Malaysia Opinions Updates

Does the procurement process value creativity?

It’s the time of the year that most corporate companies, especially FMCG brands, are calling creative agencies in to pitch for the events planned for 2018. Generally from quarter 3 each year, many agencies would invest a lot of time, effort, money and resources to prepare for these pitches and we always hope for at least a fair pitch. In most cases, we face the process of procurement.

Corporate procurement unit is responsible for the coordination and oversight of the sourcing strategy, selection and contract execution for goods and services, in other words to ensure all tenders or pitches are processed fairly.

But, what is considered fair and fair to whom?

Unfortunately, from our experience, quite a large number of pitches these days are focused on the total figure on the bottom right of the quotation (best price policy) and not on the best concept or ideas that is focused on participants’ experience at the event which may lead to fulfilling the event and business objectives. Many quotations and proposals were compared, but it’s always difficult to compare apples to apples because events involve a broad spectrum of ideas, technologies and creativity.

How can we ensure that the procurement process is fair?

Ideally, the corporate procurement team should get sufficient event exposure onsite in order for them to tell the difference between the different brands of equipment or the different finishing of build ups. Without the relevant experience, the selection process could be at risk.

A more detailed expectation with range of budget should be made known during the event brief – so that all agencies pitching for the same brief will be guided, and there can be limit to ideas. A good event brief will usually show past years’ event photos, expectations, areas of improvement, all of which are mandatory to have, and a budget range. A proper event brief will help to maximize the agencies’ creativity based on the event objectives instead of spending time guessing what the event outcomes should be. Yes, we all know there is no such thing as “Don’t be restricted by budget. Be creative.” We can still be creative if we know the budget range, it will then show how creative we are to work within the given budget.

Realistic timeline to prepare for a pitch or bid. We had a regular client that called 7 agencies to pitch for their annual events, whereby the brief for almost 11 events was conducted 2 days before everyone went for the Chinese New Year festive break and the submission deadline was less than 14-days (including the Chinese New Year public holidays). In the end, at least 40% of the events didn’t materialized because project owners were not sure what they wanted at the point of bidding.

Strict confidential and non-disclosure policy. I believe many agencies have experienced clients using the concept and drawings without getting engaged by the client. This is indeed very common in the industry, and what can the industry players do to curb these unethical practices? How can the procurement unit enforce better policy to protect the vendors?  Industry associations should really champion the management of such unfair behavior.

Always check the track record of an agency before inviting them to a pitch. If an agency is very new to the team, a company profile presentation and client references should be made mandatory.

Lastly, there are many different type of event agencies – if you need an activation or road show agency, then don’t invite a travel agent to pitch. If you need a conference agency, then don’t invite an exhibition house to pitch. Always remember that not every event agency can excel in every type of event.

Ronald Lim is co-Founder of Think Tank Productions, an event production agency based in Malaysia.