Marketing procurement: The current process for agency selection and how it can improve


Dec 16 2019

A conversation with Google, Cisco, Weber Shandwick, The Institute of Communication Agencies, BrandActive and Tag at ProcureCon Marketing 2019, Austin Texas.

Tag’s Senior Vice President, Patrick Fogarty joined top experts from Google, the Institute of Communication Agencies, Cisco and Weber Shandwick to discuss the topic of the RFP process and how this process, in its current state, can negatively affect the ability for procurement to find the right agency partner.

The panel titled “Innovative ways to approach agency sourcing while eliminating RFP ridiculousness” allowed these industry experts to have a transparent discussion about what works and what needs to changes. Here is a snapshot of their conversation around three key discussion points: 1. How do you evolve the practice of finding the right agency; 2. How do you get the marketing team to accept the process; 3. What challenges arise and how do you address these challenges.

Discussion 1: How do you evolve the practice of finding the right agency?

Moderator: Starting with the process of sourcing and finding the right agency, what happens for all of you in your companies when you start that process and how can you make that practice evolve?

Rob Panor, Cisco: I think the first, most important part of the process is gathering an understanding of what your actual requirements are. It’s not just understanding what the needs and what the wants are, but actually diving into what are their (the marketing team’s) actual goals? What are they measuring against? Once you have this broader, deeper understanding of what drives their success, what they’re measured against within their leadership, you’re able to then start using that knowledge to really build a more comprehensive sourcing strategy as you approach the suppliers for that company.

Alessandra Scocco, Google: We encourage them (our partners or suppliers) to do teaching sessions to really get to know the team. We also have specialists reviewing quotes to make sure the agencies are using the rate terms; that they’re staffing appropriately and that the induction costs are also in line with the industry.

Discussion 2: How do you get the marketing team to accept the process?

Moderator: Rob, just thinking further along, getting marketing to accept the process, is there anything unique that you do around helping get people onboard? Besides understanding the requirements; getting them onboard with the process?

Rob Panor, Cisco: You have to have that ability to show your past wins…building little wins to build your credibility as an (procurement) organization. As you build your credibility and build those wins… It makes it much easier to then act as more of a consultant, or to consider what they’re trying to achieve, versus being somebody who’s there that’s actually telling them what they should be doing.
Framing the conversation would be more of, you’re on their side, which we ought to be if everybody is working for the same company.

Discussion 3: What challenges arise and how do you address these challenges?

Moderator: What are the typical challenges happening when you say, “Look. I always do this. I never get access to that. This always happens, that always happens.”

Leah Power, Institute of Communication Agencies: Lack of information, I think, is a big one. Lack of budget and lack of access to the evaluation team and the people who are directing.

Frank DeRosa, Weber Shandwick: To echo some of (Leah’s)comments I whole-heartedly agree. I think the three biggest challenges I have, she just spoke of. I’m going to add another one and sometimes it’s the ridiculous timelines. There’s times we get RFIs, RFPs; there could be 50, 100, 150, 200 questions. We’re asking ourselves, “Is this information really needed to help you make an informed decision on who you want to work with?”

Sometimes we feel like “this RFP could just be repurposed. Somebody could be using it tomorrow.” But we read the instructions and we’re like, “Well, if we don’t answer all the questions, we get disqualified…we want to be thorough, we want to put our best foot forward and it’s almost like garbage in, garbage out, right? We want to help you guys to choose the right partner, and we also want to know are we choosing the right partner? Because at the end of the day, this is a relationship. It’s really not a one-off. It’s not just a project. We’re looking at this from a long-term perspective. We’re investing a lot of time and resources up front, just as a part of this process inherently.

Patrick Fogarty, Tag: I completely agree. I think it comes down to, a lot of times, wrong tool. Procurement people grow up in a certain environment and then they transition maybe into a marketing role and they still bring the tool kit that they have from the previous 10 years. A lot of hands went up earlier that said, “I’ve been doing this 10, 15, 20 years.”

Everything tends to look like a nail when you only have a hammer…It’s looked at through the lens of price and when you get into creative production, and walk through translation and transcreation, it’s really hard to put everything through the lens of price. Because frankly, you’re leaving most of the value on the table.

What’s next?

At Tag, we understand from our clients, marketing and/or procurement for both brands and agencies, that the traditional RFP process does not always result in the right partnerships or desired outcomes.

Through our decades of experience with companies of various sizes, we found that the answer is a shift from RFP to RFS (request for solution), and we’ve tested this process. Here is what it looks like:

  1. Begin internally with key stakeholders to identify immediate needs and longer-term goals
  2. Engage a small pool of trusted suppliers in an initial, face-to-face conversation where you present a business problem along with long term outcomes
  3. Allow suppliers to ask questions and further clarify needs and solutions
  4. Suppliers submit a written response (no more than 3 pages)
  5. Based on response, the final supplier is selected

To find out more about the request for solution and how Tag works with brands and agencies to deliver results in cost efficiencies, value innovation and growth for marketing procurement, contact us.


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