Mr Omo Kingsley Abunene is the managing director of Beam Media, a sought after out-of-home advertising agency in Nigeria. Through dint of hard work and tireless dedication, he has guided Beam Media to carry out unbeatable innovative ideas within the out-of-home advertising business in the country. In this interview with Amechi Obiakpu, Godwin Anyebe and Adetunji Faleye, he talks about out-of-home advertising business, merger and acquisition in the industry, Beam Media as a go-to out-of-home agency and other sundry issues: Excerpt…
Overview of out-of-home industry
Like any other media platform, out-of-home advertising plays its role, has its own fair share of challenges and the practitioners are all working hard to sort them out. Basically, what we ensure doing in the industry at all times is to deliver value to our clients.
Readiness for political advertising
It will surprise you to understand that some of us don’t really look forward to political campaigns because we are not enthusiastic about it. I can assure you of that. If anything, it brings problems and you have to think twice before going into it. Contrary to the general belief that this period of political activities is going to be a season of bonanza, it’s not for us. I actually have colleagues that run away from political campaigns because of the troubles that come with it.
However, to answer your question directly, our gate keeping function will be number one. By that, I mean, all materials must have ARCON approval. Outdoor hoardings carrying political campaigns are sometimes attacked and vandalized. This is simply because, political opponents don’t see their opponents, it’s your boards that they see, and sometimes they destroy boards and nobody pays for all of that. Though, some of our boards are insured, not all practitioners insure their boards.
Apart from all of that, though I’m not speaking for OAAN, we might be donating some of our platforms to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to help push their messages out to the electorate. That’s more like our corporate social responsibility in this electioneering period. Though we may not be enthusiastic about political advertising, we take all necessary precautions, including receiving our payments upfront, so that we don’t get our fingers burnt.
For us at Beam Media timely delivery is key. This is because we understand the bureaucracy that comes with job execution with most of our clients. So, when you engage us, as you are planning, we are also planning as well to ensure that your timelines are not stretched. For instance, if we have a business with a particular client, our physical materials don’t come to the office as a rule. So, if we are deploying in Kafanchan, Kano or wherever, the materials are transported there directly just to cut out that time wastage. Any other delay you get will be in terms of logistics which is not from us. Sometimes, we take clients by surprise when we send them deployment pictures from the sites.
There’s a whole lot of work to do with regards to this market. We occupy inside of the box and for us, the whole concept about thinking outside the box does not bother us much. It is only when we exhaust what is inside the box that, we will begin to look at other things. Over the years, our works had shown that when you have a campaign, Beam Media is the agency that can guarantee you quality delivery.
Again, most of our outstanding projects may likely be in the minds of the media planning and buying agencies that we work with. Ours is not like other fields. Whether you like it or not, our work is 70-80% with media buyers. For you to have a repeat business with them shows your competence, integrity and value delivery. Because it’s only about 50% of this business we can say is within our control, and another 50% is out of our control. In fact, brand marketing direction is out of our control. What they decide to push out there is out of our control, ours is mainly to display. In some cases, we give feedback to let them know how their campaigns fared on our platforms and we offer advice going forward.
So, to that extent, the brands and their creative agencies handle their concept generation and other things that they do up to the point of display that we don’t get involved in. Ours is mainly to display and continue with stakeholder engagements. From managing the regulators to the local government, to the area boys and all of this dynamics that we need to balance. So, in all of this, we are not expected to come back with complain but with results. Most media buyers are always happy to work with Beam media. This is because if you were a media buyer, and you are working with ten out of home agencies and three are not giving you the desired result, you would want to blacklist them. Even not overtly but covertly. To that extent, Beam Media is top of the mind when it comes to media buyers and they call us when necessary, with the assurance that we deliver at short notice.
In terms of regulation, the number one regulator in this business is ARCON. Yes, the states have their signage authorities especially when it comes to out of home. Concerning the various issues with them, we should not forget that the states’ signage agencies also have work to do. Of course, we may not like some of their policies, but we need to collaborate mainly with continuous engagement. The signage agencies are often times under pressure from their governors who they want to impress, and some of the direction they want to take may not be what we want.
