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By Leah Montebello
Keecia Scott and Garrett Clark of Gilead Sciences discuss strong agency partnerships, the pharmaceutical industry and how marketing procurement proved invaluable during the pandemic.
“Clients should rethink their collaboration with agencies, and begin to treat them as they would their internal team… fostering transparency, establishing efficient processes and recognizing good work”
One thing that stands out when speaking with Keecia Scott, Senior Director of Global Procurement and Strategic Sourcing, and Garrett Clark, Director of Commercial Procurement, is that they both love working at Gilead Sciences.
As a US based pharmaceutical company dedicated to developing innovative medicines for life-threatening illnesses, and with a particular focus on HIV, they both praise the “outstanding work” Gilead does. More recently expanding to oncology and with the first FDA-approved antiviral for Covid-19 treatments, the company has had to adapt and evolve its offerings.
In terms of their specific roles within Gilead, Scott heads up the global procurement team, focusing on a broad range of categories, including Commercial, HR, Contingent Workforce Program, travel and professional services, with a total spend of around $3 billion. Joining Gilead ten years ago, she started as Manager of Vendor Management, establishing Agency Management, Print Production and Fulfilment within the commercial organization.
She later established the Promotional Materials Management team, adding a Promotional Review Committee and Editorial to her team. She has witnessed first hand the significant growth of the company, including the evolution of the commercial procurement team. Prior to joining Gilead, Scott worked at a small Belgium based biotech organization where she held various roles.
Clark, by contrast, has only been at the company since October 2020, having previously worked with Gilead as a consultant, where he says “I got to learn and appreciate the Gilead way and culture within procurement and the marketing department”. Prior to this, Clark worked at both a consumer electronics manufacturer and a financial services tech platform, and explains how he wanted to be at a company where he would be proud of the work he does, making a difference by saving people’s lives.
At Gilead, Clark leads the category of commercial procurement, with a primary focus of working with creative agencies and marketing leaders who are at the frontline of getting products to market and promoting Gilead’s brands.
Agencies, Marketing, Procurement: a three dimensional partnership
With over 25 years of marketing experience, Scott discusses how there are key traits she looks for when establishing an agency relationship.
The first, and the most significant point, is actually viewing it as a partnership rather than a relationship. “When I first moved to procurement it was more of the supplier-client focus and that was the terminology we used. I think that is where it can sometimes go wrong. For me, it is more of a partnership”, says Scott.
She continues, “From a client perspective, we rely on strong supplier partnerships to achieve Gilead’s goals and objectives. As such, clients should rethink their collaboration with agencies, and begin to treat them as they would their internal team. This means fostering transparency, establishing efficient processes, and recognizing good work. It also means working closely with the agency senior leadership.
Agreeing with Scott, Clark says that the agency, marketing and procurement engagement is “three dimensional”. In the past, he said that procurement had been too “procurement-centric”, and this was reflected in the strategy they put forward. Nonetheless, he tracks that the rise of the digital world has meant that the relationship between the three has become much more dynamic.
As a result, Clark believes that transparency must be embedded within a partnership. Not only does this make “the give and take easier”, but it also leads to better work in the long run. In fact, he explains that if procurement is open and honest with agencies about marketing culture and expectations, then the agency will be more inclined to discuss pricing and the staffing mixes.
Clark believes that if you start from this genuine ground then procurement can build that into formalised agreements, where all parties have “vested and equal interest in making it a success”. He continues, “Once you have all those ingredients, speed and quality will organically happen. There is no fist pounding to get particular cost savings; it is just being open and honest about what is really required, ironing out the internal and external stressors”.
Expanding on this point, Scott discusses how this extends to actively flagging to agencies when their services may be required. By proactively contacting agencies when there is an internal opportunity, Scott believes that, in addition to strong internal partnerships, procurement can build strong partnerships with agencies, where agencies feel like procurement is working with them as a partner, rather than “clawing their way into the brand teams”, as Scott calls it. She states, “we are like the agencies’ internal business development managers”.
As well as establishing a close working partnership with your agency account team it is also recommended that a strong relationship is developed with senior leadership of an agency partner to ensure continuity at all levels. Clark also urges that partnerships can only be strong if the client and agency deliver against their promises. As such, trust needs to be baked into the culture on both sides, so even if key contacts leave, a relationship still flourishes: “We all have an equal stake in this, that’s what keeps us vested together, and we all must deliver to that”, he says.
