AFM Conference Co-Chair Discusses Supplier Diversity Strategy

By Greg Wright

The ANA previously announced the co-chairs for the 2023 ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, which includes Simona Rabsatt Butler, senior director of media, events, and sponsorship at Visa.

In this interview with Simona, we discuss the upcoming ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, as well as key challenges facing marketing procurement in 2023 and beyond— including the importance of perception, storytelling, and celebrating wins to ensure the enterprise understands the value procurement brings, as well as the need for diversifying supply chains, and maintaining a strong talent pipeline.

Simona also supports Visa's DEI efforts, co-leading the finance internship program, Women in Global Sourcing (WiGS) and other internal organizations. She is an executive committee chair for ANA's Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) supplier diversity pillar and has worked in the sourcing and procurement for more than a decade, with experience in strategic sourcing, negotiating, contract modeling, supplier diversity, and investment managing within the marketing category.

First, thank you for co-chairing this conference and taking a few minutes to discuss the marketing procurement profession. There has been an ongoing discussion about how procurement teams' perceptions of themselves often differ from how the marketing teams and agencies view them. What can procurement teams do to ensure the entire enterprise understands the value they bring?

Excited to co-chair this year, thanks for considering me. Perception is the key word in your question. To help change that and drive our value, for me, it comes down to telling our stories — our sourcing success stories. Highlight our wins and successes, we need to improve how we share these achievements. As sourcing professionals, we tend to keep our heads down and get the work done. It's time to come up for air and share. Take the time to celebrate our wins and find a platform and cadence to do so. In celebrating our work and partnering with our business partners we also strengthen our partnerships.

What is the biggest challenge facing marketing procurement in 2023 and beyond?

There are a few challenges I see marketing procurement facing. One is speed to business with the processes and technology to support those efforts. Another is where I continue to drive engagement which is diversifying supply chains by proactively pushing to leverage diverse suppliers in support of breaking down equity barriers. And a third area is the talent pipeline, educating, finding, succession planning, and maintaining talent with strong skills, open minds, and the desire to navigate today's new ways of working post-COVID.

As you noted, supplier diversity is an important strategy for procurement, especially in marketing and advertising. How has its importance evolved in the last few years?

The social unrest of 2020, the murder of George Floyd, the January 6th insurrection, and other societal events in the U.S. are a constant reminder we have much more to do. Corporate America has a part in doing more. Step changes have been made and these events have heightened once again the awareness and importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) as well as supplier diversity. What I hope to see is sustained efforts and strategies. There is still so much more work to be done and a wealth of passionate professionals putting in the good fight. Let's stop talking about it and do it!

Let's do it! Where does the industry need to take supplier diversity programs to achieve this goal?

First, we need to stop referring to supplier diversity as a program. Programs and initiatives have a beginning and an end. Supplier diversity is a sustainable proactive strategy to support a company's growth and evolution no matter the size and scale. All parts and levels of the organization should be held accountable to the success of DEIB within their organization and supplier diversity is just one part of the overall story.

We're incredibly excited that you'll be co-hosting the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference this year. You've been a long-time attendee and speaker at this conference. What makes you most excited to host the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference?

It is an honor to host this year's ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference. To follow in the footsteps of a myriad of industry leaders in this space is humbling. It excites me to lead attendees through a wealth of industry topics and challenge how we as leaders are thinking, talking, and succeeding on these topics, as well as being a catalyst for striving to evolve marketing sourcing and financial management to keep pace with business demands.

This conference provides a great opportunity for marketing procurement professionals to give them breathing room, space to think, ideate, network, learn, share, grow, and gather a new perspective. As sourcing professionals, we spend a lot of time with numbers, contracts, conversations, negotiating, influencing, etc., and this conference allows me the space and room to learn from others, think about things differently, challenge my perspective, and find ways to incorporate learnings into my role.

Thank you to Simona Rabsatt Butler for her time and for co-hosting the 2023 ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, which will be held April 30 to May 3 in Phoenix and virtually. Hope to see you there!

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Greg Wright is the VP of content marketing at Association of National Advertisers. In his role at the ANA, Greg Wright manages the marketing organization area, which includes in-house agency, marketing procurement, production management, and agency relationship management. Prior to joining the ANA, Greg managed executive and member communications and marketing in-house for the AICPA. Greg has an M.B.A. in Marketing and a B.A. in Political Science and Geography.