I read about a fun and fascinating study by a Syracuse University professor that found falling in love only takes a fifth of a second. And I couldn't help thinking about procurement.
Yes, I know, I'm a romantic.
But really, the professor ought to give extra thanks this year that her private school doesn't have a private-sector purchasing department. If it did, Syracuse would already have launched a review for a professor who could do a study that found falling in love takes a fourth of a second.
Yes, this is a column about purchasing-run reviews. No, I'm not going to slam them. Not much, anyway.
In the spirit of the season, allow me to offer some suggestions to procurement officers about how to do it right, rather than simply add my voice to the cacophony of bitching about the media services bogeyman. Consider it my holiday gift to all the men and women around the world whose mission it is to make media agencies miserable.
There is a real role for procurement in the marketing communications conversation. But that role isn't to lead; it's to inform.
Reviews shouldn't be beauty contests. They should be intelligent explorations of the state of the business, a fair and dignified process to identify challenges and opportunities both creative and monetary in the ecosystem of today and tomorrow, and a system whereby the best partner—not the lowest bidder—is chosen.
How many of those have you seen?
So the first thing I'd do is to suggest that clients rethink these pro forma procurement-led reviews that absolutely, positively, have to be held every three years, or 18 months, or whenever some musty old marketing playbook says they should be held. It's always good that procurement insists the company has the best view of the marketplace, but "Okay, it's been three years, let's just do it" is not going to help a client's in-house marketing groups get that perspective.
Procurement officers should launch reviews when the ecosystem changes, the company's goals evolve, or they're unhappy with the work—not the compensation—of their agencies. Not before.
The second thing I'd do is after the decision to review is made, change job one from "cut costs" to "explore options to support marketing decisions most effectively." If that's the key deliverable, it seems logical to postulate that cost savings would flow naturally from the outcome.
The third suggestion I have for purchasing is: don't flirt. If you want a serious relationship, stop stepping out on your media shop. I know this is a foreign concept to many, so let me be clear: do not review your agency if you're happy with them. Period. It's amazing what a healthy relationship can produce. Even cost savings, if that's what you need.
Look, I've been in competition my entire professional life. It's part of our industry's playing field, and it should be. There's no such thing as a sinecure in our business. And of course I'm not arguing that saving money isn't a good thing, especially in a global recession. But being inventive, nimble and forward-thinking matter a lot more.
This incessant reviewing for reviewing's sake is a waste of internal and external assets. And as euphoric as it may be to squeeze an additional dollar or so out of your shops, it quickly can become an addiction, which costs a lot more in the long run.
It's instructive to note, after all, that while it takes only a fifth of a second to fall in love, the pain of a busted love affair can last forever.
Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New York City-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at email@example.com
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