30 October 2003 | David Arminas
Poor purchasing practices are hampering relations with agencies in the incentive travel and meetings sector.
The agencies, which arrange marketing and publicity events such as car launches and foreign meetings for business executives, have traditionally worked directly with marketing departments.
But in the past five years, more purchasers have been working with marketing to improve value for money.
Roger Harvey, chairman of the Incentive Travel and Meetings Association (ITMA), the sector's umbrella organisation, said this is frustrating the agencies.
"There's a real need for both purchasers and agencies to establish best practice in buying our services. A client may issue a brief from not marketing but purchasing, and we are not allowed to talk to the end user any more."
He said the result was poorly written briefs, less understanding of what marketing wants, and sometimes much longer shortlists for a contract where only a few agencies would have been included before.
Harvey, who has been in the sector for 40 years and is a consultant to marketing and communications agency the Q Group, said this was expensive and time-consuming for everybody.
Jennifer Jenkins, managing director of event management company MCI (UK), told SM: "We are seeing more unqualified purchasers getting into the act, especially in the public sector, who don't understand good purchasing guidelines."
This prolongs the process for agencies, most of which are small businesses. It can be financially crippling for them to pitch for business they are now less likely to get.
But Jenkins added that good purchasers had improved the process: "It ensures greater transparency and accountability."
The ITMA is planning some seminars to foster a better understanding between corporate buyers and events services agencies.