Procurement in advertising. Friend or foe?

WillFeutrill_HeadshotIn this guest post Will Feutrill argues agencies deserve to get hammered by procurement if they are not persuading clients they are adding value.

As procurement continue to….um….influence the relationships agencies have with their clients, there is a continual question of “what value does your agency bring to the organisation”.

Now we all understand when procurement asks what value do you bring, they are of course asking, “how much can we cut off your rate card hourly rates?” And as the roundabout goes, each agency slashes, then tries to be more “efficient” with their hours and push out more and more work faster by more junior staff, with less thought and with cut and paste strategy.

The client then starts to be jaded with the results and ideas so looks to greener pastures. The new agency will then agree to terms thinking they’ll find a way to “build up” the business and the cycle continues.

Clearly procurement are screwing us all and how dare they take away our beautiful retainers?

But is it really that shocking? Companies wanting to work with the best, but not at any cost? Is it unreasonable for them to run a ruler over an industry that has always struggled to justify its expense? “50 per cent of advertising is wasted” right?

Maybe it’s as simple as looking at the motivations behind the shift and adjusting our outlook accordingly.

Are ad agency brands worth it?

We are very good as an industry beating our chests about how brands need to stop their cyclical discounting race to the bottom. And yet we’ve let our own brands be diminished to the point of agencies being so interchangeable, it’s little wonder the average client is happy to farm out to the cheapest alternative.

It’s always been about relationships, however relationships now more than ever rely on a marketing director and a senior ad guy (or gal) following each other wherever they jump. Ad agency brands are just something to chuck on the resume.

Where did it all go so wrong?

Our approach to every campaign or execution we run is a simple question – if we take our client’s brand off this and put it’s major competitor’s, does it still work. If the answer is yes, then the idea isn’t strong enough.

Think of the latest pitch you saw or were involved in. Was there actually something compelling and distinctive about the agency? Did they demonstrate how working with that brand would be different? Or was it a lot of “strategic processes” and “people first” messaging?

So how do we fix it?

Well, that’s the $64,000 question. We may well find that the horse has bolted and we are now in our own rat race fighting over the next million dollar brief at ‘the client our studio designer went to school with’s, cousin’s, friend.’ Or maybe we can do what we tell our clients to do.

Our friends in procurement have actually given us the answer!

Invest in your brand!

Stand for something unique and defend your position. Build your brand and build your relationships. Demonstrate the difference your agency brings to the table. And be prepared to justify why your way of working is more aligned with the way your client wants to work.

Agency/client relationships do go deeper than a rate card…but only if you’re bringing more to it.

  • Will Feutrill is Head of Melbourne at 31ST:SECOND

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