The controversial goodwill message from Sterling Bank Plc which angered some Christians when the rising of Jesus from the dead was compared to the rising of Agege Bread (“Like Agege bread, he rose”) has been making waves in the marketing communications realm.

The recent twist to the scenario is the involvement of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), the regulators of advertising in the country. APCON swung into action by releasing a statement calling the publication a ‘distasteful advertising’ that was not submitted to APCON for vetting and threatening to sanction the bank.

The oddity in this is explained through the following:

  1. The content is not an advert but a goodwill message
  2. APCON can only sanction members and not corporate companies who are not members
  3. The content if to be regulated/vetted falls under Public Relations not advertising

Below is the mandate of APCON as provided in the Act No. 55 of 1988 as revised by Act No. 93 of 1992 including:

Determining who is an advertising practitioner

Determining the standard of knowledge and skill required to be attained by persons seeking to become registered members of the advertising profession and reviewing those standards from time to time.

Conducting relevant professional examinations and awarding certificates or diplomas to successful candidates

Securing by the provisions of this Act, the establishment and maintenance of a register of persons entitled to practise advertising in Nigeria and determining acceptable standards of all advertisements exposed in mass media in Nigeria.

Regulating and controlling the practise of advertising in all its aspects and ramifications.

Performing the other functions conferred on the Council by this Act.

APCON is restricted to the above mandate which is limited to advertising and cannot by law meander into areas that have nothing to do with advertising, hence, the threat to sanction Sterling Bank is misplaced and ultra vires on many grounds.

Goodwill messages are PR content and territories. PR is largely free until the body saddled with regulating Public Relations in Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, decides otherwise.

Brandfit PR & Events would have advised someone with a Christian name, on this occasion, to be the one to sign off the above statement. Everything matters in crisis management.

In the process of resolving one crisis, you don’t want to unintentionally give life to another crisis.

Some might say “no wonder, he is a Muslim, this is a deliberate attack on Christianity by the Islamic faithful.

For the optics, very important and if you relegate it would be at your peril, get a Christian with a Christian name to sign off on it and close the chapter for good.

Some professionals have said CEO signing off the statement is a great idea but Brandfit PR & Events believes in this case the CEO is Muslim so another person, probably a Director, should have signed off the statement.

This is a religious matter and not a corporate one. It’s a religious matter that affects the corporate but you don’t solve it by thinking corporate, you solve it by thinking religion, and in this case, a Christian would have been best to sign off the statement.

Having someone with a Christian name say sorry and sign off has more weight than having a CEO with a Muslim name.

In a crisis where you are walking on ice, everything matters There is bias in the air and one more miscalculation is the excuse needed to trigger another round of issues.

Published on Brandfit.

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