On March 1, 2015, the Oworonshoki area of Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos State was agog as both public and private sector players besieged the location of the first biggest LED billboard in Africa. The LED hoarding replaced a-48-sheet that had occupied the hilltop sea shore for a decade.
After six years and two months, Africa’s ‘biggest’ LED billboard is standing alone without light, without advertisements, unlike Optimum Exposure’s concave billboard at Ilubirin on Lagos Island.
The Media View’s billboard was financed by LASACO Assurance. As at the time the billboard was launched, the CEO of Media Views, Babatunde Idowu Adedoyin, was the president of Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, (OAAN).
Just like New York’s Time Square caught global attention with its biggest billboards in the world in 2014, Media View intended to take its outdoor advertising business to a higher level with this transcending innovation. The firm planned to run a high definition 24-hours advert service on the platform. However, the plan and the company’s aspiration seemed to have been aborted as the LED billboard remained without light and advertising for over 2 years.
The billboard, measuring 740 square meters long and 11 meters high, is strategically located for human and vehicular traffics inbound mainland. It was predicted that the LED will attract several brands and services due to its capacity catch high eyeballs and footfalls.
Prior to the hoarding of the ‘biggest’ LED billboard, the 48 sheet was never vacant. The telecommunication giant, Airtel Nigeria, ensured that no brand or product was exposed on the 48 sheet. From Econet to VMobile to Zain and now Airtel, the telco occupied the 48 sheet like a colossus until 2015 when the 48 sheet was replaced with LED billboard.
Citing the LED billboard along this location is strategic, said the investor, LASACO Assurance. The Third Mainland Bridge is believed to be one of the busiest bridges in the country. The longest bridge in Nigeria connects Lagos Island areas with the mainland areas. This advantageprompted LASACO to invest N400 million in the project.
Findings show that the multimillion naira light-emitting diode (LED) billboard located on the vantage hilltop at Iyana Oworo area, popularly called ‘Oko Cole’ of Lagos, overlooking Third Mainland Bridge, did not secure long term business since it was commissioned.
According to sources, the investment was driven by LASACO Properties Limited’s passion for outdoor advertising. LASACO believed that the out-of-home sub-sector is a cash-cow, hence, its decision to commit a whooping N400 million in installing the first 740 square meter advertising LED billboard in Nigeria.
This investment was hit by the massive downward review of marketing and advertising budgets by multinationals due to recession and the Coronavirus pandemic. It was when this board was commissioned that Glo announced a nationwide revocation of its outdoor advertising contract.
The pandemic also affected ad budget of Airtel, MTN, Guinness, Unilever Nigeria, Guinness Nigeria, big banks and others.
Another issue confronting the operators is the regulator’s insistence on payment on vacant board. This has put so much pressure on Media View and LASACO. Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency’s (LASAA), is bent on collecting levies on vacant hoardings across Lagos, but LASAA has denied shutting down the billboard.
It was gathered that Media View is indebted to the regulatory agency to the tune of N28million, a debt accumulated over the period when the board remained vacant.
LASAA has already taken steps to shut down outdoor advertising companies that have refused to clear their debts, and findings indicate that the Iyana Oworo billboard is one of them.
Commenting on the issue, Temitope Akande, the Public Relations Manager of LASAA, said “there are some hoardings the agency has taken some minimal enforcement on. But this is not one of them”.
LASAA is very strict with non-compliance in payment for vacant boards. This position has consistently kept both LASAA and Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria’s members at loggerhead.
Speaking at the inauguration of the board, the Group Managing Director, LASACO Assurance Plc., Mr. Olusola Ladipo-Ajayi, explained that LASACO Group is always ready to partner with any organization on viable projects and businesses that can add value to the nation’s economy, describing the project as a landmark in the outdoor industry.
He stated that LASACO Group through its property arm, LASACO Properties Ltd, invested in the project because of its viability and its uniqueness in redefining the concept of advertising in the country.
Explaining further on the motivation to invest in the project, Mr. Ladipo-Ajayi said that the unique and strategic location of the site as well as the track record of the site’s owner, particularly based on previous and similar dealing, which proved fruitful for both parties, boosted the confidence to be committed to the project.
Mr. Ladipo-Ajayi stated that “LASACO Group is proud to be part of this project, and we are sure that it will be well received by the advertising world including OAAN (Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria) because it is an achievement for them. This partnership will also give a boost to our line of business which is insurance”.
Adedoyin, who commended LASACO Properties for its boldness in identifying with the dream of delivering the largest outdoor advertising electronic billboard in West Africa, is said to be battling to secure business that would kick off the renaissance of the investment. He, however, affirms that the board was shut down because of unbearable operational cost without a client on it. But expressed confidence that it is likely to resume by September when a prospective client is willing to break a campaign.