Friday, February 22, 2008

The RFP and The Agency - Part 3: Creative

This is Part 3 of our take on how to use an RFP to find an ad agency or creative thinking firm.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think asking for spec creative is a fair way to start a relationship. It just seems to me that when you do that, the first message you've sent a potential partner is that you'd like them to do something for free. Besides, there are all sorts of debates about whether the spec work that gets done is of any value anyway.

But if you’re doing an RFP, you do need to know if the competing agencies can write and design anything worth looking at and if the work they do is effective – or just creative (and the two are not always the same thing). Thinking skills are important. After all, that’s what you’re buying.

So by all means, ask for some creative samples and don’t worry about it if the samples they give you aren’t exactly in your category. (After all, isn’t there some currency in a fresh approach?)

Ask them to show you the work they are proudest of, regardless of category. You might even ask them to show you work that never ran – but that they believe should have. That will give you some real insight as to whether or not you’re on the same creative page.

If you’re buying what they’re selling you’re going to get along. Anything else, and sooner or later it becomes a chore for everybody.

Also, I don’t want to sound harsh, but if you can’t tell from their body of work whether or not they can solve your problem, then maybe you should get someone who can to help you. On the other hand, if it’s not apparent to a moderately experienced eye whether or not an agency can do the work, they probably can’t.

And why not get examples that show you how they work beyond the creative – like timelines, strategies for other clients and success stories? What do their invoices look like? Their proposals? Find out about all the elements of the relationship.

Because they all matter.

Next (and last) Mechanics and Fairness

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