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By Leah Montebello
Marketing Procurement expert Tina Fegent, discusses the rise, and continued rise, of this complex category and how she has built the Tina brand.
“So much has changed since then….good marketing procurement are great strategic partners… they are really calling the shots more than they ever did”
“I think the last 18 months have done us a lot of favours. We are definitely more on the top table than we ever were”
As one of the better known names in the marketing procurement space, Tina Fegent is a marketing procurement Evangelist.
Having started out in marketing procurement before marketing procurement even started out itself, her career has seen her move from brand to agency to consulting, and everything in between.
Building Tina Fegent Consulting back in 2006, she celebrated her 15th year advising clients across the globe on what marketing procurement really means.
Producers & Procurers iQ sat down with Fegent to discuss her career, her successes and the ‘Tina’ behind the Tina Fegent brand.
The early years
Having completed a Business Studies degree at Brighton Polytechnic, Fegent embarked on a corporate purchasing graduate scheme with Thorn EMI, alongside Graham Crawshaw, now a Director at CASME. Not only did this give her the first flavour of purchasing (and therefore the foundational elements of procurement), but it also confirmed “I liked spending money”, Fegent laughs.
From sourcing copolymer for the vinyl records at EMI Records, to buying parts for lamps at Thorn Lighting, Fegent used her knowledge to land roles at both BT Cellnet (now Telefonica) and GSK as Purchasing Manager: where the foundations were laid for her procurement career and where she “started a marketing procurement team when no one else was doing it globally”.
Indeed, whilst at Cellnet, Tina looked at the multi-lingual printed user guide and asked who organised the printing; the answer at the time was the advertising agency. Using her initiative, she went direct to a printer and negotiated a 50% reduction in the cost.
This is just one example of how Fegent started to carve out a specialism for cost saving and strategic thinking when there were very few UK procurement professionals in the early 1990s who were specifically buying marketing services.
Bleeding orange and beyond
A role that stands out in Fegent’s career is her role as Head of Marketing Purchasing at Orange, where she stayed for four years.
Whilst at Orange, Fegent established their very first marketing procurement team and confesses how she still has her Orange (now EE) phone number, and regularly refers to it if you talk to any ex-Orange colleagues “we all bleed Orange”.
She explains, “it was just a brilliant example of all those years ago of a brand who just did marketing so brilliantly that even twenty years on if you go abroad and see an Orange shop, you’ll always take a photo and send it around to ex-colleagues”.
In fact, she attributes this success to the brand’s ability to engage all employees in the creative output and bringing them on the marketing journey. It “felt like a family”, and Craig Inglis’ time at John Lewis is the only other that Fegent could think of that captures the same level of brand affiliation (this is largely due to his widely praised Christmas advert campaigns that have not only boosted the brand, but have also driven sales).
By 2003, Fegent had procured every category of marketing services from Lucozade Sports bottles to sponsorship of Orange Arrows Formula One Racing, and made the ultimate shift to the other side: the agency side.
Approached by the Grey Group, Fegent realised how “agencies just didn’t know how to deal with procurement” and she became probably the first procurement person to join an advertising agency as a Commercial Director.
Whilst this shift from brand to agency may not be as novel now as it was in 2003, Fegent’s move was reported in Campaign as “gamekeeper turned poacher” and caused a stir in the agency world. But for Fegent, it was the “right time”.
On the agency side, Fegent was able to understand the intricacies behind how agencies operate both from a process point of view and commercially. It also provided an insight into the relationship that agencies/suppliers have with their clients, both marketing and procurement, who were steadily increasing in number and influence at clients.
Covid is a watershed for procurement
Taking this blend of agency and brand work, Tina Fegent Consultancy is an amalgamation of her different knowledge and expertises, which Fegent now rolls out to her clients. With recent work including SSE and Visit California, she has a blend of brand and agency work on her invoice sheet.
On marketing procurement more generally, she expresses her annoyance towards people who claim that marketing procurement is a “new” specialism since she has been working in the field for 28 years. However, she does accept “it is much more of a common and accepted role than it ever was”.
Telling me an anecdote of a meeting she had many years ago where the CPO “just didn’t get marketing procurement”, Fegent confesses this is the only time she has ever cried at work. She was so frustrated that despite being years ahead of the market with the category plans that she had presented, she was completely shut down and the importance of the work was totally unappreciated by this senior CPO.
Nonetheless, Fegent admits, “So much has changed since then and good marketing procurement are great strategic partners… they are really calling the shots more than they ever did”.
