communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.

4/07/2010

Why procurement has no business handling pitches

Of course this is a post written under the influence of some major "pissed-off"ness because we lost a major pitch for which we worked really hard and naturally you cannot but be a sore loser. But more than that this is a realization of almost 8 months of in-crisis pitching - not just for us but for our ATL sister agency and also some half dozen other agencies we are friendly with, where we have seen the following repeat itself enough to become a pattern.
1. most in-crisis pitches are run by procurement teams [secretly meaning 'we're only interested in the money']
2. most in-crisis pitches have EXACTLY the same format: request for credentials, request for offer made of CVs and creative plus money. lots of useless paperwork, because participating agencies project the ideal team onto all RFOs and have a standard credential they send to everyone.]
3. no face-to-face unless you get picked to be among the few going to stage final
4. no debrief unless you really ask for it and then whatever gets discussed then gets emailed to everyone for fairness reasons
5. one hour for presentation
6. humongous brief with 70% of the qualification criteria going to.... financial :D. Basically testing to see if you're willing to do shitloads of work for no money.

But what gets to me most, aside from the heartlessness of this process is that final letter, where they tell you that you did not qualify. Thanks for playing but you suck, and we will not even take the time to tell you why. You may have prepared a 300 page presentation for us, which you printed in 4 copies because the RFO asked you to - yeah, we print layouts of online banners ... figure that!, but you do not deserve more than the standard letter of 'thanks but no thanks' because we were too busy to really understand why we picked someone else.

And while I understand the power-position in which everyone in procurement is these days, what with the crisis and everyone willing to do almost anything to get a budget, I think that somewhere in the brand management team someone should realize that this is not the way to handle what is, by all accounts, the relationship with your most important partner: the ad agency. Even when you DO NOT pick them, the point is not to treat them like they're nobody. Because sometimes the winning one happens to be crap, and maybe you want to drop them and move on to the runner-up. And if the runner up think you're basically heartless bastards, you're down to another RFO process. And this is not "not nice", but, in terms procurement can understand, it's NOT EFFICIENT.

LATER UPDATE: I did call the company asking for more info. I got an email asking for my phone number. So at least they were decent, and tried but I still do not know why we lost.
In general, however, I notice from the comments that, what with the crisis and all, the majority view - 2 out of 3 comments :P - is that the factor called 'serendipity' no longer plays a part in agency-client relationships. Weirdly enough, I used to think the same until I realized that the clients where we did find the same wavelength tend to be the ones for which we work most efficiently, most enthusiastically and where we get the best results. I think agencies like W+K and, locally, Headvertising have made this kind of "human" treatment of partners a landmark of their business style and it's worked (don't you just envy posts like these? :D)
BUT, having been bludgeoned over my stupid head by the true business people of this real world, with words like "standards, professionalism, process, transparency, streamlining, capitalism, money" I assume I am just a silly silly girl to think that writing to extra lines in the 10 reject letters is not a big deal and will take my silly silly ideas and put them to sleep for tonight :D

LATER LATER EDIT: Got a call from marketing person - not procurement, who was nice enough to explain why we lost but said they would never put in on record. Feels good to know we are good enough but not good enough at politics :D

LATER LATER LATER EDIT: funnily enough got an official email from the procurement person saying basically that "our creative approach" sucked salty balls of chocolate although we were cheap enough :D. So, there you have it: marketing says we are creative enough, procurement says we are cheap enough, yet we lost :D. it must be we're ugly or something

12 comments:

E. Skorpideas said...

So true !
Procurement officers like plying it protectors of the organisations and believe it or not they are causing equal frustration to their internal customers.

Mog said...

