Guinness, APCON on war path over unapproved advertisement

Semiu Salami
Semiu Salami

The face-off between Guinness Nigeria Plc and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), an agency of the Federal Government charged with the regulation and control of the practice of advertising in Nigeria, may not abate any time soon.

Our correspondent gathered at the weekend that fresh trouble is knocking on the doors of Guinness Nigeria Plc over the recent front page advert placed in some newspapers.

The advert, Guinness Colourful World of More, our correspondent learnt did not pass through the Advertising Standards Panel, ASP, the vetting arm of APCON.

Tunde Thani, ASP Advertising Best Practice Committee Chairman, who stated this while responding to questions from journalists at a press briefing to herald the forthcoming ASP Advertising Best Practice Awards /Advertising Day celebration, said “There is no way ASP could seat and allow any advertiser to plan such campaign that runs contrary to the advertising code.

He also wondered why any newspaper should expose such an advert to the public no matter the amount, without minding what it connotes to the public, particularly the under aged.”

He noted that APCON has a body, Advert Managers Forum, of which all advert managers belong, saying, “They are part of the vetting process for adverts. There is no information you cannot get from them. We are not hiding anything from public consumption. I can assure you that there is nothing like that (vetting).”

While blaming some advert managers and journalists, he said: “From your end as well, you take finance above ethics. We have the rules, but, unfortunately, some companies are not playing by the rule. From next year, you will begin to see the trail of stamping out of such practices.

“Presently, we are beginning to get calls from the public on why Guinness should expose such an advert in front pages of newspapers to the detriment of children, who are privy to newspaper copies”, he said.

It will be recalled that to check these flagrant violations, APCON had in February this year banned all alcohol advertising from the stable of Guinness Nigeria Plc over what it termed deliberate breach of the code’s Article 39.

The code states that “advertisements for alcohol beverages shall not be aired between 6.00am and 8.00pm on radio and between 6.00am and 10.00pm on television.”

The Article 34 for outdoor advertising also says that advertisements for alcohol beverages shall not be sited within a radius of 200 meters from nearest perimeter fence of any place of worship, hospital, school, or motor parks.

Over the years, players in the segment of this market category have continually breached this provision as a result of what some termed APCON’s ineptitude and/or lack of effective monitoring.

The effect of this flagrant disregard to ethical practice, expectedly, has been impacting negatively on the nation’s youthful section of the consumer market.

In February this year also, precisely during the African Nation’s Cup in South Africa, APCON decided to wield the big stick for the first time by banning all alcohol advertisements of Guinness Nigeria from television (both terrestrial and satellite).

Although the suspension was not announced, Nkechi May-Nzeribe, APCON’s Corporate Affair officer, had in a statement announced the regulator’s decision to pardon the offender, when he simply said, “The APCON through its Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) committee lifted the ban placed on advertising of alcohol beverage placed on Guinness Nigeria Plc.”

The ban, she explained, was lifted because Guinness complied by withdrawing all the offending advertisements that had been scheduled to run, and apologised over its broadcast of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout adverts on Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) outside the prescribed periods allowed by the APCON Code and promotion guidelines.

Specifically, May-Nzeribe said Guinness ‘Made of More’ was aired on DSTV platform on February 2, 2013 at 16.40 hour West African time (4.40pm) during the CAF Nations Cup match between Ghana and Cape Verde, and during English Premier League live matches even after warnings and notifications from the regulatory body.

According to APCON, the ASP’s decision to lift the ban on Guinness’ alcohol advertisement followed a letter written by the Marketing & Innovation Director of Guinness Nigeria, Austin Ufomba. Ufomba, which assured that in future, the brand would not be involved in any breach of the APCON code of advertising practice, and announced a withdrawal of all its advertisement expected to run at that time.

In deciding to lift the ban on Guinness advertising of alcohol beverages, May-Nzeribe said, “APCON has reiterated its position that nobody or company is above the law and would mete out sanctions to any erring organisation no matter how big or influential.”

From all indications, Guinness may be violating Article 39 and 34 of the Code of Advertising Practice again.

Industry sources say top alcohol brands have formed the habit of abusing this advertising provision, which seeks to protect children, women and underage segments of the the audience.

Besides frequent abuse of advertisement on radio and television, outdoor advertisement for alcoholic beverages is one of the most unchecked. In certain areas of Lagos metropolis, such as Pen Cinema, in the Agege area, a billboard bearing Guinness “Made for More” overlooks a motor park.

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