Embracing the Old Enemy. Why procurement could be your greatest ally in 2010
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Guest post: Public-sector marketing ROI? Must try harder…
In this latest guest post, Rosie Doggett. co-founder of RD Squared, analyses the UK
government Central Office of Information's ten-step process for assessing the return of
investment of public-sector advertising and marketing spend.
Mark Lund, chief executive of the COI, no doubt thinks that he and his department have
covered all the bases by unveiling the 'ten step process' to making their advertising
more accountable. But look beyond the press release and there are some questions
that remain unanswered. For example, is this the biggest case of marking one's own
homework we've ever seen? Lund has an advertising-agency background, and the plan
has been pulled together by DDB's Les Binet and Sarah Carter - both ad agency
That's not to say that the plan won't go some way to interrogate COI marketing and
advertising activity. But, arguably, the model for evaluation would be far more robust
were it to be pulled together by commercially savvy, genuinely unbiased parties rather
than purely by in-house client marketers and clued-up agency folk.
Then of course, there is the fact that this will all be implemented after the horse has
bolted. It's all very well attempting to find out whether your ad campaigns actually
worked. But what about an independent process to establish if they should have been
implemented in the first place? Do we really agree with the merits of each and every
COI campaign? And if you've established that campaigns are necessary, what about
looking at whether every cost involved in launching the campaign was a fair one?
I'm not advocating the kind of penny-pinching so despised by all marketers, or the kind
of broad-brush cuts that some politicians are threatening. But somewhere in the middle
is a sensible analysis of each and every cost, a compromise that protects agency
businesses, whilst also identifying wasteful spend so that it can be recovered and
reinvested. The COI should be looking to reach this compromise so it can ensure every
pound works as hard as possible; preferably before it is spent.
The COI is effectively the largest 'client' in the country with the largest number of
taxpaying stakeholders. So, arguably, intelligent and responsible procurement is more
important here than anywhere.
Going to Marketing
Smooth relationships between UK marketing and procurement functions rest on mutual understanding of what
each discipline does, experts have said.
Ray Jones, head of communications
at the Chartered Institute of
Marketing, told SM that the onus is
on marketers to appreciate the value
buyers can add to their projects. "It
is up to [us] to keep up to date with
business and to be numerate enough
to work closely with procurement
to prove there is a good return on
investment," he said.
Purchasers should equally
understand the skills involved in
marketing, said Rosie Doggett,
founder of marketing procurement
agency RD Squared. "Marketing is
coming to terms with the fact that
it should be scrutinised - but it
should be scrutinised by people who
understand it," she said.
"If a marketing procurement person has not been trained to
understand how marketing and agencies work it can cause friction and
they will be frustrated because they won't be able to help," said
However, US marketers last month accused procurement of being
"obsessed" with cost and return on investment.
"With global procurement leading creative and media discussions,
disaster is surely on the way," said Frank Cooper, PepsiCo's chief
marketing officer for sparkling beverages, in a report in
This opinion contradicts the findings of two studies published in
Europe this year. In November SCM consultancy BrainNet found
effective purchasing can ease pressure on marketing budgets, while a
separate survey in July showed many marketers welcome procurement's
involvement in creative spend.
Clean sweep at COl
I was relieved to hear Mark Lund mention the huge pressure the COl will
be under to use (our) money more effectively, as well as the need to be
the right size, with the right practices to operate efficiently (MW 22
With, in all probability, an incoming Tory government promising to
halve budgets, the pressure he will be under to make cuts will be
significant. but any fool can halve a budget. It is absolutely key that
Mr Lund maximises the effectiveness of the COl's marketing spend, which
at £540m will need considerable justification to the taxpayer.
However there are a number of other issues he will have to deal with
too. First, if he intends to "capitalise on the government's digital
engagement programme" the COl needs a rapid re-education in how to buy
the likes of viral, search and social media campaigns, because to date
there has been a real lack of understanding with a resultant black hole
Secondly, there have been mixed messages regarding the COl's
marketing rosters, and this needs clarifying. With drastic reductions
mentioned for media, yet apparent proliferation planned for design, I
would like to hear more about exactly how he will ensure that they have
the right number of the right agencies, at the right price, across the
Overall, this is a great opportunity for Mr Lund. But if this new
broom is to really sweep clean, he must take a serious look at the COl's
existing assumptions about what is a falf price to pay for marketing
Roster shake-up at COl may not boost efficiency
I read with interest that the Central Office of Information is
splitting its 'design and creative for print ' roster into three new
frameworks in an attempt to speed up the procurement process (News, DW
24 September), but I fear this may only serve to exacerbate the real
A roster should consist of the right number of the right
consultancies, which receive the appropriate remuneration that their
If the European Union directive requires that 'all suppliers on a
framework capable of performing a contract [are] to be invited to
compete for every piece of business', then I would ask how many of the
63 consultancies that are currently listed feel that they are getting
their fair share of briefs, and therefore revenue, even before the
number of consultancies proliferates.
Also, are they all to pitch on a continuous basis?
Given that many consultancies with in the design and branding
spectrulm are multidisciplined, should the taxpayers' money really be
spent on managing another roster of, for example, 'brand engagement and
guardianship' consultancies which, in all probability, are equally
capable of providing brand valuation services. By cutting one roster to
create 11 more, will consultancies really see the benefits of increased
I'm sure that the design industry will respond diplomatically, but
the COl should ensure that it has the optimum number of consultancies so
that each can rely on getting regular work, having invested so much time
and effort in getting on to the COl's coveted rosters.