Vale International Takes a Fresh Look at the Role of Procurement

"If there was a prize for the most disliked person in the marketing communications industry and the voters were marketing or agency professionals," says Jorg Borgwardt, Managing Partner of Vale International Ltd., "the clear winner will be the purchasing officer."

However, he believes it may be time to think differently.

A recent global survey by Vale International Ltd. among independent communications agencies showed that only 25% of procurement professionals were involved in defining the agency brief, yet 75% were involved in challenging costs associated with the jobs agencies were tasked to perform.

He outlined: "Agencies don't like purchasing officers because they 'don't understand nor care about what is required in the strategic and creative process.' Marketing people say they 'stand in the way.' And, bottom-line oriented managements will always expect the procurement professionals 'can still do better'."

According to Borgwardt, "The weapon of the purchasing agent is the calculator. The weapon of marketing and advertising people is an idea. No two instruments could be more diametrically opposed; the one made of metal and plastic will always beat the one made of grey matter and imagination. So why get into an uneven fight?"

He suggests that the best route forward is to consider how to create value for an idea that will win over those whose job it is to count beans. The starting point is to think about the obstacles that purchasing officers create and why they do it. Perhaps they are simply operating the way they always have when evaluating any type of product. They just might be willing to change if someone tells them how.

“Help them understand that they’re purchasing value and not time,” says Borgwardt. “Convince them that the effect will be bigger than the peanuts saved. In fact, the more they come to understand the power of advertising, the greater their chances at helping their corporation and creating a more rewarding professional life.”