Issued a bad RFP? Your card might be in the mail

The Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA) is renewing its call for the agency RFP to be killed and replaced by a Qualification-Based Selection (QBS) process that removes cost from the equation and instead emphasizes capabilities and experience.

According to the ICA, the traditional RFP process for selecting agencies is frustrating and should not be applied to the selection of services that are critical, complex, and customized in nature.

The ICA has released the 150-page QBS Agency Search Guide, authored by QBS advocate Cal Harrison and edited by Leah Power, executive vice-president of agency operations at the ICA. The guide outlines ways that agencies and brands can shift from what it calls the “frustrating” RFP model for agency selection, to a QBS process.

According to the ICA, QBS requires no new technology, budgets, staff or policies and “very little” new information. “The only requirement is a commitment to implement a better way of finding and hiring the right agency.”

ICA president and CEO Scott Knox said it’s time for the industry to kill the RFP, which he described as both “destructive” for agencies, and costly and ineffective for clients. “They needlessly drain money, creative, and time out of agencies while leaving clients with an incomplete picture of working with creative and media providers,” he said in a release.

To help spread that message, the ICA today introduced “RIP RFP,” a set of five greeting cards that disgruntled agencies can anonymously send to clients who they feel issued a bad RFP. The cards seem congratulatory in nature, only to “get real” with clients about what it calls “red-flag frustrations and flaws” in their RFPs.

Each card features an image of clinking champagne glasses, accompanied by the message “Everyone is talking about your agency RFP.” Once opened, the card reveals a poem that speaks to an agency’s specific complaint about the RFP, such as a request for spec creative, excessive paperwork, bad timing, not disclosing a budget and an RFP that is just generally poor.

The ICA is inviting agencies who feel they’ve received a poor RFP to visit a dedicated website and request that a printed card be delivered to the procurement person listed on the RFP. The agencies give the ICA’s Pitch Watchdog the name of the company that issued the RFP, what they found most offensive (from a dropdown list of options) and a contact name.

Knox said that many agencies dream of pointing out flawed RFPs, but are reluctant to damage relationships by taking a stand. “The RIP RFC cards are our way of stepping in and acting as the bad guy, so agencies don’t have to burn bridges,” he said.

Chris Powell