The immediate past Managing Director, Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), Mr. George Noah, has revealed about 5 billion naira was expended on outdoor advertising in Lagos State – by the PDP and APC – during the 2015 General Elections. Noah disclosed this in his new book titled, 2015 Elections: The Politics of Outdoor Advertising in Lagos State.
Giving a breakdown of how the sum was spent, the author stated it was distributed across different components of the outdoor advertising industry. This comprised: printers, installers, fabricators, graphic designers, outdoor vendors, media buying agencies, security, billboard owners and branding/communications companies and party agents amongst others. It also generated employment for thousands of ad hoc staff recruited by contractors to keep up with the growing demands at that time.
The former, LASAA boss noted vandalism and extension of election dates inflated costs. Giving his analysis, Noah stated: “About N2.5 billion was spent on wall drapes and billboards – these included: 300 static and 40 electronic boards.” The book further revealed an estimated 40,000 street lampoles deployed, gulped N1 billion; while 5,000 A-frame boards cost N350 million. About 5,000 stick-in-ground frames were deployed at the cost of N50 million.
Three million posters and 500,000 T-shirts – were printed costing about N300 million and N400 million, respectively. An estimated 400 busses were branded costing N80 million. 200 branded vans and 250 branded cars were deployed gulping N45 million. “About 100 units of bus shelters were used costing N10 million. Other outdoor deployments including experiential activities, banners, hatboxes and indoor LEDs accounted for about N200 million,” Noah concluded.
Giving further details about how both parties fared in their outdoor campaigns, the author elucidated: “The APC appeared to be more prepared and organized, sprinting off the blocks a year before the elections. Officials and individual party members hoping to stand for election approached LASAA seeking advice on enabling rules, costs and key players in the outdoor sector.”
He added: “The agency obliged. In contrast, the PDP nor their agents, never made any overtures to LASAA before or during the electioneering period. It is not surprising therefore that the APC succeeded in negotiating and securing strategic outdoor sites ahead of the election, while the PDP was literarily asleep. When it finally dawned on the PDP that better planning by their opponents had left them in a relatively disadvantaged position, they, in the their desperation, resorted to wholesale impunity including the illegal usurpation of sites already paid for by the APC and multinational companies. They succeeded in doing so with the support of security agents.’
George Noah stressed the PDP had deep pockets, “emboldened by such financial machismo, the party and its agents attempted to takeover billboards already secured by the APC by offering the outdoor agencies, (the owners of the billboards), about five times the amount previously paid for by the APC. Surprisingly, the outdoor agencies rebuffed such overtures arguing that such a move would be unethical and tantamount to breach of contract.
This, Noah noted, explained why the PDP deployed giant A Frames as a substitute to billboards. Indeed some of the A Frames deployed on street and bridge medians, were as big as a 48 sheet – the smallest traditional billboard.
Sadly, there was an inverse relationship between the sums expended on outdoor advertising for the campaigns and monetary gains accruable to outdoor advertising agencies based in Lagos. This paradox was predominantly due to the usurpation of structures operated by the outdoor firms – by agents of the PDP, without paying for the value of services rendered. What’s more, contract sums for outdoor advertising deployment, were cornered by middlemen with political leanings – as opposed to engaging outdoor advertising professionals directly. This anomaly culminated in the shoddy deployment of outdoor campaign materials which wore off very quickly as soon as they were deployed. This took its toll on outdoor advertising spend, as worn off campaign materials had to be redeployed – thus resulting in throwing good money after bad.
A good instance of such campaign materials were those of Jonathan, deployed by TAN on streetlamp poles which in many cases dangled precariously – thus causing visual blights and severely diminishing the purpose it was intended to serve. “Some of the contractors engaged were opportunists who were favoured as a result of their political leanings. They knew very little about the workings of the outdoor advertising industry and exposed their naiveté and unprofessionalism in the shoddy manner in which they deployed outdoor campaign materials spuriously – offering very little value for the huge sums of money spent,” one outdoor practitioner posited.
Comprising 22 chapters, the book chronicles the sordid intrigues and high stakes politicking that characterized events that played out in Lagos State’s outdoor advertising sector, in the build-up to Nigeria’s historic 2015 General Elections.
The book also looks into challenges faced by outdoor regulatory agencies during the period of electioneering, as well as the potential personal risks faced by personnel of these agencies. George Noah also recounted his ordeal in the hands of the opposition – which culminated in threats to his life. The former LASAA boss said he was targeted by agents of the PDP since he was accused of being responsible for denying it and its agents outdoor sites in Lagos – ahead of the elections.
A technocrat, and political activist, Noah was a founding member of Radio Kudirat and has over 35 years experience in virtually all aspects of the media. A pioneer member of Made In Nigeria (MAIN) Festival Group, Noah is also Publisher of Island News and Chief Executive Officer that midwifed TV Continental (TVC) and Radio Continental in Lagos.
Noah previously worked for Insight Communications Limited in Nigeria, the Greater London Council (GLC) and British Telecom International (BTI) in the UK and Media Empowerment for Africa (MEFA) in Norway. Whilst domiciled in London, Noah was appointed Chairman of the London Borough of Southwark Co-operative Development Agency (SCDA) in 1992. In June 2014, whilst at LASAA, Noah was awarded the honorary title Lagos State Man Of The Year.