Ian Maynard (left), head of marketing and business development director of London-based creative and production specialist network, looks at how the changing nature of procurement is affecting the role of the lead creative agency in multi-agency client relationships.
For a lead creative agency procurement can be a difficult process, for the very good reason that executing a creative idea may take both agency and client (and their procurement people) to unexpected places. The costs of this may not have been accounted for in the original agreement.
However this doesn’t mean that the relationship needs to be antagonistic.
Jonathan Trimble, CEO of 18 Feet & Rising, one of London’s up-and-coming creative agencies with clients including Nationwide and AkzoNobel, says: “My experience of procurement is that their understanding of the value of ‘softer’ services is inherently difficult to put through the computer in the usual way.
“However, they broadly sit in a positive place of wanting to buy more things from fewer suppliers and this opens up opportunities for agencies – who can prove they can add value across a broader remit – to expand their scope and pay. Another interesting dynamic is that procurement people start by wanting to do the right thing in the relationship with suppliers by creating value over the long term. Unfortunately, less can be said of many marketing departments.”
Tina Fegent (left), whose award-winning consultancy advises clients and agencies on procurement, agrees that the role of procurement is changing.
“Marketing procurement is now valued as a strategic partner to the marketing team,” says Fegent. “They are increasingly working as internal consultants, providing that link with the marketing supplier marketplace and their marketing stakeholders in solving business problems.
“Stakeholders and management now expect procurement to contribute value in a broader sense with a more holistic view of the marketing supply chain.
“This means looking at areas like production and talent management decoupling, sourcing policy (with 20,000 plus agencies just in the UK, what should the agency roster be shaped like and are agencies truly offering integration) and forward planning (looking at marketing budgets and the requirements needed to deliver the business objectives).”
From the point of view of a support agency like network, procurement people taking an interest in the wider client/agency relationship is a decided benefit: decoupling, for example, works to our advantage as we believe – rightly or wrongly – that there are some things we can do better than a lead creative agency, especially on high volume accounts like retailers.
But it’s still important for the role of the lead creative agency to be clearly established and for them to feel that other suppliers are not chipping away at duties (and payments) that are rightly theirs.
And, just as the status of the lead agency is important, so is the status of procurement in the client organization. As Jonathan Trimble says: “The downside is that procurement typically do not hold enough power in decision making. Edicts and mandates are issued either corporately or by the board members, sometimes a marketing director.
“If these are to drive costs down (as they very often are), then procurement is simply the mouthpiece for bad news, creating a nice distance between members of the marketing team focused on the “brand” whilst someone else does the dirty work. “
So the real ‘enemy,’ for everyone involved in the process of creating advertising (not just the lead agency) is not procurement per se but lack of effective communication and its inevitable corollary – passing the buck.