Wale Akintunde is the incumbent treasurer of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). He is also the Chief Operating Officer of Centrespread Advertising Limited, one of the nation’s top five integrated marketing communications agencies. Credited with masterminding the re-emergence of Centrespread as a strong industry player in 2012, on the heel of a three year period of turbulence that nearly crippled the giant advertising agency, Akintunde brings to the AAAN Treasurer’s office, a string of academic and professional qualifications that perhaps makes him the most qualified occupant of the treasurer’s post in the entire history of the association to date.
With a career spanning nearly three decades, Akintunde is a Fellow of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Institute of Data Processing and Management of Nigeria (IDPMN). He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, Cisco Systems Networking Academy and, of course, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria. Additionally, he holds a first degree in Accountancy, an MBA as well as a certificate in International Marketing and Law of International Trade.
He fielded questions from journalists after the swearing-in ceremonies for the new AAAN Exco in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State recently.
How is the current economic meltdown affecting advertising agencies in the country?
The country is grappling with a tough economic challenge currently. All key economic indices show that things are not okay at all. Like all service sectors, the advertising sector naturally feels the pinch more. This is because traditionally, in a situation like we are now, budgets are being reviewed by most organisations and institutions with the marketing budget getting axed and the marketing communications, specifically the advertising component, most often the worst off. This affects agencies in many ways, from planning, job retention to, even business survival. The first duty of all agencies now is business survival because the economic headwind is very strong and requires maximum planning and dexterous management for businesses to pull through.
How can agencies keep their heads above the water during this period of economic storm?
To survive, agencies have to put in place good strategies to regularly facilitate sincere, holistic audit of their brand health devoid of the flamboyance and razzmatazz the industry is often defined by. As operators in a service sub-sector, agencies need to study the strategies being implemented by the clients to achieve greater efficiency and replicate same. This means agencies must understand the marriage of economy, efficiency and effectiveness as a strong principle of business management. While it is true that advertising thrives on creativity, we need to accept that advertising agencies are businesses; and like any other business, they have to give central attention to regular business re-engineering which spans financial planning, staff right-sizing and value re-definition.
Agency heads and managers must acquire requisite knowledge and qualification in business management, especially financial management, to be able to steer the ship of the agencies well in this stormy period. It is no longer enough to have experience in advertising or communications alone, if you want your agency to grow and survive.
What do you think AAAN needs to do to assist agencies in their quest for business survival?
I know that our association has been doing a lot in the past to encourage inter-agency relations and knowledge sharing. Nevertheless, I am sure the new Exco, of which I am a member, will soon be coming up with a couple of fresh ideas in the areas of knowledge sharing, capacity building, business assistance and capitalisation to assist member agencies. There are opportunities in the economy, even as it is now. Once the new AAAN Exco settles down, a strategy roadmap will be developed to help the association harness these opportunities for the purpose of enhancing the business wellbeing of its members.
Specifically, as the new treasurer of AAAN, what are the major tasks you need to execute in order to keep the association strong?
There is no doubt that the first task before our Exco is the immediate task of house cleaning and mobilisation to get all members focused on the bigger picture of repositioning our association for greater efficiency in order to serve member agencies better than before. Luckily, the president is highly experienced and much loved in the industry. Same goes for the Vice-president. The Secretariat too has a dedicated corps of staff under the dynamic leadership of a very experienced chief executive officer. So, the human resources we need to move are very much available and this makes the task of moving forward less tedious. The next thing is for us all to sit together, share ideas, map out strategy and seek the buy-in of member agencies for the implementation of agreed deliverables. Our association has always been strong and vibrant; I am sure that it can only be made stronger and more vibrant in the years to come.
Are there specific ways in which the new Exco will try to get the attention and support of the Federal Government?
Well, I am sure the Nigerian government already knows and respects AAAN, thanks to the various nationalistic initiatives the association has championed from time immemorial. So, I do not think the new Exco will be preoccupied with getting government’s attention. The main task, as I see it, is getting the association to serve the members more in the areas of pressing immediate needs, which includes increasing the morale and efficiency levels among the secretariat staff; working to make the operating environment more conducive; deepening inter-sector alliances and cooperation as well as bridging the needs gaps between agencies and clients, among others. There are also ongoing projects which, when completed, would assist in creating more value for the industry in diverse ways. All these, I am sure, would be the focus of the new Exco. However, as I said earlier, a comprehensive strategic roadmap would soon be developed and unveiled by the president after the necessary rounds of consultation must have been concluded.