These companies are entities without heart, how sad !!
But the same companies suddenly become very cute when you can send your invoice to them (you and only you, not the competition). Capitalism is tough but some people should have remained in Communism where with a 10-page résumé handed in as homework one would have gotten a 10 even if no added value would have been given, or, why not? maybe these people should have stayed in the Stone Age, one can only imagine how fair and heart-based were the decisions taken back then, with the emo-kid of that time getting all the mammoth meat while the big, ugly, thickest-tree-branch-holder guy having to settle with what got left from the good guys' meal. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

The equation is simple: we have an economic crisis (so it is not a secret that we are interested in money), with the procurement department being a neutral party with no "friendship" with any agency owners, and if until now you were used to gain a pitch based on, how should I spell it?, not so fair reasons, then maybe it is time for you to learn that emailing the debrief meetings and the subjects discussed to all participants merely represents a normal manner of conducting the selection process, and yes, these actions are in fact the first steps towards a fair and reasonable selection. The idea is that selecting a winner shouldn't be based on what was previously discussed at corners or in coffee-bars. Am I right?

One hour for presentation is short, I agree.

Also, have you asked this bad, bad procurement department for the reasons why your company wasn't selected? Did you further ask for details? Or maybe you just don’t care what those reasons are, because you are so good and procurement too stupid to understand.

Because if you ask I'm sure they will reply in detail – that’s the procedure honey! And if YOU the Ad agency are not interested why they should give a damn about it?

And as a bona-fide advice... I know that you people in the ad-industry are all artsy head-in-the-clouds let's-build-rainbows types, and probably your economic knowledge is based only on a cursory reading of Marx... but, make an effort people, start reading von Mises and Hayek for a change, maybe this way you'll learn the true value of money and what free competition really means.

Bogdana Butnar said...

@Mog, no we did not ask. we thought it would be courtesy for them to write two lines about that. But since this seems an indication of us being communists, we will ask. I'll let you know how it goes, you mighty-hearted, true blue capitalist you :P

Mircea Popescu said...

Basically just dropping by to say it's been real fun to watch pretentious twentysomethings trying to come off as all flowery and sophisticated through a thick layer of ESL.

You should start a blog on that premise, Mog.

Mog said...

Thank you very much for reminding me I'm still a "twentysomethings", I'm wondering if I'll also get jealous on people younger than me when I'll become a "thirtysomethings" :) Probably I will, all women in their thirties do (as do some of the men of that age, apparently).

Lastly, I'm happy that you find what is basically "money talk" as "flowery and sophisticated", I'm wondering what your feelings are when you're reading ancient Persian poetry. And I'll take "pretentious" as a compliment, thank you :)

dragos said...

It's simple: you decided to jump in the lake, then you just swim and take the consequences of a bad ending.

It's not like you couldn't figure it out from the beginning, the signs were obvious right from the start, once you decided to play you assumed the rules made by people with little to no experience in what there were supposed to handle. Complaining afterwards is just a useless baby cry.

And yes, I say that because we turned them down from the start for these exact reasons.

Dana said...

Draga Bogdana,

Regret ca ai pierdut respectivul pitch, dar da-mi voie sa nu fiu de acord cu tine.

In primul rand, principiile de etica profesionala impun unei companii aflate in cautarea unei noi agentii sa distribuie materialele solicitate in timpul debriefing-ului de catre un participant la pitch si catre restul participantilor. Se numeste transparenta si egalitate de sanse.

Apoi, orice companie care se respecta va face un long-list, va cere credentials, informatii financiare (de genul cifra de afaceri) si CV-uri pentru a selecta un top 4/5 agentii care se potrivesc unui profil cautat. Si nu, nu este nevoie de face-to-face cand faci o preselectie. Te vezi cu potentialul client pentru debriefing, cand esti pe short list si dupa ce ai primit brieful.

O ora pentru prezentare. E putin, de acord. E putin daca vrei sa faci o prezentare de 300 de pagini. Dar prima impresie conteaza enorm. Daca vii cu ceva ce ii da pe spate pe cei de la masa, crede-ma ca nu ai nevoie decat de maxim 30 de minute. La fel de mult conteaza si prestatia celui care prezinta, dar cred ca stii asta foarte bine.

