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Maryl Adler discusses the role of the marketing procurer and how transparency and alignment is the way forward.
“I think one of the barriers is that they [procurement leaders] cannot solve it on their own, and so it’s not just procurement leaders agreeing they need to change and focus on value beyond saving, but it’s really a CFO, CPO, CEO, and the marketing directors altogether, that need to embrace that change”.
Following Maryl Adler’s opinion piece on how procurement can drive innovation through partnership, Marketing Procurement iQ had an in-depth conversation with Adler to discuss where she sees the future of marketing procurement in light of her recent report, “Striking the Balance: How Stronger Brand-Partner Relationships Fuel Long-Term Value”.
Having entered the marketing procurement world by chance, Adler joined MediaMonks as the VP Business Strategy in April 2020 after over five years at Danone as the Global Category Lead Strategy & Insights, having previously held similar positions at both PepsiCo and Heineken.
Her role at MediaMonks is self-defined as a commercial sparring partner of the Monks, providing and driving commercial leadership across the company. One of her focus areas is demystifying marketing procurement for mainly the Client and Growth Monks, and as she explains, “is more like educating internal people about what is critical [to procurement]… what kind of language to use and what KPIs are important”.
With this in mind, Adler’s blend of both client and agency experience gives her an interesting lens for the key procurement questions of today…
The best type of marketing procurers
Similar to Darren Woolley’s recent article on Marketing Procurement iQ, ‘Where do the best marketing procurement people come from?’, Adler believes that there is no clear and defined persona for success. However, what she does concede is that “the best people often have a background in marketing and ideally a mix of marketing and agency”. This is due to their ability to see both sides of the coin and nuances of client-agency relations; they appreciate the creative process, but also know the importance of value for money and internal pressures.
Describing the standard training for procurement as “old-fashioned”, she says that companies need to build more comprehensive procurement training, which focuses on where you can add value in a meaningful way, and not just focusing on parts of the supply chain in relation to the marketing budget alone.
For example, one way to achieve this could be having a more open dialogue with suppliers, encouraging them to highlight where value can be found and not just focusing on the cheapest bid. This ultimately makes for better procurers.
Evolving the pitch process
Despite it being fifteen years since the Magic & Logic report, which detailed fraught relationships between agencies and clients, it still feels like the same pressures are bubbling beneath the surface of pitches.
In Adler’s view (crucially having sat at both sides of the table), the future of the pitch process is about clients having more respect for agencies and appreciating the investment of time and money it takes to deliver pitches. This situation is often exasperated by short timeframes and unrealistic bids, where personal connections trump creative content and ultimately impact the quality of work.
In practical terms, she views the evolution as encouraging better communication and transparency, and reframing the role of the procurer as an “intermediary between marketing and agencies to make sure they run a proper process”. This requires a level of honesty between all sides and aims to build a better culture of work; it also means bringing procurement experts in at an earlier stage to help manage this process. With this perspective, agencies become partners rather than just suppliers, and procurement is the key conduit in developing this richer relationship.
Marketing procurement as an investment rather than a cost-cutting exercise is embedded throughout Adler’s approach and conversations around procurement are framed by two key questions: how can you grow the brand, and how can you develop KPIs that go alongside this growth?
As such, when discussing WFA’s Project Spring, the global sourcing initiative designed to transform the value proposition of marketing procurement, Adler was keen to emphasise the challenges that may lay ahead for the initiative.
She explains, “I think one of the barriers is that they [procurement leaders] cannot solve it on their own, and so it’s not just procurement leaders agreeing they need to change and focus on value beyond saving, but it’s really a CFO, CPO, CEOs, and the marketing directors altogether, that need to embrace that change”.
In fact, a recurring issue is the different objectives and conflict for marketing and marketing procurement teams: one may be tasked to save X percent, whilst the other is encouraged to build brand equity. This makes the friction between the two sides even more pertinent, and the task of Project Spring evermore challenging.
Although there is a lot of narrative about shift needing to happen, “it is still not changing if the KPIs are not changing”, Adler remarks,and teams need to align their objectives to create a more rewarding and interesting discipline for marketing procurement.
Centrality of CSR
Procurement also plays a crucial role in CSR and DE&I, and Adler underlines MediaMonks’ desire to be a “frontrunner in this area”.
For Adler, procurement is pivotal in shaping the allocation of resources and ultimately deciding whether to go for the lowest price for certain services, or investing in partners that align with the brand and consumer ethics.
On this point, she is keen to highlight the danger of choosing the lowest price, and therefore endorsing systems that don’t align with sustainability goals or ethical business. This is a conflict that has straddled different industries and ultimately reflects the fact that we are all more ethically conscious than ever before.
She explains, “It [sustainability] has become more important for our clients… but I think it only works if you’re truly behind and not just do it to tick a box and to go through an RFI process that’s not very credible”.
Adler continues, “It feels a bit contradictory to me to ask potential suppliers to agree to policies that state that we need to compensate our own staff and subcontractors fairly, and at the same time, try to squeeze our hourly rates down as much as possible”.
On the topic of more sustainable production methods, Adler was encouraged by the “healthy mix” we’ve seen over the past year of virtual and real life events. Whilst she didn’t want the remote to be the only option moving forward, the environmental impact of less travel and leaner crews has been a positive one.
Notably, MediaMonks has also committed to seeking B Corporation status in the coming year as Marketing Procurement iQ explored here, and have reassessed their production methods through the S4Capital Report.
Though Adler is optimistic about the role of marketing procurement, she is also realistic.
She understands the web of complexities that come alongside aligned KPIs, pitches and client relations, and ultimately sees the role of the procurer as one that can ease tensions rather than exasperate them.
About Maryl Adler:
Maryl is the VP Business Strategy for MediaMonks based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.