UK industry suffers lack of common sense

Too many of Britain's agencies are not run in a business-like way and remain at the mercy of clients who are too eager to fire them when problems arise.

This is the verdict of an investigation by the trade bodies representing agencies, clients and procurement specialists into how their often combative relationships can be improved.

The report, which was produced by a steering group established by the IPA, ISBA and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, is critical of all three parties. It castigates agencies for failing to learn more from the professional practices of other sectors, and clients for dumping their agencies to avoid evoking a disputes procedure.

Meanwhile, it calls on procurement people to accept that creative judgment is often subjective and that creativity is not fully measurable.

"The required behaviours and processes are not rocket science, or indeed at all surprising or novel," Marilyn Baxter, the chairman of the research company Hall & Partners, who prepared the report, said. "They are, in fact, simple, common-sense business practice."

The report also calls for clients to look at alternatives to pitching as a means of selecting agencies.

"A huge amount of time and money is spent on pitching, particularly by agencies but also by clients," it says. "Most of this time and money is completely wasted and could be re-invested by clients in more productive activities and by agencies in propping up their inadequate profits."

It suggests that procurement people, with their wide experience of purchasing all kinds of different services, could come up with alternatives to pitching.