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In Nigeria, the ban on foreign models in advertisements worries


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An advertisement for the South African telecom operator MTN in Lagos.


The brand new Advertising Regulatory Council in Nigeria (Arcon) probably did not expect to cause such a “buzz” when it published its statutes on August 23rd. Just refounded, given a new acronym and an expanded mandate by President Muhammadu Buhari, this state agency made its first decision public.

From 1er october, “all advertisements, advertising content and marketing communication campaigns shall use only Nigerian models and voiceovers (…)in line with the federal government’s policy to develop local talent (…) and the advertising industry” in Nigeria. A grace period is however intended for current campaigns, which may be broadcast without modification until their broadcast authorization expires.

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This meager statement, relayed by the Nigerian Ministry of Information on Twitter, did raise some annoyed reactions and questions about the priorities of the government, whose economic protectionism regularly arouses controversy. The excitement came three days later, when several international publications echoed this measure, saying that “white models” were now “officially” banned from ads in Nigeria. A caricatural summary, since the ban concerns all foreign models – including African ones –, and which made players in the sector jump.

A measure considered too strict

“I really had the feeling that some media were trying to distort reality,” is sorry Osamede Uwubanmwen, the president of the Association of Advertisers of Nigeria (Avdan), who fears that “the wrong message is sent to the diaspora and other countries”. In any event, “the use of foreign models by Nigerian advertising agencies is quite marginal” according to him, while, until then, a penalty of 120,000 naira (some 280 euros) was already applied for brands using foreign models in their spots.

“We have our own film industry and our own musicians, of which we are extremely proud. We have no problem with our image or our culture,” exclaims Mr. Uwubanmwen, who nevertheless instructed Avdan’s lawyers to look into this new rule, in order to engage, if necessary, in a dialogue with the regulator on the conditions of its application.

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No foreign model is in any case in the catalog of the agency Led Model Management, founded by Godwin Okoruwa, who represents and accompanies twenty-two male models. They regularly take part in fashion weeks in Paris or Milan, and appear in campaigns or commercials in Nigeria and internationally.

In a country where the unemployment rate is around 33%, the prospect of seeing “more opportunities open up for local models” satisfies the head of the agency, even if he finds the measure promulgated by the Council for the regulation of advertising too strict. “We live in a globalized world and it is sometimes necessary to hire extras from different backgrounds to show diversity in certain advertisements”, emphasizes the 30-year-old, who says he is more in favor of a policy of quotas.

“Developing the advertising industry”

Godwin Okoruwa, on the other hand, is worried about the potential repercussions for his own models, some of whom are established abroad, in South Africa or Morocco. Almost all industry players interviewed by The world fear, like him, that other countries are tempted to apply similar restrictions in retaliation, with serious consequences for Nigerian models who are candidates for emigration.

“Many young Nigerians are trying to leave the country to escape dire economic conditions, and this measure may prevent them from pursuing their careers abroad,” abounds Mykel Ark, who represents more than a hundred models within the agency he founded in Lagos.

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“It happens that Nigerian brands shoot their advertisements in South Africa with South African actors or models,” admits however Michael Gbolade, the associate creative director of the West African agency of the juggernaut BBDO, in Lagos. A few years back, it also happened that large groups broadcast their international campaign shot abroad in Nigeria, only slightly adapting dialogues and voice-overs, “but it’s much rarer today”according to him.

Worried to see “the advertising industry serve as a scapegoat”, Michael Gbolade believes that ” for that matter, the authorities could push the logic to the limit, by applying the same rule at fashion shows or at the cinema! »

For “developing the advertising industry”, as the federal government wishes, Michael Gbolade recommends encouraging international collaborations, which will allow Nigerian talents – directors, creatives or actors – to gain visibility. “This is exactly what our singers have done, who have multiplied collaborations with artists from all over the world.he recalls. And that’s what allows them to be a hit on the international scene today! »

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