Between a rock and a hard place


Top tips on mediating between suppliers and procurement

Despite the new-found prominence of the procurement function in the creative pitch process, many of our clients generally choose exhibition suppliers (though not always) and lead the pitch process themselves. They tend to find that procurement’s impact is a neutral to positive experience for them. However, for suppliers on the other side, this is not always the case. We – and others in our sector – have the following observations.

Value for money

Client feedback supports the fact that the procurement function can positively impact the value for money received by organisations putting their exhibition programmes out to tender. With professionals in the field more closely examining the bottom line, we in turn have noticed greater scrutiny of budgets up front in the process (rather than after the work has been awarded). We welcome this development to encourage suppliers to be transparent in their pricing. We always endeavour to demonstrate where costs are apportioned, contributing to more adaptable stand build designs, an emphasis on re-using elements and offering client organisations an opportunity to more deeply understand the supply chain that helps them realise their exhibition aspirations.

Tip 1
Do feel comfortable asking for detailed budget breakdowns from suppliers to ensure they have thorough and practical costings for your projects. This will give you the peace of mind to partner with a new supplier that truly can deliver for you.


There are now more people/functions/interests represented in the pitch process than ever before. As our clients’ stakeholder list grows, so does the length of time it takes for them to confirm the brief, put it out to tender, evaluate responses and award the work. However, the overall deadlines remain the same. We are repeatedly experiencing tighter timings to which we must work, pressurising the creative process and delivery.

Tip 2
To get the best outcomes for your investment do consider the practical ability of your suppliers to deliver for you if there is insufficient time built into the process for them to perform. You can never start your planning too early, nor can you manage internal stakeholders enough!


Shorter timescales and a focus on the bottom line can, of course, stifle creativity, but they also encourage agencies to think outside of the box to imaginatively create and deliver innovative solutions. However, there can be a conflict between efficiency, effectiveness, budgets and evaluating creativity. It is up to those who have an understanding for evaluating and buying creative services to partner effectively with internal stakeholders who do not, thereby ensuring this less quantifiable but important criterion is not overlooked in favour of more easily measured ones.

Tip 3
Act as creativity’s advocate during the pitch process. If you and your team does not – no one else will – and your brand, stand out and audience will suffer as a result.

Depersonalisation of the pitch process

The evaluation process is becoming more focused and less interactive. We are finding that prospective clients are increasingly asking us to submit detailed proposals and budgets without the benefit of face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders. This means that we are unable to present creative insights, explain our thinking and answer questions. Of course a more streamlined process is more efficient and might help those timelines we discussed earlier but the flip-side is that ideas will not come to life and organisations will not gain a feel for suppliers’ company cultures and people. Positive, long-standing relationships are built through human interaction not spreadsheets and PowerPoint/Keynote documents.

Tip 4
Taking the time to meet short-listed suppliers is the only way organisations can see whether suppliers have the ‘right’ energy for them – both creatively and on a personal basis. If you are going to spend six to seven figures with a supplier, why would you not want to see the whites of their eyes and gauge them as individuals and as a company?