Friday, May 17, 2013

APCON lied on lifting alcoholic beverages ban claims - Guinness

The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) lied to the public on the procedures leading to the lifting of its ban on Guinness alcoholic beverages certificates, according to the management of Guinness Nigeria Plc.

Reacting to the reports making rounds that  “Guinness complied by withdrawing all advertisements that had been scheduled to run and apologized over the broadcast of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout adverts on Digital Satelite Television (DSTV) outside the prescribed periods allowed by the APCON Code of Advertising and Promotion guidelines,” the management of Guinness said this was far from the truth. 

ITRealms gathered from Corporate Relations Director for Guinness Nigeria, Mr. Sesan Sobowale that contrary to APCON’s claims for unbanning its advertorials, that Guinness in its own wisdom had withdrawn the advertisement in question before the meeting of the APCON Council, which endorsed earlier recommendation of the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) Committee to impose sanction on the company.
APCON had in a press statement reportedly endorsed by the Nkechi May-Nzeribe on its behalf, claimed that “Guinness complied by withdrawing all advertisements that had been scheduled to run and apologized over the broadcast of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout adverts on Digital Satelite Television (DSTV) outside the prescribed periods allowed by the APCON Code of Advertising and Promotion guidelines.”

But setting the records straight, Mr. Sobowale explained that the purported unbanning was on the heels of a meeting attended by Guinness plc, its media and marketing agencies and APCON, which established that Guinness was free of any breach according to Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion.

“In fact, the decision by the ASP to recommend the withdrawal of the sanction imposed on Guinness Nigeria Plc followed a meeting between the management of the company, its marketing and media agencies and APCON in which the company established that it was not in breach of the relevant provision of the Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion as of the date the decision by APCON was taken,” Sobowale said.

He explained that at the said meeting, both parties agreed on the process of rescinding the withdrawal of certificates of approvals granted to Guinness Nigeria for the advertising of its alcoholic beverages including the submission of a letter by the company stating its side of the story.

“As a matter of fact, the draft of the letter was jointly agreed with Mr. Ade Akinde, who made input into it and explained that, in view of the fact that the Council of APCON had no scheduled meeting for another few weeks, the submission of the letter with part of the content provided by him was the fastest and easiest way of correcting the error which the ASP had misled the Council of APCON into by its decision to withdraw the certificates of approval earlier issued to the company,” he said, stressing that following approval of the draft letter by Mr. Akinde, it was printed on the company’s stationery, signed and submitted to APCON.

Guinness Nigeria plc, he said, also frowned at the breach of terms of settlement not to publicise the erroneous decision of ASP in the media after all evidences showed that Guinness did not err in this case, but the ASP promptly went to two media houses to publicise the erroneous decision!

He further stated that prior to the ASP recommendation to APCON to withdraw the certificates of approval issued to Guinness Nigeria Plc, the company and the ASP had been in discussions in the past few months on alcoholic beverage advertising during the English Premier League (EPL) football matches on DSTV.

Pointing out that there had been a difference of opinion between the parties on whether the watershed requirement for alcohol beverage advertising in the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotions affect terrestrial feeds from satellite television stations based outside Nigeria.

“Following the parties’ inability to reach a consensus position on this issue, Guinness Nigeria requested for a moratorium to run the advertisement till the end of the EPL having made substantial commercial commitments in relation to the broadcast sponsorship. The ASP refused to grant this request,” he said.

Sobowale said that based on APCON insistence, Guinness Nigeria duly complied with its directives without further prompting. Adding that the medium on which the advertising materials in question were aired is one of the most popular in this country.

He emphasized that the change in the materials placed by Guinness Nigeria during EPL matches from the end of March 2013 was quite obvious and noticed by millions of Nigerian viewers of the EPL across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

“We were therefore quite astounded that the ASP, which is tasked with regulating advertising on all media in Nigeria and had been in discussions with Guinness Nigeria on the issue for some time prior to that decision, and failed to observe or notice the change of materials at the time it made its recommendations to the Council of APCON to sanction the company,” he explained.

He accused ASP of turning blind eye to similar advertising during the EUFA Champions’ League which was placed by another player in the alcohol beverage industry before the watershed period for alcoholic products advertising on television.

“As of one week ago, this advertising still featured prominently during the airing of the European Champions’ League matches. Under the circumstances, can we genuinely trust the ASP and/or its Chairman, Mr. Ade Akinde to deliver unbiased decisions on matters within its remit?” he wondered.

Guinness, Sobowale said, recognizes that ASP and Council of APCON have statutory obligations to enforce the rules relating to advertising in Nigeria, advising that the obligation must be exercised fairly having due regards to the facts, must not be applied in a clearly discriminatory and vindictive manner and must be implemented with equal force to all players irrespective of relationship with chieftains of the ASP.

“We find the content of the press release issued today (May 16) by APCON as a face-saving attempt to turn the facts on their head and designed to further deceive key stakeholders and members of the public about the real motive of Mr. Ade Akinde, and his sponsors in this untoward aggression towards Guinness Nigeria Plc,” he said.

Arguing that rather conveniently, the press release ignored portions of the letter where the company’s position that it was not in breach of any APCON regulation as of the date of the sanction was clearly set out and quoted other parts of the letter where the company purportedly apologized for its infraction out of context.

“Of course, the small matter of the fact that the letter was drafted in concert with and with input from Mr. Akinde was lost in the hurry to rush to the public with a fabricated version of the facts,” he said.

Further, ITRealms was told by the director, that the management of Guinness Nigeria, wishes to use this medium to emphasise that as a law abiding corporate citizen with due regard for all constituted authorities, it remains committed to responsible marketing of its products and strong self-regulation that aligns with the letter and spirit of all applicable national laws, local regulations and self-regulatory codes of practice to which it is a signatory.

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