In My Opinion: Mark Gorman: I admire the principled stand being taken on procurement

“Houston. We have a problem.” Okay, that was not quite what was uttered by Apollo 13 crew member, John Swigert Junior. What he actually said was, “OK Houston we’ve had a problem here.”

It was Hollywood that rendered the sentence into the rather more catchy soundbite we often quote today.

And so it would seem that it’s this sort of detail that’s causing all sorts of problems down Holyrood way as the Scottish Government’s procurement team is challenged again and again by several leading Scottish communications agencies.

If you read Colin Donald in the Sunday Herald yesterday, you will have got the jist of the problem.

Writes Donald: “… some working in Scottish marketing, PR and advertising businesses are asking: ‘Where did the last six months go?’ The Scottish Government’s new Marketing Services Framework – the list of approved companies eligible to apply for the £25 million the Government spends on communications – is in trouble.

“There have been complaints about the criteria used to ‘score’ companies that have submitted bids to be included in the framework – and complaints that basic mistakes have been made in assessing the scores.

“Some companies that have been excluded from the latest framework have challenged the decision, with Freedom of Information requests and even legal threats, causing its publication to be delayed three times. It was initially scheduled to be finalised last September. The latest estimate is – anyone’s guess.”

Usually, failure to win a place on a marketing roster results in a shrug of the shoulders or deep brooding resentment and moving on to the next one, but this time it’s different. You see, we’re in the midst of a nearly triple-dip recession and those that are challenging the decision are doing so on the basis that they believe procurement got their sums wrong.

The main protagonists in this sorry affair simply think it’s not fair. They’ve done good jobs for the government in the past and have scored well on quality measures.

And anyway, how do you compare price accurately in the supply of marketing services? If one agency’s print production manager is priced at £5 an hour more than another, but theirs is £10 an hour lower for a senior art director, which one offers the value?

Where’s the value in quick workers? How do you measure that?

Is award-winning work better value than day-to-day?

I don’t have an inside track on this but I do have to admire the smitten for taking a principled stance on this and not taking no for an answer.

That’s one small step for a man…

Mark Gorman is an independent marketing consultant operating under the banner, ‘Think Hard’. He has over 25 years of experience in advertising, design, direct marketing, PR, professional writing (especially blogging), business mentoring, digital marketing and research. He was co-founder of the former advertising agency, 1576.