What advertising experts are saying about APCON's move to vet online ads in Nigeria

September 13, 2019
5 min read

Last week, we reported that the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) was planning to start vetting all online-based advertisement by brands in Nigeria.

The news caused quite the uproar on social media, especially because of the additional vetting fee of ₦25,000 (~$69) to get a single ad concept approved.

When we tried to find out how APCON would implement this policy, Ijedi Iyoha, the Acting Registrar of the council simply said “that’s our own internal mechanism,” declining to provide any further details.

But in a surprisingly efficient fashion, which is not typical of most government agencies, APCON already appears to be putting action to its words.


On Thursday, a Twitter user shared photos of a letter APCON sent to Bryruby Fabrics, a Lagos-based clothing brand, over a recent Facebook advert they ran without first presenting for “vetting and approval.”

Attached to the letter was a screenshot of the Facebook advert, which Bryruby Fabrics told us they ran for 10 days from September 1 at $10 (~₦3,625).

The photos quickly circulated online, raising new concerns on what this means for the advertising industry in Nigeria and also how it would affect small businesses that depend on low-cost online advertising to make sales.

We spoke to experts from some of the top advertising agencies in Nigeria to see how they’re reacting to this policy:

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Deola Kayode, Advertising Strategy Consultant

Deola Kayode

“The first thing that comes to mind is whether this is from a compliance point of view or a financial point of view. Brands are running online because it is cost-efficient and scalable, however, what this brings is some sort of regulatory gate you’d have to climb over.”

“I think a lot needs to be explained because how do you now differentiate between normal brand communication and advertising. Are they technologically-advanced enough to be able to distinguish between the two? If you’re saying every communication on digital needs to be regulated, that means that you will stifle communication.”

“Another thing this does is that competing brands and businesses from outside the country now have an edge. All they need to do is open an office in Ghana or South Africa and run ads that target Nigeria. They can’t be regulated because they are outside the country.”

Odion Aleobua, CEO of Modion Communications

Odion Aleobua

“First, APCON is vested with the power to vet all the advert messages to ensure that the target is not misinformed or deliberately sold a lie. The process readily exists for print ads and radio as well as outdoor, but the digital and social media are also media platforms. So they are simply extending their vetting power to the new platforms.”

“But I think that this will impact SMEs who use social media a lot to push their business. When you look at the cost per exposure for other platforms versus social media, the cost will become prohibitive

“A full-page in a newspaper, for example, costs over ₦300,000, only a fraction of the ₦25,000 fee. For Radio, which runs multiple times, it could cost about ₦500,000 to push a mini-campaign; still just a fraction of the price.

“But on social media, I can promote a post with just $10, which is way less than ₦10,000. If that is all my business can afford, having to pay a ₦25,000 vetting fee pushes my cost over three times that.

“For me, I think that consideration and fluidity in understanding how and who is using social media has to come in. But do we need to vet what is coming out? Perhaps so.

“Brands should rather be constrained to censorship because again, with the level of media posting, APCON cannot handle that transaction. Right now, it takes two weeks to do an unaccelerated vetting process. That kills the creativity, the currency, and the fluidity that exists in the social media space.”

“APCON shouldn’t do this because it is an opportunity to generate revenue, rather I think they should set up a clear online-monitoring system and then gain revenue by fining defaulters.”

Oti Ukubeyinje, President of Association of digital marketing professional (ADMARP)

Oti Ukubeyinje

“Very few digital agencies and advertisers are APCON members. If you advertise for companies online, I'd suggest you become at least an ARPA to start with. In fact, I think this should have been APCON’s first step -- sensitise online advertising professionals to become registered APCON members before jumping into threats and fines.”

“The speed of things with the internet doesn't align with APCON’s and the Advertising Standards Panel’s two times monthly vetting regime. It simply won't work, and an accelerated fee of ₦280k (8 hours) and ₦150k (15 hours) is unrealistic by all means for SMEs with tiny ad budgets. An updated guideline and fee structure is required for internet advertising if at all this vetting will be acceptable”

“APCON works with partner agencies and stakeholders who have their own regulations which allow for what's considered pre-clearance or pre-vetting. Key ad platforms already have a pre-vetting process and ad policies that are designed with local regulations in mind. Our position should be that this be adopted. APCON should do the vetting fee collections directly from the platforms since media practitioners have been disintermediated from the process when it comes to online advertising; you realistically cannot reach all online advertisers in Nigeria.”

“It's simply impossible to employ the same traditional (offline) advertising vetting procedures to thousands of online advertisers. APCON needs to think smarter and get more creative with the process before jumping into serving letters to $5 a day Instagram advertisers. Online advertising is beyond what's on the newsfeed. There's search, email marketing etc. I'd love to see the approach for finding defaulters within these environments.”

I write about media, technology and internet culture.
I write about media, technology and internet culture.
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