Marketers and their procurement people are learning to love each other several years into a marriage arranged by their senior corporate executives, even if they don't always see eye to eye.
A new survey by the Association of National Advertisers finds relations between marketers and marketing procurement executives have improved markedly in the past year, though procurement people see the relationship as happier than the marketers do, and the two sides still haven't aligned their goals.
The survey, which was set to be presented at the ANA Financial Management Conference in Naples, Fla., May 5, found 61% of procurement executives and 55% of marketers rated their relationship quality as 7 or higher on a 10-point scale. The roughly 150 respondents were split fairly evenly between the two sides.
Of the marketers, 30% said relations with procurement improved in the past year, while only 6% said it got worse. Of the procurement executives, 62% said things were better and only 2% worse.
Since they're all on the same team, maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. But it's a big change from an ANA survey four years ago in which procurement people rated their own performance very highly, but marketers gave them very low marks, said Bill Duggan, group executive VP of the ANA.
"I think time has allowed things to change," said Mr. Duggan. The improvement in the relationship shows "the importance of being visible, walking down the hall and letting marketing people know who you are," he said.
The change also reflects effort by procurement people to address criticisms they've heard over the past five years, said Terri Burns, manager of marketing strategic sourcing and procurement and Aflac and co-chair of the ANA Procurement Task Force.
"We've worked really hard at trying to understand what marketing is trying to achieve and be able to speak their language," Ms. Burns said. "It's not the same as buying widgets."
At the same time, she believes marketers appreciate procurement more because they've been under growing pressure from senior management to improve efficiency and effectiveness. And, as some marketers privately concede, procurement does things like negotiating and holding agencies accountable that they'd prefer not to do themselves.
"Marketing individuals by nature are creative folk," Ms. Burns said. "They want to be able to work really closely with their agency partners. And it can be awkward to hold those same people accountable either in negotiations or when problems occur."
Despite the closer relations, the survey finds goals of marketers and procurement people still diverge. Cost reduction and risk mitigation were top priorities of procurement people. Sales or market share increases and improving marketing ROI were top concerns of marketers.
That divergence stems from how the two sides are compensated and evaluated, Ms. Burns said, so some gap may be unavoidable. But she added, "Probably the next big opportunity it so move to some semblance of shared metrics."