Putting Your Pants On All By Yourself

By Tender Spot

February 27, 2012 | 3 min read

“We need some marketing input. I know there are agencies out there who specialise in this sort for thing, but it’s so difficult to find them. If only we had a procurement department…” said Nobody. Ever.

What is the point of Procurement?

You sure don’t need Procurement to find an agency. The merest rumour that you might have a fiver to spend on advertising or PR or whatever these days will result in a less than orderly clamour at your door.

You don’t need Procurement to choose from amongst these agencies either. When the Scottish Government, for example, gets around to selecting three agencies in September, they will almost certainly be the same three that their marketing people would have chosen anyway without the help of their procurement brethren.

You may say Procurement is useful to sort the wheat from the chaff. But only if you believe it would know its wheat from its chaff, can compare apples and oranges, separate the men from the boys, or meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.

You certainly don’t need Procurement to ensure value for money. Agencies have been undercutting each other’s throats for years trying to lure each other’s clients away. That’s the way capitalism works.

It’s not even as if they can be relied upon to choose the safe option. I give you Merrill, Barkers, Yellow M and even Faulds, all gone from Government rosters despite passing Procurement muster.

Of course, marketing isn’t everybody’s natural bag. If you have a financial background you may feel unqualified to choose amongst the silver-tongued snake-oil salesmen promising shiny new futures for your brand. When you spend all your time looking at cost, it’s sometimes a leap to start thinking about value. But isn’t that what you employ marketing people for? Why would you trust the judgement of Procurement over your marketing staff?

Procurement knows as much about marketing as it does about bricks. (Which it is also likely to be in the market for.) But bricks are commodities, so the buying decision is relatively simple. Thinking of design or advertising or PR as a commodity is like selling music by the minute. Never mind the quality, feel the bandwidth. And how about a volume discount?

How difficult can it be to choose an agency for yourself?

What exactly do you look for when you employ a digital agency, or a design agency, or an ad agency? Incisive thinking and planning? Creative excellence? Experience? More for your money? A face that fits? Somebody you can trust? Somebody who understands what you are trying to achieve, and who will commit to helping you achieve it?

It’s simpler than that. Do you like them? Can you work with them? Are you excited about working with them? That’s it.

These are human judgements. Judgements to which the completion of 32 pages worth of tick boxes, bank details and Human Rights Policies adds little. It’s personal. It’s emotional. And all the better for it. So in what way does sticking a whole department in the way help?

What exactly is the point of Procurement?

Answers please on a 32-page form.

Or leave a comment – always glad to spread the news.


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