All over the world, the media plays a strategic role in facilitating and developing new techniques in political communication, such, as in political advertising. This is because advertising is the most effective way of building and creating images. The contribution of the media to politics and political communication, in particular, is immense because politics, especially, democracy thrives on discussion and communication between the politicians and the electorate.

Furthermore, the media play significant roles in a democratic society in providing information, educating the citizens, acting as a platform for public/political discourse, and publishing government programs. The media also serves as the watchdog of the society, and channel for the advocacy of political viewpoints. In Nigeria, every election year is critical to practitioners in the integrated marketing communication industry because they are the professionals through which politicians engages their various audiences. The 2023 elections have come and gone but the impact the elections had on the industry is critical to its growth and development.

ARCON Intervention

In the buildup to the 2023 general elections, with the increased electioneering activities, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) urged advertising agencies to adhere to the advertising codes of practice, in order, to maintain peace and decorum in the polity. The Director General of ARCON, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, stated that, “Election is not a do-or-die affair. There are provisions of the law that need to be strictly adhered to. We have the limits of advertisement and marketing communications, which means that whether you are doing your campaign below the line, between the lines, or above the line, it must comply with the provisions of the advertising code.”

For the 2023 general elections, ARCON vetted 298 advertisements of 16 political parties. These adverts comprise five TVCs (Titled 3 Mandates by PDP), two radio adverts (Tonye Cole and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed) and two TVCs by APC. Two of the TVCs were revised. A breakdown of the adverts approved by ARCON were APC -120, PDP-94, LP-35, NNPP-8, APGA-4, Action Alliance-2, YPP-10, SDP-9, ADP-1, NRM-1, PRP-3, APP-2, ADC-5, Boot-1, APM-1, and Accord-2. According to the advertising regulatory agency, although there were a few that failed to comply with the advertising law, it recorded significant compliance with the advertising law and stipulated guidelines for political marketing and communication this year, 2023.

Conflict of Interest

In Lagos, it was reported that, the two leading political parties and their candidates fought over campaign billboards. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr Abdulaziz Olajide Adediran popularly known as Jandor, had raised an alarm. He alleged that the state government was blocking his campaign billboards. According to him, “The moment that that of Afromedia happened in Falomo, I placed a call through to the Lagos police commissioner to let him know what happened. We thought it was the hoodlums who removed it, but after investigation, we realized that it was the state government, through LASAA, that removed it”. And the advertisement company told us that it was instructed not to take anything from us, and that it will refund our money. Just like JC Decaux did refund our money.”

But the All Progressive Congress (APC) spokesman, Mr Seye Oladejo, described the PDP allegations as the “usual cheap propaganda from the staple of the opposition party.” He also said it was “very untrue” that the government stopped outdoor advertisements belonging to the opposition party candidate. Also, the Managing Director of LASAA, Prince Ademola Docemo, said the candidate’s allegation did not show an understanding of the rules guiding outdoor advertisement practice in Lagos, explaining that LASAA regulates billboard structures and not advertisement campaigns.

 Experts View

Speaking on this issue, a marketing communications expert, Gani Olowu said; “The fragmentation and de-segmentation of the industry really played out when one considers the impact of 2023 elections on the integrated marketing communication. You will discover that social media specifically WhatsApp and twitter played major roles in the orchestration of political messages by various political parties. Those two media were well stretched in selling their candidates and their manifestos.”

According to him, “The whole idea of political communication being single-minded and integrated has being eroded. So many campaign themes and varied messages were developed by candidates and political parties to sell themselves. The only missing word in all these campaign themes was ‘integrated'”. He also noted that, “Fewer and fewer agencies got political communication briefs, as politicians are now engaging Hot Shops and one-man ‘Brief Case’ advertising firms, thereby eroding creativity, real and effective synergy of thoughts in campaign planning.”

To him, “This is a dangerous trend and need to be discouraged. We didn’t witness the robust and creative depths in campaign deployment by political parties in this year’s elections. I recall with nostalgia the advertising appeal and messaging of SDP versus NRC in the MKO Abiola Hope 93 campaign. Call to action, melodious line, single-minded messaging were conspicuously absent in this year’s elections.” “Although APC tried to create some level of impact with its “Renewed Hope” campaign, still, there was more cacophony during the electioneering period than clear messages. A simple test will suffice: what can you remember about any of the candidates or political parties and their campaigns? None, I guess.”  Also speaking, a public relations expert, Akonte Ekine, said: the first thing to note is that the IMC is not in isolation. Therefore, the industry was also challenged in a mixed manner. One is that there were many marketing communications activities from the political class that did not go through as expected, while, on the other hand, the activities of the political class completely dominated the space such that very few brands were able to play. The fight for share of voice was predominantly between the political parties.

He further said that, “While the gains in the industry could be seen from the media billing, there is also some measure of growth for the production companies in the industry. On the side of creativity, when compared with the quality of creativity we had in the past, it was low in the last election. So, the mixed bag is good for the industry and we should look at the good side.”

 On his part, a brand and marketing analyst, Dan Obi stressed that, “The impact of the 2023 elections on integrated marketing communications is a mixed one in the sense that some aspect of the marketing communication industry benefited from the process, while others did not, as much as expected. Before now, there was this expectation that campaigns of political parties will be lifting levers for the marketing communication industry, but the result, this time, was not so.”

For instance, he continued, “PR, creative, media independence, radio and the press did not benefit much; the benefit for television was less than 40%; social media benefited much and outdoor was selective. The reason for the mixed was that political party handlers handled the campaigns by themselves. They did it through rookies, who are none registered practitioners. Also, they relied more on below the line; and believed that they could do it by themselves.

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