'Global procurement does not work as there is no ownership at a local level,' said Pan Advertising MD Ben Davies, one of five speakers at the group's Annual Question Time event.
Echoing Davies' sentiments, Andy Davis, UK managing director at Japanese drugs firm Takeda, said: 'If I were to look into the future, global procurement departments would have to justify their existence and procurement decisions would be left to local affiliate companies.'
Davies said a fifth of his time was now spent dealing with procurement-related issues: 'Any sensible agency would embrace this brave new world - it's not going to go away. The trend has added value to our business and made us raise our game. It has increased our profitability.'
But he pointed out: 'In some circumstances you do feel there's a little bit of a Dutch auction going on.'
Davis, meanwhile, said: 'Procurement is not about cutting costs - if it's about that, you're on a road to nowhere and disrespectful to your agencies.'
AstraZeneca global category manager for medical and marketing comms David Pilley said his firm was developing a global 'strategic approach to working with communications agencies'. But he acknowledged that a global approach to procurement was not always optimal: 'A pan-European PR programme might work but a pan-global printing deal? Probably not.'
The event, chaired by Ogilvy Healthworld UK chairman Gloria Gibbons, also discussed the cost to agencies of pitching.
Gibbons said: 'There seems to be an increasing number of (PR) agencies being asked to pitch. It used to be three or four, now it's often seven or eight.'
Pilley added: 'I spend a lot of time talking people out of pitches. I asked a guy recently why he was having a five-way pitch and he said: "Because I can get five into a day."
'That's totally the wrong way of going about it.'