Friday, May 9, 2014

The Reverse RFI/RFP

Interesting take on the RFI/RFP process in which the tables are turned by Wexley School for Girls from Agency Spy.

Seattle full-service agency Wexley School for Girls is turning the RFI and RFP process on its head, or, in their words, “reversing the traditional RFI and RFP process in which brands look for agencies to handle their advertising via a complex and costly rigmarole of vetting, chemistry checks and basically pitting agencies against one another to compete for an account.” Today the agency has issued the first-ever Reverse Request for Information or RRFI, calling on brands to become the agency’s next client, tapping New York search consultancy Madam to help in the process.

“We believe it’s as important for the agency to choose its next clients as carefully and rigorously as a client chooses its next agency,” reads the RRFI. “We are looking for a client that is respectful, fun to be around and one that enjoys partnering with their agency not dictating to them… We see ourselves as an asset not a vendor. And we see clients as partners not clients,” the Wexley’s RRFI goes on. Applicants are asked to define their brand and where they want to take it in 2-3 years, what brands they admire, their marketing budget, their true “risk tolerance” for creativity, their proudest moment, a definition of their ideal relationship with an advertising agency, and “Would you rather ride 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” — you know, all the tough questions.

“Today’s more interactive and collaborative way of working between agency and client makes it more critical than ever to get the chemistry right,” explains Michael Lee, founder of Madam. “The agency has to feel good about the relationship beyond an annual fee. It has every right to only want to work with clients it wants to work with. Wexley and Madam both believe there is a better, more innovative, more creative approach to agency client relationships, because the way both now work together demands it.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Not So Short Lists

Interesting article from Adweek on a current trend in agency reviews.

Creative Review Shortlists Are No Longer All That Short

Traditionally, a finalist in a creative review has had to beat just a couple of other shops to get the business. Recently, though, the odds of winning have gotten much longer.

The finalists that emerged in reviews for CVS, the Legacy anti-tobacco campaign and TripAdvisor faced four or five competitors. “That’s frustrating,” said a leader at one of six shops that pitched TripAdvisor, adding, “It’s hard to stay motivated.”

With as little as a 17 percent chance of winning, some may wonder why agencies in those reviews even bothered with the long and expensive pitch process. Then again, the market isn’t exactly awash with opportunities right now, and those three brands collectively spend about $200 million in media each year.

What’s making these shortlists so long? Agency leaders, search consultants and a marketing chief point to three factors: market conditions, the number of decision makers involved and when the brand last searched for a new agency.

First and foremost, it’s a buyer’s market. For agencies under pressure to grow, the prospects, again, are few. And if you’re a marketer, why not seek more ideas, even if it means a longer process? After all, the agencies foot the bill.

“The calculation is that the agency business is hurting, so they’ll get more participation,” explained Robert Birge, CMO at “Clients often want to get a range of perspective,” added Ken Robinson of Ark Advisors in New York.

Of course, more ideas don’t necessarily yield better results, particularly with finalists working off the same brief. Meanwhile, a key goal of any review is to get a sense of what it’s like to work with an agency, which, naturally, is harder with a longer roster of finalists.

“I would imagine, for a client, it becomes very difficult to distinguish some of the agencies,” said Matt Weiss, CMO at Havas Worldwide.

Then, there’s the factor of how many decision makers. Generally, more “cooks” lead to more shops, as each marketing leader puts forth his or her individual preferences.

At TripAdvisor, for example, CMO Barbara Messing and vp of brand strategy Anne Bologna collectively have spent decades in advertising, and Bologna is a former agency exec. The point is, they know a lot of players, and in that context, a sextet of finalists doesn’t seem so outrageous.
Finally, those marketers that haven’t done a search in a while may want to meet with more shops to get a feel for the current environment.

Before hiring 72andSunny in February, Legacy had worked with Arnold for 13 years. Four other agencies pitched that business. Likewise, BBDO beat four other agencies to land CVS last month.
TripAdvisor appears headed to Johannes Leonardo, though a company rep said the search was still ongoing.

