We were one of the 55 hapless public relations firms that responded to an initial RFP from Wikipedia. That's not a misprint. Wikipedia invited 55 firms to submit proposals. We actually did fairly well, making it to the 'semifinal round' of eight or 10 firms.
I was stunned to learn Wikipedia had spun so many wheels at so many agencies. But, the W types are pikers when compared to Zappos. According to the current issue of Ad Age, Zappos invited 100 ad agencies to pitch its business! Can you believe that? And, after a year of sifting through the proposals, they ended up selecting Mullen for what turned out to be a meager ad budget of only $7 million.
Some might attribute these fishing expeditions to inexperience or indecision on the part of the prospective client. I don't. I think it's a combination of hubris and insensitivity. Inviting 55 or 100 firms to pitch one's business is cruel and unusual punishment, and certainly no way to conduct business or treat one's fellow human beings.
I'd like to think the Wikipedia and Zappos cattle calls are one-offs. But, something tells me this sort of boorish behavior is becoming the norm and is just another manifestation of an overall societal meltdown of civility and decency.
Interesting comment, Robert. The Ad Age article about Zappos does mention the wining-and-dining done by by some of the agencies involved in the pitch.
I hear you, Julie. Don’t know if you saw the post by Matt of the Council of PR Firms. He shared our repulsion of the sheer waste involved in mega searches and said Council guidelines suggest no more than six to eight firms be included in any client’s search. That sounds about right.
Companies solicit RFPs from 100 PR firms and ad agencies for the same reason they interview 100 candidates for a job — they don’t know what they want. I can only imagine what the arduous decision-making process will be like for the “lucky” firms that land these accounts.
Most marketers are scared of failing. In the name of due diligence and playing it safe they invite a ton of agencies to pitch for the business. Now they can spend a year avoiding failure, being wooed and feeling great about themselves. Not a great way to pick a partner but not a bad way to spend a year?
I’m happy for you and Zappos, Med Guy. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven.
zappos should thank you- after reading this i decided it was time for some new shoes so i did some shopping on their site. who ever said blogs were a waste!
Why would anyone even want to slog through 55, or 100 (!) proposals? Are they even seeing straight by #s 41, 42 …? It’s wrong on so many levels.
Anyway, Repman, I couldn’t waste this opportunity to plug our RFP Builder (rfp.prfirms.org) – a tool designed specifically for companies looking for a PR firm. It’s easy to use, flexible and full of best practices and tips, such as do NOT invite 100 firms to compete for your business (we recommend 6-8).