Gaining territory

10 June 2009
“Every time we go into a pitch these days, it is the procurement people we meet. It never used to be that way,” a disappointed-sounding advertising contact revealed to me last week. But the anonymous ad guy was so impressed with the work buyers do that he admitted he may have to consider getting a procurement function of his own so he could do to his suppliers what he perceived was happening to him. And he is not alone. One of the outcomes of an event I chaired last week was that marketing is the area in which procurement is making most headway. Despite the downturn, or maybe because of it, professional buyers are now frequently assessing marketing deals before a commitment is made. Historically, this is quite surprising. On more than one occasion in these pages we have reported how animosity has been a frequent feature of the relationships between marketing types and buyers. And on at least one occasion it has escalated to full-blown hostility. On one hand, marketers have begrudged the “interference of penny pinchers” in their creative processes. And procurement professionals have looked on aghast as massive charges for “creative services” were approved with little or no scrutiny.  But why is the change happening? Yes, of course, the recession is a large part of it. Everybody is cutting costs. More crucially, I think, it is that procurement has won the argument. Companies looking to make substantial and sustained savings are beginning to analyse the “dark arts” of creative, and it is proving a great investment. And this achievement is all the greater because it was such a hard nut to crack. Could marketing as a category be the first success story in buyers’ efforts to help their cash-strapped organisations in these times? Have pragmatic buyers prevailed over the creatives? Looks like it. I wonder what’s next?
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