Secret Marketer: why procurement people should do their job and marketers should do theirs


This week for me is agency week. Agency meeting, agency lunch, agency awards, agency pitch, agency retainer discussion. All-out agency.

I am a self-confessed fan of agencies. I love working with them and I believe in outsourcing work rather than attempting to bring it in-house (despite the best advice of the procurement police who appear to be infiltrating my patch as of late). My decision to pay more for external rather than internal input doesn’t always go down well, but why would you possibly want to put all of your eggs in one basket when you can tap into the best creative talent on a pay-as-you-play basis?

My colleagues in procurement appear worried about ratecards and industry benchmarks, but I am more worried about getting the best work. I am finding this makes me unpopular with some of them as I am frequently accused of not taking advantage of obvious savings and instead placing too much value on relationships.

“My colleagues in procurement need to realise that they are not buying widgets here.”

It is an interesting pitch, but not one I am listening to. In my experience, there is not a particularly strong correlation between great creative work and the number of hours spent on it. It is more about the chemistry between client and agency and of course the quality of the brief. Such qualitative factors are hard for procurement people to measure and I find that as a result they are best left as far away as possible from agency selection and negotiation.

I am not seeking to be rude about my procurement colleagues but they do need to realise that they are not buying widgets here.

In fact I do value their help as part of the contract negotiation in bringing some order to our agency relationships, but I dread the day when they are charged with making the actual decision as to which agency to select. Call me old-fashioned but I still think that is my job and I shall fall on my sword over that issue if I ever have to.

If my procurement colleagues get their way, I fear that this may be sooner rather than later. I do not wish to be a martyr, but there are times in life when you have to tell people to butt out and leave you to get on with the job you’re paid to do. In case anybody hasn’t already worked it out, I am writing this column after an almighty run-in with a corporate procurement colleague. I am not sure if there was a clear winner but I am relieved I have the official right to a 400-word rant. Pitch over.

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