Grow up! Marketing procurement should not be put in a box

Everyone loves a quotable quote. And there’s something very entertaining about marketers and agencies deliberately courting controversy on the various panels and platforms they are invited to join. It livens up the debate, makes things interesting, and gets people to engage.

It’s even been said that we like to court controversy ourselves here at TrinityP3 now and again. (And our answer to that would be ‘bollocks’.)

So that’s all fine. But sometimes it gets out of hand. And some of the recent shots taken at marketing procurement in general are a worry.

To talk, as Mat Baxter did recently, of putting an entire discipline ‘back in their box where they belong’ is to take a point – entertainingly I’ll admit – about the behaviour of a few and apply it to the many.

And that’s nearly always a mistake.

The procurement role performed badly is obviously beyond defence. But so is the marketing or agency role done in the same way.

The truth of the matter, from our perspective anyway, is that the discipline, rigour and objectivity of procurement done well is vital to the health and success of any marketing operation and any roster.

An extreme agency roster example

TrinityP3 was recently engaged to help a major client work out which of its more than ninety agencies were vital to its business and which were not. As our analysis proceeded, each agency claimed its contribution to the business was unique. And each marketing team member protested that each agency partner was crucial to that division’s commercial success.

No single agency had anything other than a tiny revenue stream from this major brand. No agency was empowered to staff up properly, or devote proper resource and effort to the account, or even to offer an informed opinion based on knowledge of the business.

Keeping procurement principles ‘in a box’ was never going to solve this.

The solution

Mapping the requirements of the organisation, matching them to the capabilities of the agencies, removing duplication and creating centres of expertise tackled more than half of the problem.

Reworking the marketing team structures and processes that created the situation in the first place looked after the rest. The business immediately made enormous gains in efficiency and marketing team effectiveness, and the remaining agencies got a far more profitable and stable account on which to excel.

Whilst the numbers involved made that project an extreme example, the pattern is a common one across decentralised marketing organisations and their rosters. Combine too many specialist agencies with too many generalist marketers, and costs start to spiral while nothing gets done.

Working with the good guys

The trick – for agencies as well as marketers – is to learn to work with procurement teams. And that doesn’t mean just tolerating them or hoping they will go away if you all hide for long enough.

It means engaging with the tools, the disciplines and the approaches. It means taking a long hard look at your team’s working processes, the level and nature of the resources you devote to the marketing task, the relationship between effort and result – and being open to improvement.

The good marketing procurement people want value as much as they want price. In fact, in our experience, the best marketing procurement teams only go after price when they have been blocked at every turn by collaborating marketing and agency teams.

Making controversial, headline-grabbing comments on panels and platforms at the expense of procurement is great fun. But when it encourages marketers to see procurement teams as clipboard-waving budget thieves, or agencies to see them as axe-wielding retainer haters, then it’s a cheap shot.

And no-one in marketing wants to be cheap.


To find our how TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultants can help you further with this, click here.