Turning Procurement-Speak Inside Out

“An RFP is a statement of distrust.” -Ken Robbins

Ken Robbins, CEO of Response Mine Interactive in Atlanta, doesn’t participate in Requests for Proposals (RFPs). He says they’re a waste of time for his agency and the client.

“Any client can review its agency without a formal selection process. They just have to pick up the phone and ask a competing agency to come give a ‘capabilities’ pitch.” True dat.

Robbins put together an eloquent post defending his position, and the star of this post is a mock letter that turns the tables. Here’s what a letter from an agency wanting to put a client up for review might look like:

Dear Client,

We love you. You’ve done a great job but we’re going to bring in five of your competitors to make sure we have the best, most innovative client out there. We may get higher fees. We might get more projects to work on, but we’ll probably stay with you. This is just company policy. Rest assured the process will be fair and objective and even if we stay with you, we may be able to bring good ideas back from your competitors that you can use.

Sincerely,
RMI

“An RFP is often a company’s way of pretending it’s not political, or (gulp) that a winner hasn’t already been picked,” argues Robbins. Be that as it may, RFPs won’t be going away anytime soon, and hungry agencies will continue to feed at the RFP trough. But there is an equitable solution. David Lowe-Rogstad, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Substance in Portland, says, “Pay agencies for their time to pitch you and put your own skin in the game.”

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.