Reported by Amelia Brown.

For EVCOM’s first Campfire Session of the year, we were joined by Steve Antoniewicz (Head Of Consulting at The Drum), to present recent research conducted with Tina Fegent on agency models and procurement. Members joined to explore new and emergent agency models and to fully understand a newly mapped competitor landscape and gain an advantage in the procurement process.

The Drum, who describe themselves as a “fully diversified publishing business” have been working closely with Fegent to investigate the different agency models currently deployed and have identified twenty-one easily identifiable and distinct models mapped in a handy heat map format.

Clients have been disrupted, and their needs and expectations have therefore changed. More and more it is clients who seem to be really driving the change in the agency market. In a culture where many clients want “faster, cheaper, better”, agencies need to come together and push back on how they do things. Agencies need to consider reinventing themselves, to look closely at their personal structures and models and to consider the models that are currently proving successful. How can they use their model to their advantage? How can they reinvent themselves to present a more successful model?

Steve’s presentation prompted a heated discussion amongst members. Attendees discussed the weighting in the procurement process towards money over creativity and value. As one guest said, “it’s not sustainable to continue pitching in this vein where creativity is taking a complete backseat”. The result is commoditisation. Whilst procurement’s role is to deal with price, and the role of marketing is to judge value, it was posited that a surprising amount of clients don’t bring these two elements together. A meeting of minds is required between these departments when in reality we currently find a lack of communication between the two. As one attendee commented, it often feels like “they’re not on the same side”, and there was a definite call for marketing and procurement to work together in the future.

Equally there was a call for agencies to work together, to support each other through this process. Discussion was opened about the process of procurement across different sectors, and indeed between agencies of different sizes.

Finally, the room discussed tips to use within the procurement process. One attendee suggested that as agencies, you have to understand what the motivation is from procurement. Procurement are trained to negotiate so unless you say no, they will keep asking. When you say no to procurement, if they want to work with you, they still will. If procurement continues to push for a lower price, ask them, “If you’re asking us to drop our price, what is it that we are missing?” and be incredibly clear about where you’re adding value. As one attendee posited, “in no other business would you be able to offer the same package for a less price”. Equally, if you are able to cut your price, consider why that was your price in the first place. “What are you looking for that you’re not getting from your existing agency?” is a very strong question to ask. If the client is unable to answer that one, then they are likely to go with their original agency. Don’t be afraid to ask what other agency models you are pitching against, and to ask procurement exactly what it is they are trying to achieve within this process. A lot of problems could begin to be solved if an open and honest dialogue is able to be developed from both sides.

Steve’s research sparked a vibrant and varied discussion. Thank you to everyone who attended, and thank you to Steve and Tina for beginning a fascinating conversation.

We hope to see you all at our next Campfire Session ‘The Drive for Diversity’ which will be hosted by Suki Sandhu (OBE). Register here.

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