Akachi Ngwu, Founder/CEO, Consumer Scores International Limited

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Growth opportunities in out-of-home advertising in Nigeria 21 Dec 2016

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising or outdoor advertising is one of the oldest forms of advertising in Nigeria. Outdoor advertising drives brand awareness, enabling advertisers to market to consumers while they are on the go through contents on billboards, hoardings, buses and public locations. With advancements in technology, there is a need for practitioners to reposition outdoor advertising channels as strategic marketing communication tools.
    
Professional advertising in Nigeria dates back to 1928, with the establishment of West African Publicity Limited, a subsidiary of United African Company (UAC). The UAC subsidiary later forked into Afromedia, Nigeria's pioneer out-of-home media services provider. Static billboards were the mainstay in the OOH industry for a long time. But with the advent of technology came digital billboards. Other forms of outdoor advertising include street furniture advertising, on-vehicle or transit advertising, in-store advertising, among others. According to a report by mediaReach OMD, a Lagos-based media agency, there are over 140 organisations providing billboards and hoardings across the country.

Outlook

The Mediafacts report of MediaReach also shows that outdoor advertising revenue reached N23.8billion in 2013, but declined to N20.1 billion in 2015. The telecommunications and alcoholic beverage industries have continued to demonstrate their preference for out-of-home advertising, with huge chunks of their budgets committed to OOH advertising. Global OOH revenue reached $35 billion in 2015. PwC says the industry is set to continue to grow at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% to reach $42.74 billion in 2020.

PwC also says the main engine of the projected growth in the global outdoor industry will be internet-connected digital OOH. In Nigeria, developments in the industry have seen most practitioners migrating their portfolios from static displays to LED displays. Trends in the industry also indicate a growth in the adoption of on-vehicle digital signage, which has to do with eye-catching ways to advertise businesses on LED screens fitted on vehicles and trucks.

The advertising markets of Lagos and Abuja are leading as seen in the spread of large LED display billboards. The LED billboards have also helped in adorning the skylines at night, with some powered by both visual and audio capabilities drawing more eye contacts. Apart from being strategically located to optimize vehicular and human traffic, the more aesthetic the billboards and hoardings are, the more they beautify the environment both during the day and at night. However, the critical value of OOH is driving patronage and impacting the businesses of the advertisers. As such, as the OOH continues to evolve in Nigeria, it becomes imperative for practitioners to reposition by improving on their competences, capability and capacity to deliver value.  

Even if we discount unconfirmed reports suggesting that Nigeria is one of the fastest growing markets for LED billboards in sub-Saharan Africa, there are significant opportunities for growth across the value chain of OOH in the country. But the expected growth must be anchored on new portfolios of offerings, consolidation of existing corporate structures, technology, and a sharing economy.

Emerging opportunities

New portfolios: The industry has evolved beyond billboards as the major offering. In the current digital age, interactive visuals and audio help in driving call-to-action, of which LCD and LED screens provide. New offerings are needed to complement existing offerings to deepen the market. This will increase competition and enhance product delivery.

This means LCD and LED screens would make a huge impact in the OOH ecosystem now and in the future. Already, we are beginning to see LCD screens being installed inside Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) buses. More LCD screens are coming up inside supermarkets, bars, restaurants, hotels, petrol stations, and a number of retail places and parks.

As part of its 'Share a Coke' campaign, Coca-Cola collaborated with some out-of-home communications agencies, a social media management agency and Google on a project that went live at the Times Square in New York City last year. The soft drinks giant got people to tweet their first names to a dedicated campaign hashtag – #CokeMyName. A personalized story about each name appeared on a digital billboard above Times Square. An image of that story on the billboard was then tweeted back to the users after being captured by a camera.

Consolidation: Corporate ownerships in the out-of-home advertising industry is predominantly sole proprietorship or family-owned with its attendant limitations in both capital and human resource availability. Consolidation of existing corporate structures is proposed for the purpose of engendering best practice and more robust service delivery. Consolidation would also accelerate industry growth, deepen portfolio offerings, provide more value to clients, offer stable employment opportunities, improve remuneration structure for the industry, and enthrone sound corporate governance practices, while offering deeper financing pockets.

The need for consolidation is for the best interest of the industry, notwithstanding the concerns of business owners about losing control. Strategically, consolidations through mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, management buyout, and leverage buyout are designed to enhance proper corporate board structures and strengthen management and organisational direction. The top big players such as Optimum Exposures, Invent Media, Media Link, Promo Serve, New Crystal, Marketing and Media, Rocana, Afromedia, Luzo Media, E Motions, Nigeria Advertising Services and Global Outdoor are in the best positions to drive the needed consolidation through mergers, acquisitions or takeovers of the smaller players.

Technology: There is increasing integration between out-of-home advertising and the internet. Data is being integrated to target specific segments of people to enhance campaign messages. With technological advancements, ads can be automated and contents on a digital billboards can change depending on real-time information on traffic at particular routes or public places. The deployment of sensors and cameras on billboards will also facilitate the appropriate determination of advertising rates as data on vehicular and human traffic are readily available.

Technology has become very pervasive, significantly impacting on businesses and the economy. From automobile, aviation, financial services, industries, consumer goods and marketing, technology has continued to redefine how businesses are conducted. Big data, artificial intelligence, web applications, the internet, analytics, etc are some of the different means by which technology has become the driving force of businesses.

For the OOH industry to achieve an appreciable level of utilisation of technology, there needs to be cross-sectoral collaboration between the industry and the telecoms companies on the one hand, and state governments on the other hand. This will enable the advertising companies to leverage existing infrastructure as well as the services of local traffic management authorities.

Sharing economy: To enable media agencies in the OOH sector to reduce operational costs, co-ownership initiatives need to be promoted and encouraged. The sharing economy is a system for sharing of human, physical and intellectual assets. Uber, the global ride-hailing company, has said ride-sharing is part of its growth strategy.

Within the outdoor advertising industry in Nigeria, the adoption and application of sharing economy by practitioners will stimulate growth through co-ownership of sites.

This system can be deployed by two non-competing brands who could share an advertising space on the same billboard. Rather than alternate between one another as it is currently done in the industry – where the clients get to pay the same exorbitant rates – advertisers can reduce their costs by sharing the same platform with a non-competing brand.

Regulation

Tying all this together is regulation. Governments across the states of the federation are adopting the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) model to regulate OOH practices. LASAA is an agency of the Lagos Sate government that regulates signage and outdoor advertising in the state, while also providing the infrastructures for outdoor advertisements. Such infrastructures include street lights, bus shelters, among others. Advertisements on BRT buses are done in collaboration with LASAA.  

While the essence of regulating the sector is to protect the environment and also promote best practice and professionalism, excessive regulation can stifle growth. Industry practitioners are concerned about the plethora of regulatory bodies whose sole objective is often to charge high tariffs and taxes on billboards and other OHH channels.

For businesses to thrive, government has an obligation to provide an enabling environment. High tariffs and taxes can ultimately disincentivise businesses and stifle economic output.