The controversy trailing the recent severance of business relationship between Airtel Africa, the parent company of the Nigerian affiliate Airtel Nigeria, and the foremost advertising conglomerate Oglivy Africa as a result of a protracted legal battle with Prima Garnet, (Oglivy's representative in Nigeria) continued at the weekend with the appointment of a leading Nigerian advertising firm, STB McCann, to handle its advertising on an interim basis pending the resolution of the matter.
THISDAY checks showed that STB McCann retainership is on an interim basis in view of a court case purportedly instituted by the management of Prima Garnet to stop the pitch, which the GSM firm intended to use to pick a new advertising company to handle its projects.
According to a source, STB McCann came into the picture because although efforts are being made to settle the crisis, there was the need for Airtel to go on with its business and to keep in touch with other stakeholders through advertisement.
The source, however, pointed out that appropriate measures would be put in place to pick the firm to handle Airtel's advertising on a permanent basis when the matter is finally resolved.
The source wondered why Prima Garnet should oppose the bid to pick a new partner for Airtel considering the fact that it never had a direct contract with the telecoms firm in the first instance.
According to the source, Airtel Networks Limited does not have a legal or agency agreement with Prima Garnet, therefore the firm could not have terminated any advertising agency agreement with Prima Garnet. The source also stated that Airtel Africa (the group company) does have an agreement with Ogilvy Africa for advertising in most of its African operations, of which Nigeria was inclusive.
As it were, Prima Garnet represented Ogilvy Africa in Nigeria and, therefore, handled Airtel Networks Limited's advertising business on behalf of Ogilvy Africa.
"Therefore, in order to avoid getting involved in the legal dispute between Ogilvy Africa and Prima Garnet, Airtel Africa (not Airtel Networks Limited) terminated its contract with Ogilvy Africa with regard to its Nigerian operation," the source said.
He added that as a business concern, Airtel Networks Limited reserves the right to work with any (and any number of) advertising agencies it wishes.
"For good measure, the legal agreement between Ogilvy Africa and Prima Garnet clearly highlights non-exclusivity. Thus Section 3.1 states inter alia:
"OMA (OGILVY) agrees to introduce to the Affiliate (Prima Garnet) those Ogilvy Clients that indicate an interest in having local agency representation in the territory, although it is understood and agreed that such referred Ogilvy Clients may, at their absolute discretion, choose not to engage the Affiliate and/or to engage another agency within the Territory."
He described Airtel Networks Limited as a law-abiding company, saying it would not do anything that is tantamount to a breach of the laws of the land.