Chinecherem Ogodimma Ubaka
For those who grew up in slum areas in Lagos, “ologi de o!” is the morning alarm every Saturday. The loud exclamation from the hawker is a call to announce the presence of the pap seller and an obvious reminder to come and buy pap.The forgoing is the traditional way of informing people about a product and this method is still prevalent in our cities today especially with the proliferation of hawkers in Nigeria. Subsequently, we had porsche companies publicizing their products through newspaper adverts, television & radio jingles, direct marketing by way of agents and distribution of handbills/pamphlets. Currently, in Nigeria, brands have gone beyond the aforementioned methodologies in advertising to contemporary modes (specifically digital advertising) in influencing consumers choices. The question therefore is whether digital advertising can be regulated in Nigeria?
APCON and its Operations in Nigeria
The regulatory regime of advertising in Nigeria began with the establishment of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) in 1988 and the body is saddled with the responsibility of regulating and controlling the practice of advertising in all its ramifications in Nigeria. This short article seeks to examine the current advertising regulatory trends in Nigeria and whether the trends are effective.
Advertising is a profession in Nigeria and to be admitted as a member of APCON, you must enroll for the professional exams administered by the body and pass same in order to be awarded the APCON Diploma/Professional Certificate. Asides the screening, training and registration of advertising professionals, APCON monitors the exposure of advertisements, vetts new advertisements (see APCON Vetting Guidelines of 2017), carries out accreditation of departments offering advertising courses in universities and polytechnics. In addition, APCON ensures the development of advertising practice in Nigeria in tandem with international standards and ethics.
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Has APCON Achieved its Mandate by virtue of the APCON Law?
Prior to this era of digital advertising, there has been issues with regards to the loose entry of unregistered persons into the profession, deceptive advertisement and non-compliance with advertising ethics. As a result, most advertising practitioners and observers have given APCON a low credit. Currently, there are concerns with regards to the regulatory capacity of APCON in relation to digital and online advertising.
Digital advertising has practically opened the doors of participation to anyone who has access to the internet alongside registered advertising practitioners. Given that digital advertising is cross-border in nature, it will be an herculean task for APCON to extend its regulatory net to digital advertising.
The Emerging Regulatory Trend for Digital Advertising in Nigeria
Digital Advertising can be regulated in Nigeria if the APCON is set on doing so. The trend towards the regulation of digital advertising is self-regulation.
Most countries have adopted self-regulation in the digital advertising space backed by local laws and regulations. For instance, in the United States(US), the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the umbrella body for advertising and marketing within the US have launched the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioural Advertising, 2009. Likewise in Europe, the European Union Advertising Alliance (EASA) enacted the European Online Behavioural Advertising Industry Self-Regulatory Framework.
It is necessary to point out that transparency, consumer control, data security, proper use of sensitive data are the guiding principles of the the above Self-Regulatory frameworks. Thankfully, global technology companies like Google, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn who provide platforms for digital advertising and social-media marketing have in-built systems and softwares that vets advertisements in line with the Self-Regulatory frameworks of their respective home countries.
In Nigeria, what we have is a regulatory regime that refuses to connect with the reality. By virtue of the APCON Law and the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice & Sales Promotion, 2013; all advertising contents must be vetted the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) before it is publicly published. Furthermore, the forgoing only applies to registered advertising professionals. What happens to the numerous Nigerian online/digital advertisers?
The reality is that digital advertising has taken the Nigerian business environment to a higher scale than traditional advertising. Thus, to ensure a proper regulation of digital advertising, APCON must take practical, progressive and innovative steps.
Furthermore, there is need for APCON to liaise with sister agencies like the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Agency (FCCPA), Data Protection Commission(DPC) whenever it comes into existence as well as organized sectoral groupings like Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) & Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN) for an efficient regulatory regime in digital advertising and the Nigerian advertising industry as a whole.