Si nu in ultimul rand, nu te obliga nimeni sa participi la un pitch daca te deranjeaza proportia 30-70 in favoarea criteriilor financiare. Daca ai dat curs invitatiei, atunci ti-ai asumat si riscurile de a trece prin calvarul mentionat de tine, for nothing in return.

Si in final... rejection letter. Hmmm... Cand dai un examen si il pici, ti se trimite cumva o lista cu motivele pentru care s-a intamplat asta? Nu. Asa, nici companiile nu sunt obligate sa o faca. O vor face, si inca in detaliu, daca le vei cere tu sa iti explice de ce agentia ta nu a castigat.

Head-up because in business there's no room for emotions.

Succes in viitor!

Bogdana Butnar said...

@dragos: hmmm, nu stiam ca metropotam se baga si la pitchuri. sau am pierdut ceva :P

@ dana, bai nush ce sa zic. sincer cred ca genul asta de capitalism atroce is getting to me. dar macar eu incerc sa invat ceva din suteleeeeeee de pitchuri la care am avea ocazia sa mergem. daca e pe principiul dam si apoi pa si la gara in perioada asta iti garantez ca nu vei obtine decat o masina de licitatii; da' la nivel de moral al oamenilor, de crestere personala si overall the sentiment ca nu esti un kkt de furnizor de produse numite siteuri care oricum pot fi luate din orice alt hypermarket de siteuri, cred ca nu gresesc. si one other thing: pe mine ma supara lipsa de follow-up la decizie nu atat procesul in sine care ar fi viciat either way. daca vrei poveste amuzanta de proces iacata cum o mare mare companie a rejectat o agentie de ATL, care a prezentat 4 studii de caz pe industria lor dintre care unul cu Effie in spate, pe motivul ca "nu au suficienta experienta in domeniu" :D. postul de sus nu e numai din experienta personala si recenta :D ci si din povesti de la alte agentii adunate :D
da, succes sa avem cu totii

@Mircea Popescu @Mog are you guys even from this planet? :D

Dana said...

Ehh... crede-ma ca treaba cu "nu au suficienta experienta in domeniu" se traduce cu "pila mea a castigat pentru ca asa vreau eu, imi pare rau, ne vedem alta data". Din pacate inca se mai castiga pitch-uri pentru ca un anume manager il stie pe un anume head of agency si au chestiuni comune de impartit.
Eu vin din tabara corporatista si am vazut si trecut prin multe experiente de gen. Am vazut insa si multe cazuri de pitch-uri organizate ca la carte.

Stii cum este: in orice padure exista si multe uscaturi.

Hai, sa ai o seara buna!

dragos said...

Nu cred ca ai pierdut nimic insa da, noi de vreun an si jumatate avem si o agentie de publicitate online, "interactiva" cum le place copiilor de advertising sa o numeasca. A castigat inclusiv titlul de agentie a anului trecut la Internetics. Metropotam este un business total separat, nu amestecam borcanele.

Radu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Radu said...

E vedeti dvs, asta e o problema cronica a pietei noastre, in care predomina interesele marunte pentru cei 2-3 euro ipotetici in plus, in fata calitatii. Ori am ajuns dupa lungi deductii, sa cred, ca nu e vina lor. dimpotriva noi ii invatam sa fie asa, acceptandu'le si in definitiv aprobandu'le aceasta atitudine prin lipsa noastra de reactie si lipsa noastra de opozitie in fata atitudinilor lor.

Cred sincer ca avem din plin posibilitatea sa restabilim, macar ptr noi, intern niste reguli decente, care la nevoie sa duca pana la concedierea clientului. Poate cine stie, se vor ralia si alte agentii la acest efort.

Daca asteptam sa se schimbe ceva, cred vom astpta mult si bine, si or astepta si generatiile viitoare, si tot nu se va schimba nimic, deoarece, acum se creeaza un intreg lant trofic al slabiciunilor care va perpetua, si o va face cu ingaduinta noastra.

Radu Olteanu