Procurement: time to buy in

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Procurement management expertise, brought to bear on evaluating advertising and marketing-services agencies, is a solution, not a problem. It can help measure and improve marketing's value, and it's time for client marketing departments and their ad agencies to buy in. There's advantage to be gained.

Change-continuous improvement-is the imperative. To stretch budgets, the new breed of procurement professionals is equipped to cut overhead, streamline processes and ensure that limited resources get spent where they add the most value.

Agencies need to get with the program instead of fretting that purchasing agents will nickel-and-dime costs, destroy margins and damage client relationships and brands. Good procurement practitioners know treating agencies fairly and professionally pays dividends in the end product.

In our coverage of procurement in this issue, we are encouraged by the comments of such agency leaders as Interpublic Group of Cos. Chairman-CEO David Bell (in our cover story) and John J. Dooner Jr., chairman-CEO of Interpublic's McCann-Erickson WorldGroup (see P. 28). Interpublic will find a receptive audience among clients if it puts words into action.

For now, there is a disconnect on this topic in too many quarters. Procurement was the hot issue at the Association of National Advertisers' financial conference in May-but most agency attendees at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' new-business summit one month later skipped a panel on procurement. That needs to be remedied, starting with the two ad industry groups together finding common ground.

The Four A's has taken issue with certain practices of compensation consultants, the specialists often hired by client procurement managers. We're happy to see that issue debated in the open. But it shouldn't cloud the bigger point: Clients and agencies need to come to terms on procurement.

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