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John Lewis' Craig Inglis on procurement: ‘it’s key that our procurement team has marketing specialists in it’

Having a procurement team at John Lewis that’s filled with marketing specialists is key to motivating its marketers and driving the best agency practices, according to customer director Craig Inglis.

The retailer’s top marketer has offered up his opinion on the much maligned `practice (by marketers) following PepsiCo’s decision to scrap marketing procurement earlier this month.

Inglis believes procurement can demonstrate the commercial value of marketing to the business when focused around the customer, with the company creating a collaborative setup for the contrasting disciplines to make it happen. Part of this transition has seen the John Lewis and Waitrose businesses share the same media contract and from earlier this year the same creative agency in Adam&EveDDB in the hope of ensuring the output generates the most business and brand value.

“For us having a shared procurement function works and the key to it for us is that the guys who work within the procurement team are marketing procurement specialists, Inglis told The Drum. “They get the subtleties of marketing and they know that they are not buying widgets and that is the key, that they understand that relationships are important that creative output is not a formula and therefore the relationships can be formulaic. But they have brought efficiencies and effectiveness to the way that we contract with suppliers and the way that we buy those services in.”

His comments will likely feed the wider debate around whether procurement and marketing can ever have an amicable relationship. The argument, which has raged since the emergence of specialist digital agencies, was given a new lease of life earlier this month when PepsiCo revealed plans to give marketers control of procurement. It’s been billed as a potential pre-cursor to more enlightened marketing procurement professionals redefining themselves as managers and working within agency management teams that have a broader remit than before.

And yet this doesn't signal the end of marketing procurement. Across the 80 different global procurement teams in the World Federation of Advertisers, the general consensus is that the majority of clients are recruiting for additional sourcing talent and growing their marketing procurement teams. To ram home the point, 68 per cent of the 148 America’s Association of National Advertisers members polled believed that PepsiCo’s move is not indicative of a wider industry trend toward the detonation of marketing procurement departments.

When done well, procurement is an enabler of good business decisions and "getting the right value-based relationship in place between the brand and suppliers,” said Scott McLean, co-founder of consultancy the Intelligent Marketing Institute.

“However, in the fast changing world of modern marketing, the onus is on procurement to keep up with the pace of requirements if it is going to remain relevant as a function.”

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