The Furore Over Ringing of Opening or Closing Bell at NASDAQ

One of the engagements of President Bola Tinubu on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly which he addressed last week was his ringing of the closing bell at NASDAQ on Thursday 21st September 2023.

It was the US Chamber of Commerce’s Africa Business Centre that hosted him to the bell-ringing event at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square, New York.

However, instead of the event being regarded as a regular part of the daily business, and a photo opportunity that it usually is, the ceremony developed another controversy because of the attempted super-human coloration that by ringing the bell, President Tinubu became the first African Head of Government to do so. And it was the President’s media office that committed the gaff and they had to come out a couple of days after to apologize and correct the wrong information, because there is evidence on the NASDAQ website that on September 21, 2011, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete the fourth President of Tanzania, (from 2005 to 2015) rang the closing bell at NASDAQ, in honour of Global Health Commitments for Women’s Health and Women’s Cancers.

Some media houses have reported that even former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had performed the same function in 2013 but this is not correct. President Jonathan rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, not at NASDAQ, on Monday, September 23, 2013.

However, it is clear that the bell ringing has been done by several African organsisations and leaders, living and even dead, posthumously. Recall that South Africa’s UN ambassador Jerry Matjila on 13th July 2018 rang the closing bell of NASDAQ in honour of late former President Nelson Mandela‘s centenary birthday. The Madiba would have been 100 on July 18 that year.

Originally known as National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation System, NASDAQ is world’s second largest stock exchange, on the basis of market capitalization, behind the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE, which is on top of all exchanges with a market capitalization of just over $23 trillion, which is about $12 trillion more than NASDAQ.

The same week that President Tinubu rang the bell at NASDAQ, several organisations and companies, including Women’s National Basketball Association, WNBA, American Oncology Network, Sigma Lithium Corporation, Climeworks, Akamai, Dianthus Therapeutics, and Climate Leaders rang the NASDAQ Opening or Closing bell.

The iconic bell ringing ceremony at NASDAQ MarketSite represents an opportunity for organisations, including companies, agencies and even countries, to showcase and celebrate their achievements and milestones before a global audience. It is usually hosted by a NASDAQ senior executive and the ceremonies provide a platform for such companies and organisations to generate meaningful brand exposure.

In what the NASDAQ stock exchange describes as an unforgettable experience and a global symbol of success, its president, Nelson Grigss says: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a very seasoned CEO or a guest of the company – it’s that ‘wow’ moment of seeing themselves on the seven-story tower. It’s an emotional moment when they’re here.”

NASDAQ says each ceremony is carefully choreographed by its team of event specialists to deliver impactful visibility for each company, including a live stream on the NASDAQ Webcam, MarketSite Tower in Times Square and participating television networks, to reach millions of viewers worldwide.

During the hour of the opening and closing bell, companies get access to one hour of exclusive advertising on the NASDAQ Tower and Marquee. “During this time, companies have the option to display a 30 second no audio advertisement, which will alternate with a welcome message from NASDAQ and photos live from inside the studio”, says the exchange on its website, further stating that the NASDAQ creative team is available to assist in the production of the 30 second, no audio video, for the bell ceremony for a production fee.

During the ceremony, a professional photographer will usually capture photographs of the bell-ringing group on and off stage. Guests may also take photos in the studio with their own cameras. However, the use of flash photography is not permitted as it can be disruptive to the live broadcast.

Weather permitting, following the ceremony, the visiting group will be escorted outside for a series of pictures with the NASDAQ Tower as a backdrop. NASDAQ says it retains copyright ownership of all photographs and video footage, which it may also use, at its sole discretion, in NASDAQ web-based, print and other marketing materials.

So, the opening and closing bell ringing at NASDAQ is a ‘cash and carry’ event that does not add value or provide economic prop to any company, agency or country. All that is needed is to pay for the ceremony and all that accompanies it. It is up to you to push for the post publicity for whatever you need to achieve by it.

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