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APCON and the advertising regulation in the digital space  

 

By Adetunji Faleye

It is a known fact that placement of advertisements in Nigeria has taken an amorphous form for years with many advertisers flouting the laid-down rules and regulations for advert placements and exposure in the public space, especially in the digital space. How will a mother feel seeing her ten-year-old boy or girl watching adverts on breast and penis enlargement on the social media through his or her phones? Or a traditional medicine advertiser claiming his drug is capable of curing 200 plus diseases.

These are the claims of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) through its registrar and chief executive, Dr Lekan Fadolapo when he addressed the media in Lagos yesterday about the APCON’s resolve to regulate advert placement in the digital space.

Interestingly, while product advert placements in the digital space may not be the only focus for APCON, political adverts in the forthcoming political campaign will also be monitored on the social media to eradicate placement of adverts of bitterness and foul languages that were the order of the day in 2015 and 2019 political dispensations in the country.

No doubt, the advent of the internet and new media, characterized with social networking sites such as Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp etc., has massively revolutionized communication globally. This has enabled the giant tech and primary digital media platforms owners including, Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube and others to explore Nigeria’s digital media space with all sorts of advertisements, some of which are in violation of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice, pre-exposure vetting and ethical requirements of an advertisement.

 

APCON’s Position

Dr Olalekan disclosed that the position of APCON regarding indiscriminate advert placements in the social media space is to sanitise the system and make advertisements conform to the laid-down rules and regulations. He said APCON has received many petitions about the types and nature of adverts being placed in the social media space. According to him, “many people are bloggers and influencers offering themselves, their services, blogs and media handles as platforms for products and services to be advertised on without recourse to accepted principles and ethics of the advertising practice.  The sharp increase in violations and infractions of the Nigerian Code of Advertising is not only worrisome but also portends danger.

“APCON has been inundated with petitions over unethical advertisements exposed on the online media platforms targeting Nigeria market by both the primary and secondary digital media platform owners.

“Sadly, we have had complaints and petitions from the general public to call online media platform owners to order because of some reprehensible advertisements such as those promoting rituals, patronage of private parts enlargement, breast enlargement, love portions, money charms, concoctions to provide political powers, and other many unimaginable things not worthy to be mentioned in the public media. Some others have claimed the ability to cure all manner of ailments with one particular product without scientific proof. A particular advertisement has offered ultimate solution with one product for getting rid of piles, HIV, diabetes, COVID, Stroke, Cancer etc. “

 

Readiness to regulate

While the task of regulating advertisements on the social media may be a different and a difficult one, APCON said its well-armed to effortlessly regulate the space with the help of The Federal House of Representatives in Abuja which has observed the pathetic trend of the exposure of advertisements on online media advertising platforms and consequently deliberated on the need to regulate online advertising.

To help APCON carry out this obligation successfully, therefore, the legislators have passed a resolution and have directed APCON to effectively monitor and regulate online media advertisements. The resolution passed by the House of Representatives unequivocally directs APCON to ensure that online advertisements conform with the prevailing laws of the Federation and as such must be made to comply with the provisions of the Nigeria Code of Advertising Practice, Sales Promotion and other Rights/Restrictions on Practice.

Dr Olalekan added that APCON’s regulations extend to all advertisements broadcast, published, or expose on any of the digital platforms directed or accessible within Nigeria. According to him, this can be found in section 23 of the Advertising Practitioners (Registration Etc) Act, CAP A7, L.F.N 2004 which established the Advertising Standards Panel and charged it with the responsibility of ensuring that advertisements conform with the prevailing laws in Nigeria as well as the code of ethics of advertising. He said that the Panel has the power to vet and approves all advertisements before exposure. He advised all advertisers, agencies and media platforms to seek the Panel’s approval of any advertisement prior to exposure.

“The Code has adequately provided a guide and basic standard which as a matter of necessity all advertisements should embrace as a minimum and acceptable level. The Code demands that advertisements must be legal, decent, honest, truthful, respectful and mindful of Nigeria’s culture, constitutional tenets and relevant lawful enactments.

“With the electioneering season at hand, elective political office aspirants are also implored to ensure that their political advertisements are vetted and approved by the ASP before exposure on any medium. This will diminish the repugnant influence of hate speech and unethical political communication in the country,” the registrar said.

 

How to regulate

In its readiness to carry out this mandate, the registrar said that APCON is working on its software which will allow it to work effectively in making sure that the digital space is sanitized. He added that APCON will also pursue all lawful means and build up the capacity within its system to carry out this function.

“APCON is committed to ensuring that the advertising ecosystem is sanitized and shall not shy away from pursuing all lawful means, including causing the prosecution of violators of the Act and the Code of Advertising Practice when a violation occurs,” he said..

 

Analysts’ Opinion

Analysts are of the opinion that while it is a welcome development to regulate advertisement in the digital space, caution must be taken in order not to block another source of revenue as occurred when government banned Twitter for a few months early the year.

They advised APCON to, first of all, engage with all stakeholders in the digital pace and jointly fashion out a workable mechanism that will bring about effective regulation.

 

 

 

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