Outdoor advertising is the oldest medium of advertising in Nigeria. The potentials inherent in the medium and the future it portends as being very effective in fostering brand equity, recall and strength is unfathomable. In this interview with Yusuf Bello, Marketing Manager Global Outdoor Services, he reveals the challenges facing the sector, the growth of ambient advertising and the future of digital Out-Of-Home advertising in Nigeria.
Global Outdoor Services has done so well in the outdoor advertising industry in Nigeria with 70 sites in Muritala Mohammed Airport 2 alone. How have you been able to maintain such feat amidst competitors?
Global Outdoor Services already had a mission and a brand before hitting the Nigerian Outdoor Advertising industry. We were operating in other countries before coming to Nigeria. We started operations in Nigeria in 2001. Competition is normal in every business. We have a distinct identity which sets us apart from others. If you go out and see any board owned by Global Outdoor Services, you will know. We see ourselves as one of the biggest firms in the outdoor advertising industry and we came to Nigeria with that mindset poised to deliver excellent services.
How do you lease your inventory?
It’s simple. We pitch them. We propose them to prospective clients by sending proposals to companies. As is usual in business, a lot of people declined initially. Out of maybe 100 proposals sent, only 20 accepted, the rest declined. In some cases, we have clients come directly to us without having to pitch. Other times we get clients from media agencies. That is how we’ve been able to build our customer base over time.
What are the challenges facing Out-Of-Home advertising in Nigeria as it competes with other media for a larger share of media budgets?
Advertising budget is not skewed towards any media. It all depends on the client’s specification, target audience and marketing trends. Take for example, the banking industry; they were doing lots of billboard advertisements some years back. However, with the introduction of online advertising and having realized that much of their target audience spend a lot of time online, they started running online ads. Allocation of advertising budget is dependent on the objective of the advertiser. If you are running a beer ad for instance, you have to use outdoor advertising because your target market is outdoor. Outdoor is one of the oldest forms of advertising in the whole of West Africa. 80% of Africa is outdoor unlike in Europe, where they spend 6 months indoor. In Africa, the weather allows you spend most of the time outside and when you are outside you get to see an advert message. So outdoor advertising is never going to be extinct and will remain a vital medium of advertising for a long time especially in Africa.
Does digital marketing and online advertisement pose a threat to outdoor advertising?
There’s no threat to outdoor advertising. In the last 5 years, advertising budget never came down, but some sectors experienced a decline; Not because advertising spend has gone down but because more mediums are coming up and people are now embracing things such as experiential marketing, brand events and so on. Advertising spend for outdoor has not reduced rather, more and more avenues are coming up and the budget is being spread across them. It’s just a matter of innovation.
What are the challenges facing Digital Out-Of-Home and ambient advertising in Nigeria?
The major challenges are acceptability and measurability. It has not been accepted not that it hasn’t been proposed. Clients prefer to stick to what they know. In terms of creativity and ambient media, some of those billboards you see in other countries require certain infrastructure to operate them; in which case deployment of these infrastructure isn’t readily available in Nigeria, which poses a challenge. Also, industry trend is another thing. Most people do not run long-term campaigns. Most times advertisers run campaigns for 3months or 6 months. So do you want to spend that much money on just one board? It has to do with the advertisers willing to bring out that much money to spend. There’s a future for ambient media; it might just take a while before it is fully accepted. It took LED 10 years to get to where it is today.
In terms of LED billboards, how would you rate Nigeria in terms of innovation when compared with other African countries?
Nigeria is 10 years ahead of other African countries in terms of LED boards and even in revenue and innovation. What they are celebrating last year is what we have celebrated 5 years ago. Last year alone, two agencies cashed in N4billion naira in LED advertising in Nigeria. LED is their cash cow and it sells very well in Nigeria.
How does an advertiser measure ROI on an outdoor campaign?
There’s no way one can accurately measure advertising. How do you know the advertising worked or didn’t work? You may experience a sharp rise in your sales margin while you are running an ad campaign. The rise in sales cannot be solely attributed to advertising. Advertising doesn’t sell for you. If you tell me after your campaign more people know about the product – then fine. It is important to note that advertising is only one part of a marketing mix. Therefore sales cannot be a measuring tool for the success of a campaign. Advertising only creates awareness but if the product is not available then it is futile. The fact that there is awareness of a product doesn’t mean there’ll be sales. Some people know some products but they don’t buy the product. They know the product because they have been exposed to lots of advert messages but that doesn’t necessarily translate into them purchasing the product. The product needs to be wanted by the consumer before he purchases it. So other elements must work together to have a holistic success. The product must be marketable. It must be available for people to buy. The pricing must also be right for people to consider. So advertising alone cannot drive a brand. Once cannot accurately measure advertising.
What are the challenges facing Out-Of-Home advertising in Nigeria?
Applicable innovation is one of the challenges facing Out-Of-Home in Nigeria. People talk about interactive LED’s but how are we going to do it? Do we have the bandwidth for live feeds? The power to back it up is also lacking due to erratic power supply. Also, too many regulations within the industry pose a challenge. For example in Lagos, you cannot put a signage across the road.
Do you ensure all advert placed on your boards are vetted?
It is one of the requisites in the industry. Your copy has to be vetted by APCON before it can go public, so you will be required to show evidence of that before we allow you use our board.
What is your opinion about the operations of touts within the industry?
They are part of the industry. They are stakeholders in the business. In fact they are now called Outdoor Protective Services. You need to put them into consideration when preparing your budget else it won’t fly. You can come there tomorrow and your advert is down. You have to agree with them. It is more peaceful if you just pay them and go along with them.
What is your view on taxation and regulations within the industry?
The taxes are too much. Personally I feel it’s on the high side; that is why outdoor advertising is expensive. It is not only LASAA that we pay fees to, we also pay the landlords, the touts and all other people within the business. So, if I pay N5 million for a board I’ll want to recover it back and who bears the brunt? The advertisers. So it is on the high side making the business too expensive to run.