‘Appointing non-advertising practitioners in regulatory agencies unhealthy’
“Most of the time, the people that oversee the affairs of these government agencies don’t know anything about the business,” she said. “That is why when they come on board they will just kill the business. We need people who have the knowledge of the business and the industry, people who know how payments are done, among other things.
“Another reason why I am saying we are not getting enough encouragement from government is that even after you have put up your structure, there should be some form of waivers. For instance, if I am paying you N4 million on a board and I have not had business on that board for some period and you are insisting I should come and the N4 million, you are not encouraging me to survive. And I believe we are having this issue because those at the helms of affairs in these government agencies do not really understand the industry and how it works.”
She maintained that the state regulatory agencies were not keen on creating an enabling environment to help practitioners grow their businesses. And if the present trend continues, she said it would portend doom for the industry. “But we are praying and craving that the time will come when government will appoint practitioners that will genuinely work for the growth of the industry.”
While assessing the outdoor advertising sector in the last twelve months, Umanah, however, said that the sector was growing at an astronomical rate, adding, “Interestingly, it is when you travel out that you will really notice that we are doing very well here. There is a significant improvement in the structures. Our streetscapes are a lot better now. Of course, five, six years ago, there was that cleansing carried out by some states’ signage agencies, and I can tell you that this has changed the entire industry. The truth is that everybody has come to see that we actually needed that type of environment to work in because it also enhances our structures. Besides, we have very high tech boards springing up here and there. The industry is really doing well.”
Umanah, nonetheless, said that in spite of the growth in the sector, it has not really been good of late in terms of revenue. “For instance, corporate organisations are cutting down on budgets every year, and in such case, there is definitely no way we can begin to talk of enhanced revenue for practitioners.
“It is so bad that sometimes they call us in the middle of the year for meetings and re-negotiations, where decisions to cut down an already agreed rate are taken. Sometimes, despite the fact that there is an existing contract, some clients still insist they want further discount, and you are left with no choice than to accede to some of these requests, not because they are good, but just because you want to survive. So that is what we have been experiencing; we have a lot of revenue cut in terms of overall budget and rates.”
Umanah is also the publisher of an outdoor advertising journal, Billboard World, and the brain behind the Brand As King Award. Speaking on what has kept the award going, she said it was just passion.
“It can be likened to a child that is trying to walk. The child will make attempts to walk and sometimes end up hurting himself, but that does not still stop him from attempting. In anything you do that is the kind of passion you need, nothing should stop you; there should be no obstacles.
“Luckily for me, I see challenges as what will rather promote me. So, if anyone is throwing challenges at me inwardly I feel very happy because I know I will need those challenges to get to where I’m going. Besides, I have a husband who has been very supportive; that is why you will always see him whenever we are holding the award, in spite of his very tight schedule.
For her, the award has come to stay, especially as stakeholders are gradually buying in. “The last one we had in Accra, Ghana, was even attended by the then Secretary and President of OAAN. It is highly acceptable to the industry now because it has come to be understood that we are not really fighting the OAAN awards, we are just trying to get the industry working and viable.
She said this year’s edition, with the theme, ‘Out of Home Media, aesthetics and environmental sustainability’ will focus on examining how the practice has helped to reform the environment.
“We want to appreciate the fact that if we need to keep doing outdoor we need the environment to be beautiful, outdoor is playing a very good role in that area and we need to commend practitioners for this, and all we are just asking the government is that they should give us that space that can allow us grow to our full potentials.”