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ARCON Advertising Standard Panel Reawaken Stakeholders to Regulation

BrandiQ and ARCON

By Martin Ogumah & Opeyemi Adebiyi

In line with the Federal Government policy of economic recovery, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), formerly called Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) in her ongoing advertising industry reform held an Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) Stakeholders’ Forum Thursday, April 25, 2024 at Sheba Event Centre in Ikeja, Lagos. Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) is a distinguished arm of the Council.

According to Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, Director General, ARCON, the event was about conversation of stakeholders in the advertising industry in Nigeria on ethical standard practice within the ambit of the law. The essence is to create enabling environment for the Nigerian advertising industry in order to encourage growth and development of more local contents. The event was attended by former Registrar of APCON, Alhaji Bello Kankarofi, different sectoral groups – AAAN, EXMAN, MIPAN, OAAN, Media, Advertising Agencies and of course Advertisers – brands and business owners. It was a convergence of creative eggheads in the industry.

The Director General of ARCON in his welcome address pointed out that ARCON’s intention is not to strangulate the creative sector but to regulate through ASP’s process of applying the code of advertising during vetting to ensure ethical creativity for the benefit of the Nigerian economy. The Council cannot afford to fold her arms and watch the country plunge into crisis through unethical advertising practice.

ARCON will continue to insist on responsible advertising in Nigeria. We also need to stop the capital flight and development of other economies by some Nigerian organizations’ attitude of going out of the country to produce advertisements meant for our market. All commercials to be exposed to Nigerians should be produced in Nigeria. We need to create jobs for the Nigerian youths, help grow and develop the support service sector of the industry and circulate funds within the Nigerian advertising ecosystem.

Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, Director General, ARCON

Mrs. Omowunmi Owodunni, Chairman, Advertising Standard Panel (ASP), in her keynote lecture advised stakeholders to move away from the space of, ‘I don’t care,” and move to the space of “it’s the law.” By doing that we can easily improve our behavior into ethical lifestyle that will help the advertising industry.

She said it’s only lack of ethics that make stakeholders not to comply with the law. She lamented the lack of empirical truth that abound in the industry and advised that for the advertising industry in Nigeria to meet global objectives like FTC in United States of America, ASA in United Kingdom, and ARB in South Africa, we must be decent and legal in our approach.

Though the code of advertising in Nigeria is reviewed periodically but creativity must be sensitive to our cultures and laws. It must be legal and substantiated. She also reiterated that we must patronize local talents to grow Nigeria.

She admonished those in the habit of exposing digital adverts without approval to desist from the act as the Council will not spare any organization found wanting in that regard. In her closing remark she explained and emphasized the need for stakeholders to always ensure that approval by other regulatory authorities like NAFDAC are attached to advertising materials that require such. Third party and independent assessment with verifiable information are also required to back up advertising claims during the vetting process.

ARCON’s Director of Regulations, Martha Ugbomma Onyebuchi in her address on vetting processes and procedures pointed out that with the New ARCON Act of 2022, a lot of grey areas in the definition of what constitutes an advertisement has been expanded. She made a poser by asking, “How many practitioners have the Nigerian Code of Advertising document?”

She lamented that a lot of Nigerian Ad materials are full of misinformation and can’t be substantiated. She’s of the opinion that practitioners should be fined for such unethical behavior. She did inform that seven sectoral groups through their representatives are usually involved in the vetting process. She advised stakeholders from breaching the laws like exposing materials not meant for a particular time belt in the media.

She gave an example that alcoholic related materials are not meant to be exposed in the morning so as to guard against corrupting the minds of children because of its dare consequences for the society. She said the reasons why some stakeholders are at loggerheads with ARCON are because they don’t like to follow deep advertising laws as it relates to culture and human rights. She concluded by re-emphasizing that the Council is not regulating to strangulate the industry but to promote creativity. It’s not to say that the Council is 100 percent perfect but has open arms to accommodate dialogue, suggestions and recommendations. It’s an ever evolving discussion but must be done under the law.

Opportunities were given to some stakeholders at the event to make contributions. Such contributions came from Barr. Charles Odenigbo, Advertising Law Practitioner, who said the tripod on which the industry is standing are the advertisers,  and the mediaz, and advised that stakeholders should always seek advice from their lawyers in their practice.

He re-emphasized that the 2022 ARCON Law has now redefined so many things in the industry. He also informed that provision has been made for arbitration. He concluded by advising advertisers and the media to be more proactive as they tend to be the biggest violators. Yinka Adebayo and Dr. Emmanuel Agu responded to some few issues raised by participants during the panel discussion while Femi Adelusi concluded by admonishing everyone to follow the law for the overall good of the industry and the Nation.

The event wasn’t just about discussions; it was also about enlightenment – from decoding the Nigerian code of advertising to navigating examination protocols and understanding the repercussions of non-compliance. Participants gleaned wisdom from industry professionals, legal minds, and the regulator. It was no doubt a transformative experience that empowered attendees to benefit from the ever-evolving advertising industry with a promise from ARCON Director General, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo that industry stakeholders’ engagement would be continuous. 

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