UM CEO Mat Baxter: ‘Put procurement back in the box where they belong’


From left: Karin Upton Baker, Hermes; Danny Bass, Group M; Mat Baxter, UM and Simon Davies, Bauer Media Group

Powerful marketing chiefs have the ability to “put procurement back in their box where they belong” but too few CMOs are rising up through the ranks to have such influence, UM chief executive Mat Baxter has said.

Speaking at the Publish conference in Sydney today, Baxter said it would be in “everyone’s interest” if procurement departments were only part of the process of selecting agencies “rather than the dominant part they are at the moment”.

The comments came in a wide-ranging panel discussion on the relationships between media buyers, publishers and marketers.

Baxter said boards, CFOs and procurement staff are increasingly demanding to see hard data when they buy advertising space. To that end, he urged publishers when pitching for business from media buyers to supply better metrics which can then be communicated by the agency to the client.

“They (clients) don’t care about soft measures. This is the new reality. They want to see that if I spend a dollar here I’ll sell something over there.

“The guys with the calculators are looking for that relationship yet we are still talking largely as an industry about the soft measures and it’s a real problem.

“We have to adjust our language and our discussion otherwise we come off as the fluffy people in the room, when it’s all about the feeling and the vibe, and these accountants and CFOs say ‘these guys are nuts’.

“They are thinking ‘these guys are the marketing fluff’ and then we wonder why aren’t we on the board and sitting at the top table. That’s the reason. We are not having the dialogue that big businesses and the serious people in the room are having. We have to evolve to address that.

“If you had marketers on boards they could put procurement back in their box which is where procurement really belongs.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to see that happen because procurement will be just part of the process rather than the dominant part of the process which is what we have at the moment.”

He told delegates that “powerful and intelligent CMOs” who have influence in their organisation can push back against procurement who want them to employ the cheapest rather than the best agency.

“If the CMO is empowered they can have that influence,” he said. “The problem is that empowerment has not happened yet because they are not rising to the top of their organisation.”

Baxter told publishers they must provide information to buyers at a “granular level” rather than be “obsessed” with the reach of the audience.

He added that print firms work hard to arrange meetings with agencies and clients but then shoot themselves in the foot by showing 20 meaningless slides about their audience – information the client already knows.

“My eyes glaze over when that happens. It’s a waste of everyone’s time,” he told delegates. “They are way too reach obsessed and if you play the reach game you will lose every time. We have to move on.

“Very few publishers can tell you I know that advertising sold this many products, and that level of accountability needs to be better.”

Steve Jones


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