Agency Apologises to ARCON for Exposure of Unapproved Controversial Ad
In a new development on the controversial “All Eyes on The Judiciary” ad exposure, Intercontinental Marketing & Comm. Consortium Limited, the agency responsible for allegedly deploying the ad without an approval certificate from the industry regulator has tendered an official apology to the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON).
In a now widely circulated letter signed by its Managing Director, Stephen Ogboko, dated 17th August 2023 and addressed to the Chairman of the Advertising Standard Panel (ASP), the agency acknowledged its breach of Article 24(a) of the Nigeria Advertising practice code. This article stipulates that all advertising, marketing communications, and related materials must undergo ARCON’s vetting process and secure the approval certificate of the Standards Panel prior to public exposure.
“We sincerely apologize for this and state that our action was not intentional,” the agency wrote. Explaining its side of the story, the agency explained: “The truth is that immediately we received the brief for the said campaign, we sent the artwork to Mr. Markus Inji Lukman, an ARCON liaison officer who has helped us vet campaign materials in the past.”
According to the agency, Mr. Lukman allegedly provided reassurances that the material would be approved. Subsequently, the agency sought his advice on posting the billboard on Saturday, August 12. Following his recommendation, they facilitated an expedited an accelerated vetting process. Necessary documentation was submitted in accordance with Mr. Lukman’s guidance, along with a promise of receiving the certificate of approval by Friday, August 11.
“On Friday the 11th, we called Mr. Lukman to inquire about the approval certificate, he informed us that the campaign had been approved and the certificate was on the way. He told us to go ahead and post the campaign as the approval certificate will get to us on Monday morning. As a result of his assurances, we exposed the campaign on Saturday, August 12.
“We are deeply disappointed that this happened, and are awfully sorry for any inconvenience it has caused. We would never knowingly anything to violate the law or the regulations guiding advertising practice, jeopardize our practice license, or bring disaffection to our dear country’s judiciary. We have already taken steps to ensure that this does not repeat itself. We will be requiring all future advertisements to be vetted from ARCON Lagos office through our staff in Lagos. Once again, we apologize and hope that you will consider our explanation. We are committed to working with you to ensure that this does not happen again.”
While the industry responds to this development, some experts, such as Obiechefu Emmanuel, a marketing professional with expertise in media buying, have raised concerns about the agency’s actions. “I have been buying media in this market for over a decade and I can tell you authoritatively that you do not deploy ad materials without an approval certificate from the ASP. How do you go ahead to deploy because someone somewhere in ARCON office gave you verbal approval? Why the hurry in the first place? I don’t think even the Director-General can ask you to go ahead and deploy without an approval certificate.”
Olusegun Sasegbon who also plays in the space suspects there is something more: “As a professional and as an agency we all know that verbal approval by anybody in ARCON setting does not translate to an approval certificate. I think it is part of the law that approval certificate must be obtained before exposure of material. It is just like saying that you can go ahead and take a trip to the United States because someone in their embassy has given you assurances that your visa application has been granted and your passport will be sent to you after your trip. This could be a form of compromise between the agency and the ARCON staff. In this country, nothing is impossible.
Likewise, Ibezim Okpala presents an alternative perspective, suggesting that the agency’s swift action may have been driven by an understanding that the campaign might not receive ARCON’s approval. He highlights the extensive social media traction garnered by the campaign, emphasizing the apparent success of its intended impact. “I am sure the agency is aware its ad material will not scale through the vetting process, hence it quickly deployed, achieved what it intended and waited for the consequence of their action.
“You only need to go on social media to see the millions of impressions images of the messages on boards and the buzz it generated to understand that the intent by those behind the message has been achieved. I believe the apology shared by the agency is just a mere formality,” he said.