason why someone like that cannot be made the chairman. These are people who have spent years in the industry and therefore, have gathered knowledge. Why would we throw that knowledge away and only start again from the beginning? The learning curve will be a lot more difficult for the sorts of people who don’t have the industry experience if they are the ones nominated. So, that is a clear area that we are saying it is good. We are happy that progress is being made, but it has to be constituted by the right people. That for us is one of the things that we are doing. Like we said together, we are all clamouring for this together and we believe that it is only when we lend our voices together and everybody at every single opportunity continue to clamour for the same thing, that we would eventually achieve what we set out to achieve.

Looking at the just concluded World Cup, what do you think was the share of mind for the brands that advertised during the football competition in the long term?

I believe that brands that leveraged a property like the World Cup will always have mileage in the market place. We should not forget that football is a property that is truly special to Nigeria; I think all Nigerians are passionate about football. In fact, I know, like I always said that if you check the maternity wards, you will see that some children, even before they are born, they are already kicking and passionate about football. However, with our love for football in this country; something that is so dear to Nigerians as a whole, the brands that leveraged on it will always get the result. Though we didn’t go far in the tournament, it was still a good outing to few brands that associated with it. In fact, some of the campaigns still resonate in the market. The great thing about a sport like football is that it cuts across all ages. It is a family sport that people can enjoy. It is a sport of passion; you can be mild about football. It is a sport that allows you support a position and you choose the team that you choose to support. So, it lends itself very well to sponsorship and to promoting the messages that brands have to promote. It is just so diverse in the opportunity that it gives. What I believe also, is that Nigeria has done a fantastic job for the first time to my mind, in what we have just done with the football jersey and I look forward to a situation where we also lend our voice to say how can we tap into this fantastic opportunity we have opened with the way the football jersey has been received. The football jerseys created so much excitement; it has really put Nigeria on the world stage; imagine the opportunities from that alone. I know a lot of people have said why are they not producing the jerseys here in Nigeria? But, guess what, we will start slowly. At least, we have been able to show them that from a fashion prospective, Nigerians have it. I read that the minute it was out, within 15 minutes or 45 minutes, it was sold out, I saw a lot of brands advertising and creating their own jerseys. Trust us, we know how to swagger.

In the previous engagement with the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, NPAN, ADVAN clamoured for audit circulation. Has ADVAN abandoned that quest?

No. In fact, there is a major initiative and it is across the sectoral groups. We say let us come around the table to really look at how we can treat this issue of measurement and metrics, whether it be circulation numbers whether it be traffic. The recent move was a meeting of stakeholders, which was spearheaded by MIPAN.

What value has your position as the president of ADVAN added to your professional life?

I think there has been a lot.  It is very easy to do your job daily and you could be progressing in your career very easily and not really take an active role in the issues that concern the sector as a whole. But in taking an active role in issues that concern the sector, I think I have a better understanding of some of the dynamics and the conflicts at play, that I did not have before, when I was simply just Chief Marketing Communications Officer here or there or Head of Strategy. When you see the dynamic conflicts, you will then understand that we need to have creative solutions, because ultimately what we must create is a win-win environment for practitioners, partners and all stakeholders.

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