Is procurement killing creativity?

I have been working in public relations for more than 16 years and although I love my job, and the industry finally seems to be adapting to the modern world, one thing that never seems to get better is the formality, bureaucracy and procurement processes that in my opinion stifle the creative sectors in this country.

Not a slender tender
For instance, most agency directors will have had that all-familiar sinking feeling of completing a tender document which usually consists of 35-50 pages, which asks terribly dull questions which usually have no bearing on the actual ideas of the marketing or PR campaign. In fact often they are a tick box exercise to ensure you have a particular healthy and safety certificate that bears no relation to anything. creative

Our creative sectors have been founded on a base of brilliant ideas and clever people but I believe the obligatory 50 page tender document you have dropped on your lap during this process is actually stopping a lot of our finest creative businesses and minds even entering the ideas stage of the work.

A huge tender document is a huge undertaking and can take days if not weeks of administration time. This is time which many smaller more agile creative people can ill afford. It is fine for the larger agencies to absorb this as part of the process but what about the smaller creative teams that only have 2-4 employees now they are looking at a much bigger challenge and often this turns them off. But in my mind this is wrong – we should find a way to give everyone the chance to share their thinking.

The second element of the process usually consists of some kind of formal marketing brief. This can often be anything but brief and can range from the brilliant to the truly shocking, believe me I have had them all as I am sure many of you have too.

Think Value not price
Now I understand the role procurement is supposed to play the department is there to help make the correct purchases at the very best price but is price always the best way to choose your product or service provider? It might work if you are buying a pencil but it’s not how I choose to buy a new car? It’s not how I buy a new TV? It’s certainly not how a football team would buy their new creative players – so why do they take creative briefs in this manner? Sure price is important because we can’t all afford the £50 million Messi-type players but that doesn’t mean we have to aim for the cheapest option available as that could lead to commercial suicide. There is a saying “buy cheap and pay twice” in this instance I think that is right. I also think that if the smaller more agile agencies are cut out then the process is even less competitive as the big agencies know they have it in the bag.

However, all this said budget is still a fundamental part of any creative brief, my social media agency prohibition received a brief a while back that was looking for a twelve month campaign with a budget of just £10,000 and this was to include costs as well. I truly have no idea how a freelancer could even make that account profitable. So budgets on both sides have to be realistic but if it’s not just about price – this is really about creativity and the actual ability to deliver. 

Creative campaigns are still about ideas
However, when considering all of these points surely it should still be the creative marketers that make the decision on who gets the campaign. If an agency is brilliantly creative and has stunning ideas but has missed a tick box off the sheet should it be ignored and then you just go with the same old safe agency? In my mind this is daft – give the best work to the best agency not the cheapest, not the one with a H&S certificate for hot coffee give it to the creative minds that can deliver. I have won pitches with brilliant ideas but the actual ideas were only given 20% of the overall score – that is plain nuts.

Do you agree? Do you think your creativity has ever been stifled by the procurement process?

Photo Credit: ArloMagicMan via Compfight cc

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