Procurement has a branding problem...

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a dinner late last year organized by Adforum. This was a great opportunity to meet many of the new business leaders from the leading US agencies as well as numerous other advertising folk.

This forum is a really effective way for consultants like me to gain a deeper understanding of the agencies that are vying for our clients' business and has a fantastic reputation both in the US and more globally - I met friends from the UK, Denmark, Germany, Australia and France at the dinner so it really comes across as a multicultural event!

At the start of the evening there was a lot of introductions being made and people were meeting and greeting each other with smiling enthusiasm. I was making my way around the room and was introduced to a very cool looking dude (beard, slick clothes and shoes etc) who turned out to be a Chief Creative for one of New York's advertising behemoths. We started chatting about nothing in particular and then he asked what I did...before I had the opportunity to respond he said "I presume you're a creative - what shop are you at?". After chuckling to myself and smiling, my colleague (who made the introduction) piped up (with some glee...) - "he's not a creative...he's PROCUREMENT!"

Anyone who works in marketing procurement will likely have experienced the response to telling an Ad Man that you are 'in procurement' - his reaction was was as if I had told him I was a used car salesman! He physically recoiled at the word 'Procurement' and then, on realizing that his reaction was obvious, he tried to backtrack by saying "...oh...well you don't look like procurement". At this point I felt obliged to help him out and went through the usual script of "I understand that you have probably had some tough experiences with procurement but we're not all that bad...etc". After a few more minutes of uncomfortable conversation, I wondered off chuckling to myself but it got me thinking...

We have a problem with our brand that is going to take some efforts to overcome. Due to poor experiences through the years we have been painted as a scourge on the marketing industry being blamed for everything from ad fraud to stifling the growth of Sir Martin Sorrell's empire.

The disappointing thing is that there are some great stories of procurement helping clients to get the best out of their agencies where both parties win - the trouble is, the stories never get any air time in the ad press. We have to find a way of popularizing the great work that procurement can do so the next time you tell someone you're 'procurement' they won't make 'that face'!

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