Has Indirect Procurement Earned a Seat at the Curriculum Table?

March 27, 2017

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

There are roughly 100 companies within the Fortune 500 that have globally notable brands (at a quick glance.) Some of these are client facing companies that provide commodities or services and others are the companies that they partner with, e.g. advertising agencies, logistics and technology companies and so forth.

An assumption could be made that with a notable brand comes significant marketing spend that then sits within a company's indirect procurement spend. Typically, savings obtained with the support of procurement are reinvested into the company to drive revenue. If this assumption is true, then companies with significant marketing spend and notable brands are likely going to need marketing procurement talent so that they can capitalize from the value of managing their third party marketing relationships most effectively and increase revenue. Best in class marketing procurement organizations drive $X+ in revenue for every $X spent in overhead (calculation ties directly to company size and marketing procurement transformation stage).

In glancing at career postings on sources such as LinkedIn and Glass Door and in staying connected to the various marketing procurement opportunities over the past ten years through trade organizations, conferences and peer networks, many of these notable brands are struggling in finding solid marketing procurement talent and even indirect procurement talent in general.

Why is this? Some food for thought and a potential solution:

  • Facts
    • There is a gap between the demand for marketing and indirect procurement talent and the talent pool to fill these roles.
    • There is a gap in the education curriculum in undergraduate and M.B.A. programs in regards to marketing procurement.
    • There is a gap in the Masters of Science curriculum in regards to marketing procurement.
    • And for undergraduate or graduate degrees focused on Supply Chain, there is no focused curriculum for indirect procurement of which marketing procurement is a subset of.
  • So if none of these undergraduate and graduate educational forums provide insights into indirect procurement, much less marketing procurement, then how else will someone that wants to become a marketing sourcing professional or an indirect procurement sourcing professional become a subject matter expert in marketing and best support marketing procurement or indirect procurement at their company unless they either:
    • transfer from marketing into procurement, a rare event
    • come from an agency and move client side into procurement, even more rare
    • create a procurement organization at an agency, extremely rare

The solution seems quite easy in concept, the education system needs a curriculum for undergraduate and graduate marketing, finance and supply chain professionals that teaches these supply chain and finance students the art of indirect procurement as a whole and for marketing students, teaches them the art of marketing procurement. This way the gap between the marketing procurement and indirect procurement talent pool and those with undergrad and grad marketing, finance and supply chain degrees can be bridged more closely such that the talent pool of indirect procurement and marketing procurement professionals may start to grow and the fear and lack of awareness in indirect procurement will start to diminish and become more of a well-known commodity and reliable resource by these Fortune 500 companies. Also, those companies with notable brands, large marketing budgets and agencies that see the value will be able to find better candidates to fill these roles, learn to value marketing procurement, ensure they hire solid talent for these roles and obtain the benefit of repurposing spend to drive revenue, offset cost impacts and/or fund growth.

Educational institutions such as the University of Southern California and the University of San Diego have begun to understand this gap and have been open to discussing how best to incorporate an indirect procurement education, e.g. through guest speakers, through case studies presented by leading marketing procurement organizations, through partnerships with companies to set up procurement internships, through an in person and online certification program, and so on.

The next step or action item to start to innovate in this area and act upon this is to incorporate a curriculum required to graduate that is focused on indirect procurement and specifically Marketing, IT and Logistics procurement which are all key areas of spend for many leading company indirect procurement organizations.

A perfect world will be when this gap is closed because we have more talent than we do marketing procurement or indirect procurement jobs in the market place and when the Head of Supply Chain, CFO or CEO and CMO of Fortune 500 clients and/or agencies all have marketing procurement on their list as critical groups that can help deliver a sustainable competitive advantage to the company's future by sourcing internship and full time talent from the various undergrad and grad programs which include indirect and marketing procurement curriculum as a requirement to graduate.

Now wouldn't that be cool? I personally can't wait.


Mary Ann Brennan is senior director of global procurement at Mattel and is the chair of the ANA Advertising Financial Management Committee, West Coast Chapter. Mary Ann is presenting as part of the members-only discussion breakout at the 2017 ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, May 23-26 in San Diego, Calif.

comments (2)

Sopan Shah

October 20, 2017 12:23pm ET

Well put Mary Ann. What can we, those in this profession, do to help jump start this educational divide? Could the ANA help make that link to higher education institutions to start it off?

Elliot Lum

October 25, 2017 1:50pm ET

Thank you for posting such an articulate and thoughtful synopsis on the disconnect between industry and academia with respect to marketing procurement. It addresses the core mission of the ANA’s Educational Foundation, which is to bring the academic and industry communities closer together. In fact, we recently published a study to highlight this very specific issue: “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting the Future Pathways to Growth.” (You can find that study here: http://aef.com/building-talent/pathways2020/ )

We would love to enfranchise you in this movement in helping to build supplementary curriculum just on the current practice and scope of marketing, which would be used by thousands of professors who are teaching the next generation of our industry’s leaders. Reach me at el@aef.com.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.