Whether the trend of longer shortlists will continue is debatable. What is clear is that as long as agencies outnumber marketers, marketers will have the leverage to ask for more.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why OS (Open Source)?

Some reasons why we like to use open source software (thanks Firstborn tech guys):

Code is available to peer review for quality, security audits, bugs, etc. Fixing these issues is dramatically quicker on open source projects. It’s in the whole community’s interest to work together to make a project better and more resilient.

Code is available to extend or fix by our team or the general community if needed.

No licensing costs for utilizing the technology. For server technology this can make a pretty big difference if you need to deploy on multiple production servers.

If a technology becomes discontinued, the larger community can continue patching / supporting it as opposed to being at the mercy of the technology owner.

Knowledge sharing, stand on the shoulders of giants instead of reinventing the wheel (this is especially true for libraries and frameworks). People spend a lot of time working on solutions and abstractions that you can use for free.

Support is generally easier because of source code visibility, large online community and documentation. A lot of larger open source projects have foundations / consulting services to offer support to big companies if they want to pay for it. If your pockets are deep enough you can get official support for MySQL, RedHat, etc. from the creators/maintainers.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Connecting the Dots

When evaluating which agency they should hire, marketers often ask if the prospective agency has any experience in their particular industry.  While somewhat relevant, it's misleading to base your decision in whole or in part on that criteria.  One the strengths of Firstborn, the agency I work for, is the ability to become brand experts at the start of each engagement through a careful and thorough  analysis of the consumers we're talking to.  Therefore, if you examine our portfolio you'll find that we don't specialize in one particular industry.  So while it's certainly valid to have somewhat of a comfort zone knowing that your potential agency has a history in the industry, the ability to connect the dots by understanding that an agency's capabilities can be carried through any vertical, is even more important.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Brand Evolution

Graphic design degree hub has a very interesting graphic that illustrates how brands' logos have evolved over the years.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Do you have the right(s)?

Here's a lesson in getting rights to assets that you use in a project.  As reported in AdFreak an Illinois gun manufacturer used an image of  Michelangelo's David in an ad holding one of their weapons (it's huge, and I'm not talking about David) causing the Italian Culture Ministry to issue a warning to retract the ad since technically the government owns the statue.  Never take for granted the use of an image even if the subject is something very well known or common place.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How To Write An RFP: Part 2

4. What are you looking for in a response?  Knowing what's expected as part of the pitch process will help alleviate any confusion later down the road.  Most RFP's ask for some type of approach, ballpark timing and costs, case study samples, etc. but when ideas are requested in the form of comp designs/visuals, the agency will need to assign a dedicated team to respond appropriately.

5. How many agencies?  Getting the lay of the land is important in terms of evaluating whether an agency proceeds with the RFP process or not.  It's a lot different situation if the RFP is going out to 20 agencies as opposed to 4 - 5.

6.  What is the budget for the assignment?  Ah yes, the very uncomfortable topic of money.  This is key to an agency in determining whether we move forward or not.  Even a ballpark range is always helpful.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How To Write An RFP: Part 1

Here are some top level elements that agencies look for in an RFP.

1.  Who are you?  Having as much background about the marketer is very helpful to agencies, even if the subject is a well known brand.  We may be familiar with your product/service but hearing how you see yourself is just as important as knowing the basic facts.

2. The Why.  What is the problem you're trying to solve and what are you looking for?  Just listing out a scope of work isn't enough.  We need the motivating factors that have caused you to search for an agency that can assist in coming up with solutions to your challenges.

3. KPI's.  What do you see as a measure of success?  Knowing the end goal is crucial to an agency in crafting their response to the RFP.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Clean Briefs

While this article by Phil Johnson on writing the creative brief is focused mainly on putting together an internal document within an agency, I think it has some lessons to be learned for marketers on constructing a better brief to prospective agencies during the RFP process.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Value of Advertising

Steve Olenski has some good thoughts on the value of advertising in The 10 Biggest Myths in Advertising from Business Insider.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Indelible Words

If the scandal involving the closure of toll lanes for the George Washington Bridge isn't enough proof, here's another example of why you should be careful about what you write in an email (or in this case LinkedIn