Magazine article Marketing

Is Procurement Killing Marketing Creativity?

Magazine article Marketing

Is Procurement Killing Marketing Creativity?

Article excerpt

Those who deride this business function have overlooked its ability to motivate agencies to produce even better work, writes Suzy Bashford.

Procurement should facilitate creativity by fostering the conditions in which it can flourish. That is the theory, at least. So why, then, do procurement professionals have the image of bureaucratic bean-counters who would not recognise a creative idea if the Tango man slapped them in the face with it?

This is because, so far, there has been little evidence to show how procurement can be a friend of creativity. By contrast, there are many car-crash stories about how it has gone beyond being a necessary evil to hinder the creative process. However, while agencies continue to ask whether procurement is killing marketing creativity, it may be time to move on from this debate.

In the wake of the recession, as companies seek to wring the maximum value out of every pound spent on marketing, procurement is here to stay. Questioning its role will serve only to cast marketers or agencies in a poor light. Instead, they should be asking how they can ensure that the involvement of procurement helps to support the creative process Fortunately, there are plenty of ways marketers and their agencies can help shape this agenda.

'At the moment getting good creative is really tough. There's a very risk-averse culture in companies due to the highly volatile economic climate,' says procurement specialist Richard Woodford, who is category manager, advertising and marketing, for News International. 'Procurement these days often involves bearing bad news about budgets being slashed, but that is not our decision or what we want and, in many cases, agencies shoot the messenger. They then start thinking that procurement is all about making savings, but that's not true.'

Woodford suggests that his current priority is to find ways of using less budget to deliver more, and ensuring that, although agencies might earn less, they maintain the quality of their work. He acknowledges that they may not be happy with this situation, but has little sympathy for them.

'Agencies need to deal with that. You don't hear Coke saying to consumers that it's not earning as much money, therefore the drink is not going to taste as good this year,' he adds. 'In many ways agencies should be trying harder to impress clients and come up with really insightful, creative work. They need to stop bleating and get on with it.'

Smoother process

Some straightforward measures can make the procurement process smoother This, in turn, can improve life for the creative department, increasing the chance that it will come up with good-quality work.

For example, creatives will not feel very motivated if they waste time generating ideas that are rejected because they do not fit the brief. Procurement can prevent this by ensuring the right decision-makers are in the room at the right time.

Andrea Bottke, purchasing manager for Danone, is convinced that her involvement in marketing can help the inspiration to flow. 'To secure creativity, you need to have the best people working on your account,' she says. 'To get this right it is important to understand what motivates an agency and it's not necessarily just money.'

She is a strong advocate of payment by results (PBR), as long as the key performance indicators are appropriate. 'Why should an agency with a fixed fee give you the best resource? They would rather put it toward a new account, to increase revenue,' she adds. 'However, if they know that they have to be excellent and can earn more money on your account, they will make sure they have their best talent available.'

Bottke also believes that too many agencies are creating work to win awards, rather than sell products, and that PBR will help to avoid this, a view echoed by other marketers. 'Concerning PBR, the discussion about common targets will drive a cultural change for sure, but it will take time and training to make people on the agency side understand what really matters,' she says. …

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