To Fegent, Covid was a watershed moment for marketing procurement in many ways, where they really “earned their spurs”. She says, “I think the last 18 months have done us a lot of favours. We are definitely more on the top table than we ever were”.
Comparing it to other areas of procurement, marketing procurement has at least 17 different categories and countless subcategories, which makes it a complex area to work. This is something that is becoming increasingly more complicated as you incorporate more technology solutions into marketing delivery, as well as her 20 (soon to be 22) different agency models, and a very oversupplied marketplace of both agencies and suppliers.
Therefore, Fegent believes that marketing procurement is not only here to stay, but also a booming area for growth and learning.
The best type of procurement and procurers
Although she concedes that for some clients procurement is “all about money”, she believes that procurement should strive to be an equal partner.
In light of the WFA’s Project Spring, Fegent believes that marketing procurement should work closely with other parts of an organisation. “The ones [marketing procurement teams] I think work best are the ones with dual reporting and the ones that sit with their stakeholders… I think coming out of the pandemic, the most successful procurers will be the ones who are co-located and they are seen as an equal partner”, she urges.
Not only is this unity better for culture, but it also leads to a more strategic mindset: Fegent cites the pharmaceutical marketing sector as a key example of when this is done well.
On the procurers themselves, Fegent advises those starting out should “spend time on the other side” and “should put themselves in someone else’s footsteps on the supplier’s side”.
She urges that procurement leads should spend actual time with teams, and “not just go in and have a chocolate biscuit and coffee”. They should spend weeks, even months, working with the teams to “experience life on the other side”. Regarding this as phenomenal learning, she believes this will help procurers better manage themselves internally and their costs.
This is notably something that Fegent has executed in her own career, and her extensive client list is perhaps testament to the true value of it!
Positivity saves the pitch process
There has been extensive commentary on the pitch process and whether it is broken, and although Fegent has regularly entertained the topic, she was keen to state that it was definitely not damaged beyond repair: “The tender process is to make sure you treat everyone fairly, from the government, to private companies…That’s what the pitch process is there for. There is absolutely no way it is broken”.
Fegent urges that we should move away from complaining about the process and instead highlight the changes that can be made to make it better. For example, she suggests it should be more adaptable; standard tender documents need to be modified to fit marketing procurement or to consider different options to a traditional pitch process.
She continues, “We [marketing procurers] get mocked for saying to our bosses that marketing is different, but it is. We are buying people… let’s work with people to educate and find out the alternatives, and engage with resources such as CIPS and ISBA”.
Despite procurement’s critics, including Scott Knox, who says “During the pandemic Procurement and other red tape within client organisations has been sidelined”, Fegent suggests we need to move away from negativity and dismisses commentary that procurement has been sidelined during the pandemic.
On this latter point, Fegent says, “Clients realised when the shit hit the fan 18 months ago, that the first thing they thought was what contracts have we got, what commitments do we have and what tenders?”. This solidified procurement’s seat at the table and marketing has actively been knocking at their door like never before.
By being more proactive than reactive, strategic not tactical, Fegent believes that marketing procurement can cement their place as a true business and strategic partner to the business in a post-pandemic world.
The Tina brand
Aside from paid work, Fegent is involved with various other initiatives: Chair of the CIPS Specialist Knowledge Group in Marketing, a voluntary role in the Conscious Advertising Network (with upcoming role as the co-chair of the Get Shit Done Board), and Director at Oxfordshire Credit Union.
“For me, it’s about education and communication and those things are really important. Bringing people on that journey with you. And things like CAN are more and more important every day… So I’m happy to be involved”, Fegent says.
Describing it as a “balance”, it is difficult to see where Fegent finds the time, and when we asked what she did to relax, Fegent explained her love for early morning swims, theatre and embracing her local community (she lives with her partner in a Hamlet of 72 homes just outside the English university city of Oxford and is the Chair of the Residents Association).
Fegent also expresses her passion towards boosting mental health awareness in the workplace and beyond. With a personal experience of mental health with her partner of over 20 years, Fegent praises the work of the Royal Family (and their ‘Heads Together’ campaign), and the UK’s ITV’s ‘Britain Get Talking’ movement. She views both of these as not only nurturing a more accepting and inclusive environment to talk about mental health, but also a ”surprising impact” with its hope.
Looking forward, Fegent herself hopes that the changes we have seen in the past year will continue and the workplace will become a much more open place to have these discussions.
As someone who would choose “how to live in a small community and how to make it work” as a TED Talk, Tina Fegent is clearly someone who cares not only about community, whether that be personal or professional, but also how we can strive for better.
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