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Bruno Gralpois of Agency Mania Solutions discusses the key takeaways from the recent ProcureCon Marketing 2021 San Diego conference.
“Few professions experienced more disruption or seismic-size change than marketing procurement in the past decade. Fuelled by… an ever-changing advertising landscape, procurement professionals had no choice but to reinvent the fundamentals of their profession”
Bruno Gralpois is Author/Speaker, Thought-provocateur, Client/Agency Guru, Entrepreneur and Innovator.
In my opening remarks at the 2021 ProcureCon Marketing conference in San Diego, CA, I jokingly noted that this event was truly special, as it unexpectedly fell on the same day as National Cotton Candy Day. The connection between the two wasn’t yet obvious to an audience composed of procurement leaders from the world’s largest companies.
I then asserted that there is nothing sweeter – perhaps at the exception of cotton candy – than reconnecting in person with old friends and building new connections. It was a very genuine observation as attendees appeared delighted to escape their caged home office and catch up personally and professionally with colleagues, peers, and, yes, even with their fierce competitors.
Joke aside, it became apparent that every attendee had been affected by the pandemic and that this event was a much-needed opportunity to reengage with other knowledgeable peers on topics of urgent interest to them. The organiser brilliantly kicked off the event by inviting attendees to write down on a Post-it displayed on a large whiteboard what they were grateful for and what they expected most from the event.
It was a poignant and inspiring reminder that the world may have been halted during the health crisis, but it never stopped this passionate and caring professional community from challenging itself and seeking ways to make a difference inside their organisation and as an industry body. The hybrid event was also held virtually, allowing attendees to participate and a few speakers to present or join panels remotely, giving us a glimpse at the future of business events.
Although attendance was far lower than pre-COVID years, client-side procurement professionals and service providers enjoyed a more intimate setting that encouraged more open dialogue, more quality interactions, and debates. Let’s review some of the major themes that emerged:
Resilience and sustained change
Few professions experienced more disruption or seismic-size change than marketing procurement in the past decade. Fuelled by broader ambitions, greater stakes, and an ever-changing advertising landscape, procurement professionals had no choice but to reinvent the fundamentals of their profession, how they interact with their peers in finance and marketing, how they foster healthier and effective partnerships with agencies, and the skills needed to bring it all together. Yet, the event revealed new challenges, just to name a few:
One of these challenges is the continued evolution of a profession increasingly less focused on savings as its primary metric.
Value-based discipline in turbulent times
One of the panels I facilitated was centred around this specific topic. For years, procurement organisations established cost savings as an essential metric. A quick audience poll during the panel brought even more context as to where companies stand on this journey towards greater value creation: 36% still consider “savings” an important part of how they currently measure the value of their team; 45% see it as “somewhat important”; 18% see it as not important or not even relevant anymore.
High growth companies, like Align Technology, or mature organisations, like Warner Media, concur that savings are not high on their list, focusing instead on supporting the growth objectives of their marketing teams.
Having a seat at the marketing table is, therefore, more essential than ever, as both organisations can collaborate far more effectively. 67% of attendees have a procurement seat at the marketing table but feel that it could be better, and 8% don’t have one but are actively working on it.
It’s so critical that David Hale, Director, Enterprise Procurement & Operations at T-Mobile, refers to procurement as being “the table,” the foundation for how these organisations should align tightly.
Pablo Carreno, Procurement Team Lead – Marketing, PR, Media, News, Supply Chain at Bloomberg, sees the role of procurement as a middle ground holder, assisting both finance and marketing in achieving their joint objectives.
According to Sébastien Slek, Executive Director – Global Sourcing Marketing at WarnerMedia, procurement is a “lighthouse” guiding the organisation and proactively seeking new ways to deliver value, as his team did by launching a company-wide agency roster management tool called Agency Roster Tool, or “ART.”
Overcoming unhealthy contradictions
The machine-spun cotton candy, a device well known by parents for producing high quantities of sugar targeted at young children and their cavities, was invented in 1897 by William Morrison. Ironically, Morisson was a dentist. It’s hard not to draw a parallel to an industry demonstrating constant contradictions. Perhaps some of the most striking contradictions include the following:
Reasons for optimism
The complexity and demands of our industry will increase over time. Contradictions will continue to arise without a doubt, and procurement professionals will rise up to the challenge. Yet, attendees walked away energised by the dynamism and drive exhibited by ProcureCon speakers and panellists. So did I.
Although the health crisis significantly slowed down initiatives underway in the past two years, I witnessed true optimism among attendees, fostered by so many great ideas and best practices shared at the event.
Pablo Carreno of Bloomberg summarized it best when he declared, “Sourcing is the art of the possible,” borrowing from a famous quote by Otto von Bismarck, the conservative German statesman, diplomat, and writer.
This event reminded us that even under rather difficult conditions, resourceful and highly motivated professionals don’t hesitate to come together and make a difference.