Surround yourself with leaders
Despite having an immense responsibility and budget, Scott explains how she manages “a team of leaders, not a team of do-ers”. She elaborates, “It’s not me establishing a vision and pushing that down to the team, but it is really a team of leaders that are coming in to drive the team forward and asking what we could do better. We are aligning and supporting the business side by side, rather than top down or bottom up”.
This is echoed by Clark, who says the level of autonomy that is championed by Scott is “a category leader’s dream!”. He explains, “Keecia fully enables us to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and manage our categories as a business within a business”.
This contrasts from the traditional ideologies surrounding procurement, which Clark believes were fostered in the 80s and 90s around how procurement should be done. However, what Gilead does, in his view, is to give their leaders the autonomy to be productive: seeking opportunity and building their own strategies.
In his view, “I think of myself as a service consultant for a lot of my marketers and my agencies. I always focus on what really matters to our agencies or internal stakeholders, as opposed to what matters to procurement. In our environment, there is no mandate to use us, so we have to have some salesmanship”.
Part of this includes building a diverse team to drive autonomous business, and Scott says that diversity is “intentional in the hiring process”. Not only does it bring diversity of thought, background and experience in decision making, but it also means that the team is more successful in taking risks and learning from them in Scott’s view which drives increased productivity and innovation.
Additionally, the pandemic has also brought teams closer together. As Scott states, “By working from home, we have gotten a chance to get to know each other beyond just the surface. When we look at each other on Zoom, we see family, kids and people’s whole personalities coming into work. This is something I hope we don’t lose when returning to the office”.
Pharma as an industry
As Clark explains, the pharmaceutical industry is a highly competitive and highly regulated environment. Having previously worked in financial services, this is something that resonates with him. “Pharmaceutical industry is however unique and more complex than the financial industry. So in a situation like that, transparency at all levels is a complete must”, says Clark.
Part of this means making sure marketing managers are working with agencies or consultants in a quick, fluid and safe manner. For Scott, a unique aspect of the pharmaceutical industry is the importance of agencies having “therapeutic expertise and internal medical capabilities, rather than those that need to outsource these capabilities”.
Due to the competitive landscape, agility is incredibly important in an area as complex as pharma. Not only does the drug development process have extensive time frames, but they also need to be nimble enough when new competition or data comes into market.
All of this perhaps reveals why Scott and Clark are so keen to build partnerships with reliable agencies rather than just simply relationships; the level of flexibility and expertise can be difficult to find, and therefore companies like Gilead want to ensure they are fostering strong relations with agencies that understand the complexity of the industry to help achieve company objectives.
Procurement’s opportunity to shine
In response to commentary that marketing procurement has come to the forefront since the pandemic, Scott agrees that it has been given “the opportunity to shine, but to also step back and reimagine the way we work with the business and what our role is”. This means re-examining the purely cost-saving mindset, looking at value beyond savings.
Marketing procurement were also able to problem solve in a period of complete uncertainty. Scott cites the example of procurement re-negotiating event and physical meeting contracts, which are normally negotiated several years in advance. During this period, procurement teams were able to recoup some of the money that the company would have otherwise foregone.
Additionally, Scott emphasizes how procurement is now at the heart of strategy, helping marketing reimagine key business offerings. For instance, she describes how procurement played a key role in making the shift to digital when it came to sales meetings and how our sales force interacts with healthcare physicians; marketing procurement were there to “build stronger supplier relationships during this uncertain time”, according to Scott.
She continues, “A lot during Covid was not about saving money. It was really about efficiency and innovation. So some of the fundamentals of SRM and challenging suppliers allowed them to shine in a way they traditionally were not able to before, to really work alongside the business”.
At Gilead, this meant procurement were brought in much earlier in strategy discussions and were actually a key instrument in building strategy.
Clearly passionate about the work Gilead does and the team they have built, Scott and Clark demonstrate how leadership is about working together to achieve success for all, whether that be procurement experts, marketers, or the agencies they work alongside.
The Masters in Procurement insight series is published in partnership with RightSpend
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