Davis Demystifies Procurement

SOUTHAMPTON, BERMUDA Ad executives should consider asking procurement officials for a reference on behalf of their agencies.

That was just one of the points made by New York-based consultant Joanne Davis, whose breakout session here at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ management conference was titled, “The Power of Procurement in a Pitch.”

Even if an agency didn’t win the account in which a procurement team was used, it should consider obtaining a reference from that procurement team (provided the interaction was positive) to use in future solicitations, Davis said.

Davis took the audience, comprised largely of agency new business executives, through the various steps and missteps of dealing with procurement.

Among the most common mistakes agencies make is in assuming procurement is all about getting the lowest fee for a client. But Davis said that she’s had experiences in which procurement people say they will gladly negotiate a higher fee if they’re dealing with an agency whose strategy and creative not only are first rate, but which is also efficient.

Davis’ presentation stressed a message of inclusion from agencies when dealing with procurement people, whom she called “data jockeys” who are eager to learn as much as possible about an agency’s processes.

And because they are involved in the review process from the pre-pitch through the finals, it’s in agencies’ best interests to work well and intelligently with procurement teams.

“Procurement people more and more will be sitting at the table during presentations,” Davis said, listing subjects they will inquire about such as agency processes, incentives structure, accountability, reference checks and evaluating consistency.

Afterwards, Joe Grimaldi, CEO of Interpublic Group’s Mullen in Wenham, Mass, said that the presentation was useful because “procurement is a part of life. The bigger the account, the more apt it’s going to involve procurement.”

He estimated that within the past five years, the frequency of procurement processes in reviews has increased more than 50 percent and almost 100 percent in accounts above $100 million.

“The session reinforced all the things we’ve learned,” Grimaldi said. “You really have to understand their prerequisites to have a successful relationship.”

Jan Boyle, managing partner of New York-based consultancy Matchworks, said that Davis’ advice about “bringing them [procurement people] into the room seems like common sense, but the reality is, everyone [in agencies] is trying to push them away.”