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‘Procurement is not an end in itself,’ says former Ogilvy MY chief David Mayo

There are two sides when it comes to quick turnarounds for pitches. On the one hand, clients need to wean themselves off the need to pitch every last project brief they have and on the other, agencies need to accept that they are not built for speed – they are built for brands.

I have always felt that when a client pitches out a brief on business that you are already working on, it simply tells the agency that the relationship is transactional and that they should work to be profitable every day instead of investing and going the extra mile for their cherished clients. Unless its agreed up front or in the contract that certain things will be shared with several agencies, in which case the agencies should not simply sit and wait for the brief.

Meanwhile, pitches for the next shelf wobbler are a waste of everyone’s time and scarce resource and should not run. Either that or clients should pay the agencies to pitch if they are that serious about them.

At the core of every marketer is the conflict between the rigid and immovable procurement process and the need to get the job done. Every client I know, knows who they like to work with and most often, they would be able to simply give briefs to the people that can deliver best. They are paid to know what to do. Procurement on the other hand places an additional layer of administration that works counter to the day-to-day process of creative marketing.

Agencies and clients can curb this habit in two ways. First, procurement needs to understand that it is there for overall terms of engagement and not to micromanage a creative process. Delegating the implementation of procurement strategy to the marketing teams is what should happen next.

Procurement is not an end in itself.

Secondly, agencies need to work out how to answer the fairly clear need from the market to deliver faster, cheaper and better creative solutions to their clients. Carping on about never having enough time is nobody’s fault but their own. The purpose that an agency was originally designed for was 100% of their offer and output at the beginning.

Clients wanted brands and the media available allowed them plenty of time to build them. Today, that part of the business is much lower, perhaps as low as 20%. And through necessity, the agencies have moved into the middle ground of fast, quick work to keep pace with the demands of the client. Marketers do not have the time or the budgets to noodle away on large slow-moving brand projects any more and therefore the MO of the agency is under threat.

Agencies also need to keep in view three things – how they will help their marketing clients move at the speed of the consumer conversation; that there is no storm that will pass – this is the new normal; and remember that the world demands presence rather than perfection now.

Savvy clients are now working more widely on their own solutions; in-house, outsource independent solutions and of course creative vendor platforms which are on the rise across the region. These solutions negate the need to flog the agency horse for more, better, quicker ideas for smaller budgets and slimmer changes of winning.

I think clients and agencies can help one another by simply agreeing what is pitchable and what is unacceptable.

Clients by having the confidence to walk in and share the brief and make a start. And agencies by having the mettle to say “Thanks but that’s not for us”, rather than say yes to everything that moves and tie themselves up in knots of inefficiency in doing do. All they do is disappoint and damage their own standing by agreeing to pitch for things that either cost them money or they know doesn’t play to their strengths.

In a nutshell, marketers need to prevent “procurement creep” and understand that procurement sets the terms of engagement only. Implementation is up to the marketers. Clients should let the agencies clearly know what is expected of them and what is in scope at the start of every year and agree terms and then close that debate and focus on the business. Too often, the discussion on contracts, scope and fees drags out across the year – this is bad and inefficient for business on both sides.

The writer is David Mayo, chief growth officer at GetCraft and former Ogilvy Malaysia CEO.

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