Feb 22

Really Frustrating Process

February 22 - frustrated Most public relations firms hate the RFP process. In fact, most corporate PR executives with whom I've spoken aren't too fond of the process either.

Depending upon the organization (and, whether those lovely folks from procurement are involved), an RFP is an onerous undertaking. Beyond the basics, RFPs will ask everything from billings and profitability to hourly rates and the eye colors of the proposed account team.

RFPs are also cattle calls. It's rare that fewer than 10 firms are included in an initial search. Usually, the number is far larger, topping out at 100 for a recent Wikipedia clusterf**k.

That's why I'm amazed to see a series of non-stop spam RFPs from some outfit called AllPublicists. As you'll see from the e-mail, they indicate that, based upon our profile, we're being alerted to a new RFP on the AllPublicists.com web site. The budget is confidential. The retainer will be month-to-month and, if I want to know more, I have to pay $29.95 a month. Yeah, sure. AllPublicists probably has a bridge in Brooklyn they could make available for the right price as well.

I've told these guys to take me off their list. But, they haven't. So, I thought I'd go public with my request.

Note to AllPublicists: I hate RFPs. I'll respond to only those that are in our sweet spot, limited to a few other firms and come with a reasonable annual retainer. I would never, ever subscribe to an RFP web site. Nor would I waste my time searching the RFP section on the O'Dwyer's site that lists open competitions for, say, the $50k per annum North Dakota tourism account. RFP should stand for Really Frustrating Process. Few pay off. The vast majority are a total waste.

All publicists hate RFPs, AllPublicists. I'd suggest a different business model: maybe matching bridge sellers with potential buyers?

February 22

Sep 30

And I thought Wikipedia was bad

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.

September 30 - Zappos_Logo

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.

Jun 12

Location, location, location may work for real estate, but not marcom

June 12 Ad Age says New York-based Heineken USA is only considering Manhattan ad agencies in its search. The spirits maker says the breadth and depth of digital communications challenges makes face-to-face meetings more important than ever. So, they say they need an agency that's only a few minutes away.

I don't buy that logic for a minute. I think it shows, instead, that Heineken's marketers are high maintenance and need lots of hand holding.

As Ad Age correctly points out, geographic limitation also restricts talent and ideas. By shutting out the best and brightest from other regions, Heineken is almost guaranteeing a less strategic and creative end result.

Heineken is the third marketer in recent months to demand a local agency. ConocoPhillips and Liberty Mutual apparently made a big deal about agency location in their RFPs as well.

We recently lost a pitch we should have won because the law firm prospect told us they wanted its firm to be located in Los Angeles. Unlike Heineken, however, they neglected to mention this fact during the search process. Nice touch, no?

Face-to-face meetings are critical, especially in sales. But, to insist that an agency selection be based solely on proximity is foolish. We have clients all over the country and our results are consistently good, whether the organization is based in Oshkosh or Ossining.

Heineken's 'hometown' search is nothing more than a needy client already indicating that he or she will be extremely high maintenance. Now, who's up for a Corona, or two?