Message to agencies: Stop moaning and get over it

6 May 2010
It seems it is not only in politics the thought of uneasy coalitions are exercising the mind. The relationship between buyers, marketers and their suppliers is once again under scrutiny. The current issue of PR Week has five pages dedicated to the topic in its latest publication. Advertising Age in the US has interviews with buyers at Intel and Pfizer to defend the profession’s role. Firmvoice, the blog of the US Council of Public Relations Firms, has also waded into the debate on how to build bridges between the two camps. And finally (for this week at least, I hope) Marketing magazine is asking the question “Is procurement killing marketing creativity?” There is a weary familiarity to many of these pieces, raking over the same issues I thought had been dealt with by most firms two or three years ago - although the volume of articles is making me think otherwise. In fairness, most of the reports have avoided the shrieking hysteria that used to punctuate this discussion, with sensible and constructive advice on building collaboration, relationships and mutual understanding. Although, as we reported toward the end of last year, the agitation has not vanished completely. A ludicrous assumption persists that low-cost and creativity is mutually exclusive. Why can’t you have creative work at a reasonable price? A compromise between the two can be found in every other commoditised service. There is a temptation to argue that marketers and agencies should just stop moaning and get over it. If value cannot be demonstrated and worth proven, clients should find somebody else who can do both – and let’s face it, it is not a shallow marketplace. Procurement should not be made to feel like an apologetic interloper, trespassing on some sacred ground and having to justify its presence at every step. If buyers can demonstrate their value to the process, it should be up to the other participants to justify theirs.
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