Marketing procurement leaders are more than bean counters. From driving diversity to enabling innovative workstreams, there are several ways procurement teams drive impact within their organizations—thanks in part to standing at the heart of the relationship between a brand and its service partners.
Having worked on both the brand and the agency side, Maryl Adler, VP of Business Strategy at MediaMonks, explores the nature of these partnerships in a new report (download here). Titled “Striking the Balance: How Stronger Brand-Partner Relationships Fuel Long-Term Value,” the report details the ways that brands and their partners can achieve a truer sense of partnership through greater transparency, revised remuneration models and a commitment to shared success. Gearing up for the report’s release, we sat down with Adler to discuss some of the report’s main insights.
To start things off, what was your goal in writing this new report? What do you want brands—or perhaps our peers on the agency side—to come away from the report thinking?
Maryl Adler: Before I joined MediaMonks last year, I had spent over a decade working across categories in marketing procurement. Now on the agency side, I want to advocate for marketing procurement teams by identifying ways partners like ours can really help them drive impact and value beyond savings. This report is a starting step for those conversations, in which I want to help both brands and agencies realize what the other is looking for based on my experience in both of those worlds. Just like the title suggests, readers should finish reading with a better understanding of what a true sense of partnership is built on: a shared desire to push brands and their impact forward through creativity and innovation.
The premise of the report is largely inspired by Project Spring, an initiative by WFA that aims to help marketing procurement realize value beyond cost savings. As someone with a background in marketing procurement, how has Project Spring resonated in your procurement approach?
MA: Project Spring is a pivotal initiative that does away with the notion that procurement people are simply bean counters. Realizing that Procurement teams have the power to drive innovation and deliver value beyond cost, the WFA has done an excellent job drawing together content—articles, videos, reports and more—showcasing ways marketing procurement leaders at the world’s leading brands are doing just that.
I want to advocate for marketing procurement teams by identifying ways partners can help them drive impact and value beyond savings.
I think in the past year we’ve had a chance to really see how true that is, with the important role Procurement is playing in helping brands adapt amidst disruption. When the pandemic began, many brands had to hold onto their budgets and seek out new efficiencies. There’s also been renewed interest in CSR, with brands seeking partners that reflect their social values. Procurement is at the heart of those relationships, and teams need partners they can trust to help them achieve those goals.
A critical idea in your report is that marketing should be treated as an investment, not a commodity. Could you explain the difference? What are some initial changes in mindset brands should take?
MA: Yes! Marketing’s impact and ROI are certainly measurable, but not in the same way that your average Procurement team would benchmark the cost of commodities. For example, digital assets can’t be compared like for like, and no two creative partners are truly comparable in quality of work. That said, I recommend a series of KPIs in the report that Procurement teams can use to better determine how well a creative partner’s work has contributed to the growth of their brand—and I think that question is what’s key.
Remuneration models are an important component of procurement. You advocate for performance-based models. Why is that so—and what stops brands from using that model?
MA: This again speaks to that idea of thinking about marketing as an investment. Ideally, your partner won’t just create deliverables—they’ll find ways that you can work more efficiently and effectively, stretching the value of your dollar. A performance-based model holds your creative partner accountable for their work but also incentivizes them to go that extra mile.
The report isn’t just about changes for brands to make; you also discuss how agencies must strive toward a stronger sense of partnership. What’s a key way that agencies should change?
MA: Overall, agencies and production partners would do brands (and themselves) a favor by being more transparent to their clients, as transparency is the foundation for a strong partnership. Many agencies treat cost like a black box, for example. But if agencies went beyond hourly rates and broke down how exactly cost is weighed against seniority and creativity levels of those who do the work, it would help brands make more informed decisions, provided they understand the value that each of these different roles bring to the table. Ultimately, a partnership is built on compromise between both sides—and to do so effectively, brands and agencies must both understand one another better. That said, transparency doesn’t mean asking agencies to share confidential information like their overhead and profit margin.
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