Beware The Bottom-Feeders: When Procurement Turns Thinkers Into Executors
What's astounding about the rise of procurement in marketing services is the degree to which they place so little value on the power and cultural currency of Big Ideas. Witness 2009. Having already rolled over the media services operations and account service functions being provided by their agency partners -- asking for everything from money back to blended hourly rates that can barely afford a 50K FTE -- the question is, do they really think they've won? What did they win? Another half of an FTE? Or a mid-level media supervisor holding down the responsibilities of an account director? It makes this creative wonder if they know the difference between our thinkers and our executors.
But if it's executors they want, it's executors they shall have. Until they realize, as few smart CMOs have, that the strategic thinking and creative business is no place for Six Sigma. It's where ideas are born, nurtured, shepherded and communicated until the customer starts talking -- and buying.
As an industry, who among us will be brave enough to stand up and clarify that we are ultimately in the IDEA business - not just the billings tonnage and stock price business? In this climate of procurement driviving poetry in motion, it looks bleak for ultimate value of ideas.
As long as topline revenue growth drives holding company stock prices up, public agencies will be forced to negotiate the value of their people and their ideas down to ensure the tonnage of dollars continues to flow.
Perhaps we put ourselves here. As buy/sell technology platforms have crossed the chasm from Silicon Valley, purportedly making media planning and buying more efficient, agencies and digital media networks have become seduced by scale rather than by skill. The embracing of these platforms of scale under the guise of efficiency ultimately leads to only one place -- the commoditization of media inventory on the sell side, and, with procurement officers running wild through the halls of our biggest spenders -- the devaluation of strategic thinking and ideas on the buy-side.
Happy 2010. The year we make Contract?