Procurement departments now 'friends to agencies and marketers' says Coca-Cola Europe's marketing procurement chief

Marketing procurement departments are now “friends to marketers and agencies” according to Coca-Cola Europe’s procurement director Jane Dormer.

Dormer was speaking about the evolution of marketing procurement at The Drum's new business conference, Brief Encounters, where she was joined on the panel by Claire Thomas, head of marketing and communications procurement for Marks and Spencer and John Butcher, category director for Proxima. The discussion was chaired by consultant Tina Fegent.

Marketers and agencies have had a fractured relationship with procurement departments in the past, however the panel stated that they believe there has been a sea-change in that working ethos.

“We have come a long way as friends to marketers and friends to agencies and most importantly we can make your lives easier as well as our marketing teams so that actually we can create brilliant work for the brilliant brands we work for,” explained Dormer, one of the most respected people working within marketing procurement today.

Thomas agreed that marketing procurement departments had become more integrated within the agency appointment process, but was keen to point out that they were just one member of the decision making panel, alongside the marketing department, and revealed that she spent the bulk of her time on agency relationship and roster management, as well as helping the marketing department plan projects.

She went on to say that procurement now acted as “a neutral party” between agencies and marketing, which allows both parties “to vent”.

Thomas added: “I have spent a lot more time with marketing developing integration and how we can help and drive agencies and behaviours to be acting in a collaborative way and looking at structures and what others are doing. Also procurement has to be focused on adding value for businesses from looking at how marketing gets a return on investment and how that is measured, finding the best ways to motivate our agencies... the context of what we do is still a struggle internally." She also explained that at Marks and Spencer, she looked for agencies to best display how they planned to spent their clients' money.

Butcher implored the agencies gathered within the room to “work with us, not against us". He added that those within marketing procurement departments were experienced but still learning, as were agencies.

“It makes sense to learn our jobs together and help each other... we should always be working together and to try and facilitate opening up more communications channels, that way everyone benefits,” he continued.

Dormer echoed that by stating that procurement departments wanted to see agencies grow and profit in order that they continue to work with that client for many years.

“I need them to be around for many years to help us invest in our greatest assets, so engage with me and teach me, then I'll engage with you and teach you what we need,” continued Dormer, who also advised agencies to get in touch with her or her department whenever there was an issue and not wait to let it escalate.

“Get to know me. I have many agencies that I have great dialogues with. So educate us, help us and we will be some of your best friends within an organisation. We need you to also be able to demonstrate how you are spending our money and what our return on investment is.”

Also advised by the panel during the session was that agencies should not have one port of contact with procurement departments, however all involved said that while they might run a paid-for pitch, they didn’t see them becoming the norm, and in many cases, it didn’t make sense to pay for a pitch, unless they wished to own the intellectual property on the ideas generated.

Thomas also proposed that agencies consider asking “intelligent questions” during an initial chemistry session in order to achieve cut through and to share the thought processes around the creative approach as well.

Brief Encounters also heard from Sam Viollet, external agency and business manager for Microsoft UK, and a client panel session involving Bryan Scott, marketing communications director for Metro and Kristof Fahy, chief marketing officer, William Hill.

Brief Encounters 2014 takes place on 6 November. To get on the mailing list, please email anne-amrie.sheedy@thedrum.com.

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