ARCON Begins Enforcement of Digital Ad, Content

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To back up the numerous reforms enacted in the past two years with action, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has announced that from 1 March, 2023, it will begin the implementation of the full legal enforcement of the digital advertising regulation on un-vetted digital contents.

Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, the Director General of the apex advertising regulatory body, stated this during an interactive stakeholder’s session with bloggers, skit makers and other digital content creators at the Leola Hotel, in Lagos.

The session focused on how to efficiently carry on with advertising business while ensuring compliance with advertising laws in Nigeria.

He revealed that the laws are not regulating the digital space, but advertising contents exposed alongside skit contents on the platforms of various content creators.

“There are two types of adverts that these skit makers expose on their platforms; one is self-produced adverts. For example, a skit maker can produce an advert for himself and expose it on his own platform or it can be a third party advert for exposure; either way, the advert must be vetted before exposure. We want everybody to understand that we are all gatekeepers of advertising,” he said.

Dr. Fadolapo reaffirmed that every reform introduced is to ensure responsible advertising on digital media platforms and also to sustain the business of advertising for sustainable growth.

“The business has moved from traditional media space to the digital media space. New skills are now available, new businesses are being done in that space.

“This is not an attempt by the federal government to regulate freedom of speech in that area because there are a lot of activities in that space. There is information, entertainment, which is also called infotainment, comedy, and other the activities of the skit makers, including OAPs.

“What we are saying is that there is a line and space called advertising. If you cross that line and move your skit or comedy into the advertising space as defined by law, then you are moving into a regulated space, and your activities in that space will be regulated,” he said.

In order to bring everyone to speed before the commencement of the new law, the boss of the regulatory umpire, therefore, invited Charles Odenigbo, a legal practitioner who gave a detailed explanation on the provisions of the law as it pertains to advertising regulations and the consequences of breaching it.

Odenigbo recalled the re-enactment of the law in 2022, which came with 63 sections and in various parts while taking a look at the community of laws and regulations that will oversee the activities of the content creators on their platforms.

He also enlightened them on the need for their materials to be vetted by Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) before being exposed or published through Article 24.

“Except for public service announcements, goodwill messages, obituaries and vacancies, all advertisements, advertising and marketing communications shall be presented for vetting and must obtain the approval of ASP.

“It is mandatory for all advertisers and agencies to obtain ASP certificate of approval and for media houses to demand the ASP’s certificate of approval in the case of direct media buying before placing any such advertisements.

“Under ARCON Act, we have offences under section 34 and section 54; we also have article 145 of the Nigeria Code of Advertising Practice which deals with sanctions and it also carries penalties.

“The vetting guidelines also carry categories of adverts that you should know are to be vetted before you release them in your platforms. It also comes with its own sanctions. Four communities of laws and regulations tied together are the things that will definitely affect you one way or the other.

“On Air Personality, content producer, content creator, brand owner, whatever name you are called, the moment you descend into the arena of marketing communications, advertising and advertisement, the new ARCON Act moves into operation, whether you are aware or not,” Odenigbo pronounced.

The legal icon went on to highlight some of the guiding principles of advertising while urging producers to adhere strictly to each to promote responsible advertising.

“Fundamentally, all advertising must be legal, decent, truthful and honest. Adverts must protect consumers, vulnerable persons including children, minors and women, and must be mindful of the cultural values of Nigeria,” he said.

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