Interestingly, most of the managing directors of state signage agencies always have unpleasant relationship with practitioners when they are in government, but when they leave, we become best of friends. What that tells you is, before they get in there, they are themselves, but while they are there, there’s this conflict because of what they want to deliver to their superiors. In most cases, it’s out of their hands, and this is what we need to understand. Like I said, it’s all about continuous engagement, because we as practitioners want the best for the business, and I am very sure that the practitioners will always prevail.
New ARCON law and quackery
Unfortunately, I have not read the law in details. We will try and digest it as soon as possible. But out-of-home practitioners on their part will do everything within the purview of the law to support the part that enhance the business and the effort of ARCON DG with regards to the new advertising law though, I am not speaking for OAAN, however, let me say emphatically that the new law will help in tackling the menace of quackery in our industry. This is because, the little I know about it is a pointer to that fact. There is no perfect document as it is anywhere in the world, we will look at it and recommend amendments where necessary.
State of out-of-home advertising business
I am very comfortable with out-of-home advertising business today and I will give you my reasons; the work that has been done in the out-of-home space in the past 3-4 years, especially by the OAAN Exco, is a whole lot. Maybe in one of our forum we will show you what we are talking about. Because, what we are looking at now is basically implementation of most of the things that have been done.
Take the AISOP policy for instance, before the AISOP, you could go in for a certain job, and you are not even sure when you will get your contract.
Sometimes, you must have executed the job, and you don’t know when you will be paid; you don’t know when to invoice a client and so on. At a time, you get paid 120 days from there, it moved to 180 days, from there to 360 days and all of that. In between that, the job leaves from one agency to another agency.
Ideally, there should not be a situation where the cat will be put before the horse. You are supposed to get a contract, agree or disagree with the terms of engagement. What AISOP seeks to bring is order. If nothing else, let me even know the terms of this business that I want to do, and let me decide whether I want to do it or not.
When you execute, you invoice the client, when you invoice the client, your payment should be ready in 30 days with the new AISOP law. But if you have more paper work to do, your payment will take maximum of 45 days. Apart from that, you can even be paid upfront. That will give you confidence as a business owner, and you will give value and come back to face other things knowing fully well that in no time this one will be sorted out. That certainty is there. All those things about engagement terms are in order.
Again, I am not speaking for Out-of-Home advertising industry, however, Out-of-Home has done a lot in this regard. I am part of it, so, I know what I’m talking about. Truth is, what you cannot measure, you cannot quantify. It is important that, when clients commit their funds into advertising campaign, they should be able to measure. Before the campaign, every client would have known their campaign objectives before deployment. It will only be an assumption, and after deployment, they would also want to know whether they connected to the right audience through their campaign. This is important because, like they say, you don’t talk to anybody when you talk to everybody.
First and foremost, audience measurement will help you to define your target audience properly- who they are? Where they are? How they are? And how they will respond to your product or service. Audience measurement is much more important to the client, because the client knows where money is going to. The client would also know whether the money is going into the desired place.
Where it is important for us is to be able to know how best to position our platforms to deliver those anticipated values by our clients. We have businesses that have different parameters for audience measurement. Before now, your ability to convince a client is what matters, but what we are now pushing for is to have a common currency. For instance, if four of us in this room are from different countries and we trade in different currencies, for ease of commerce, we can agree to come up with a common currency.
Some of the companies come from different countries across the globe. In South Africa, what they use is different, so is in America and Canada, so, you don’t blame them when they come with different parameters. But, what we are trying to do now is to unify that, to ensure that we have uniform parameters for measurement in this market.
Merger and affiliation
When you look at AAAN agencies and do a study on their affiliations, it will shock you how most of them turned out. Merger is not a bad thing but, it depends on how you work it out. For instance, if we have a merger of about four companies with different core competencies, there are bound to be lapses. However, if we allow ourselves to deliver on those core areas without merger what do you think would happen? It will bring result.
If overnight four of them merge and choose one as the biggest agency in the merger and adopt the operation of the agency, that agency may not be able to deliver in the area of other agencies’ competence. So, before going into any merger, these are some of the things we need to consider. Merger is not a bad idea when it is done diligently.
Projection for next five to ten years
In the next five to ten years, we want to see Beam Media as one of the first three outdoor agencies in Nigeria. By then, we must have finished working ourselves inside the box and look outside the box.