Friday, January 08, 2010

The Year Of Viewer Procurement

If you haven’t yet read Alan Schulman’s article on procurement – “Beware the Bottom-Feeders: When Procurement Turns Thinkers Into Executors,” do so now.

Alan is a creative sort. And, as you’ve probably already derived from his description of procurement practitioners as "bottom-feeders," a bit fed up.

Alan challenges the industry to have someone come forward, someone as he puts it, “Brave enough to stand up and clarify that we are ultimately in the IDEA business.

Alan’s right about that. But, unfortunately, marketers are in the data business.

I know, good ideas lead to good data. But most CMOs don’t have the cajones to let a good idea play out so that the data will have them looking like the star they want to be.

So, instead, they bring in the procurement experts to control costs on the input end of the equation. Even though it’s the output that will make them famous.

It’s a battle that I’m afraid won’t be won through words. If creatives want to win back their rightful place as idea merchants, then they will have to earn it. And, ironically, the way they’ll need to earn it is through data.

Currently agencies are paid based on hourly time sheets. The more the idea cost to come up with, regardless of its effect in the marketplace, the more the agency makes. Even agencies have to admit that this model is somewhat skewed to their advantage.

Even if the idea that eventually gets produced was concocted in the first five minutes of creative brainstorming, the agency is going to present a plethora of ideas, if for no other reason than to justify their fee.

Alan wants the brave creative agencies to come forward. And, they should. But perhaps what they should come forward with is a new idea. Not to suggest that marketers eliminate procurement. But rather, have the viewer be the procurement agent rather than the marketer.

Digital data now tells us how long someone who opted-in to watch a commercial actually watches it for. Is this not a measure of how well the commercial worked? Not in the marketplace, no. But a measure of how well the commercial worked versus dollars spent to create the commercial. The one thing that we do know is that the longer a commercial is watched, the greater the chance of a sale occurring.

So what if agencies put their money where their mouth is and have some of their fee be contingent on how well their idea actually involves the viewer? The longer they engage viewers in the commercial, the more the agency and production company will make. The less time they engage the viewer for, the less the agency and production company will make.

In this way, procurement will be based on outputs rather than inputs.

Rather than limiting the impact of the idea up front, viewer procurement will instead impact how much money the agency makes.

Bravery is indeed needed in this New Year that’s upon us. But instead of agencies bitching about how procurement officers are weakening their ideas, maybe they need to try a different tact when it comes to making money.

Actually earn it.

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