Marketing Procurement: At least 5 partners in every deal, not just 1

May 4, 2016

By Mary Ann Brennan, ANA AFM Committee chair, West Coast chapter

Imagine a world of cross-functional experts who partnered together across agency, finance, legal, marketing, and marketing procurement disciplines because they all had experience in one another’s fields of expertise? How different would that world be from today and why? Could we in fact become far better cohorts such that our relationships would grow to new heights? Possibly. The challenge is that gaining experience in these areas of expertise may not be realistic or achieved quickly by all, so the question then becomes, what can we do to become better cohorts in the meantime?

Let’s start with the concept that becoming a subject matter expert doesn’t only mean understanding the functional knowledge of say, marketing, procurement, the agency world, finance, legal, etc. It actually means putting yourself in the shoes of the other role that you are trying to do business with, truly thinking through what their priorities are versus your own, and finding ways to meet the needs of each group while working toward the same goal. It’s called Servant Leadership.

“Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid.’ By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” — Wikipedia 

There are plenty of articles and various conference topics on how to better manage agency and marketing procurement partnerships. Yet, the need to manage partnerships continues to be a far greater need than the challenge in managing the relationship between these two groups alone. What about marketing, legal, or finance? Local vs regional vs centralized marketing or procurement and agency organizations? Or the partners that agencies work with to get what the clients need executed such as production partners? How do we all become better cohorts? There are at least five partners in every deal, not just one.

Each of these internal and external partnerships play a very important role in the marketing supply chain. And each of these groups relies on the others to achieve success and drive continuous improvement. No matter which groups are working together, or if you are overseeing the entire process as a marketing procurement professional, the following are seven keys to better partnerships that all involved parties should follow. Keeping in mind that everyone has a stake in the game, these are based on conversations, white papers from trade organizations, committee meetings and conference discussions, and specific experiences those managing these relationships have shared to date.

  1. Seek to understand
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  4. Lead by serving
  5. Know your finance, do your analytics
  6. Review and evaluate beginning to end
  7. Exemplify flexibility & adaptability always


Considering most of us do not have the time to take all the necessary courses to become subject matter experts in marketing, and do not have the chance to change jobs in an attempt to truly understand other perspectives, what we can do is try to follow these easy steps on a daily basis and consciously work toward Servant Leadership. This will hopefully make us better cohorts and help solve the partnership gap that continues to exist. That said, taking courses or getting the experience to truly be a subject matter expert is the ultimate gateway to driving better partnerships as is realizing that all deals involve at least five partners, not just one.

Mary Ann Brennan is the senior director of global procurement at Mattel. She currently chairs the ANA AFM West Coast Committee and has served as host of the 2013 ANA Advertising Financial Management conference and chair of the ANA Marketing Procurement Mentorship Program. Prior to Mattel, she held marketing roles with increasing levels of responsibility for 17-plus years within the financial services, entertainment/theme park, telecommunications, and non-profit organizations.


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