What role should procurement have in creative pitches?

Last week's revelation that Audi is putting its UK ad account up for pitch provoked sympathy and antipathy in equal measure.

What role should procurement have in creative pitches?

Tales of doom in the ad industry do not get darker than the prospect of great creatives' work being dismissed by its corporate paymasters. 

But last week’s revelation that Audi had decided to put its UK ad account up for pitch – in a process "led by the procurement team" – provoked shockwaves of sympathy and antipathy in equal measure.

Thoughts were spared for 37-year incumbent Bartle Bogle Hegarty: since winning Audi as a founding client, the agency conceived the well-known slogan "Vorsprung durch technik" and continues to create award-winning work to this day.

Audi, meanwhile, has gone down in the estimation of many for letting the procurement team take the lead in what should be a marketer’s decision: which agency to entrust with your brand’s precious creative messaging.

However, perhaps the agency community doth protest too much. Is the pitch ever a truly fair process that ensures a level playing field for competing agencies? Will there not always be biases and agendas to overcome, even when marketers are given carte blanche to pick their favourite?

And why shouldn’t those who control the purse strings be brought into the agency hiring process from the outset, rather than having to negotiate terms after both buyer and supplier have already invested precious time and money into chemistry meetings and other modes of courtship? 

So, then, what role should procurement play in creative account pitches?

Suki Thompson

Founding partner, Oystercatchers

I love procurement being involved. They bring a different perspective, a commercial view and neuro-diversity of all types to pitches- which is helpful.  

But they must be either fully involved or purely there to help with the commercials – not a bit of both. If the pitch is for a big idea and creative judgment, it’s not their specialism (it’s not for many people, including some marketers) – then they should have a voice but no choice! 

Marketing should be commercial, but creative is not something that can be measured by an online tracking system. Each know their own strengths.

Michael Wall

Global chief executive, Mother

Creative and procurement. At face value, these two words don’t seem like natural bedfellows. And yet the best creative pitches and perhaps, more importantly, creative accounts are often set up on the correct business fundamentals such as services, scope, terms and conditions, and costs.

What’s important is that the protagonists involved have an informed and equitable view about these fundamentals. And what is required to create a successful outcome for both parties.

Unlike buying a rational product, buying a creative one has judgment and sentiment baked into it. And here, it’s the quality of the individual that matters more than their functional role. 

Tina Fegent

Procurement consultant

Procurement’s role in any marketing pitch (tender) process is to understand the needs of the business, the status of the supply market, and manage the pitch (tender) process in a structured, disciplined and transparent manner (timelines, tender evaluation, meeting schedule and feedback process). 

We do this in partnership with our stakeholders (marketing), with all decisions being ratified and agreed by all of those involved in the process and in the business.  

Procurement therefore has an important role to play in a creative pitch process – one that will help the business and the stakeholders deliver against the agreed companies' requirements (the rationale behind the decision to pitch/tender).

Richard Exon

Chief executive, Joint

Some of the most impressive individuals I’ve worked with are from procurement.

At their best, they are involved from the very start of the pitch process, partnering strong CMOs who, of course, need to be the ultimate decision-makers.

As imaginative as any marketer, a great procurement person is equally invested in successfully finding the right long-term partner for their business at the right price, which may or may not be the cheapest.

Perhaps the best thing they can do in a pitch is be crystal-clear from the outset about the scale of the commercial opportunity and the criteria on which the pitch will be decided.

Xavier Rees

Chief executive, Havas London and Havas Helia

When the client has clearly defined the exact nature of the "ask" , roles of those involved and exact purpose of the pitch, any pitch process largely works brilliantly. Procurement can be the hugely talented guide who ensures clarity, parity and process. They can rally decision-makers and act as the impartial mediator. Where it goes wrong is when a client fudges the brief, has unclear evaluation and the whole team is not aligned. Procurement is just one part of that route to failure. From my perspective , the question is less about the role of procurement and more about how do we get clients per se to create a pitch brief and process which is right for the task and creates the type of work we all want to deliver.