What’s wrong with the RFP and how to fix it

If you have ever worked for an agency, you will likely be familiar with the RFP and the process surrounding them. The RFP has increasingly become a dreadful 50+ page document that for all its pages of text often has very little information. My real concerns go much deeper than just document length and the incoherent nature of most RFPs. In fact, I believe that the RFP process is wasting time and money while leading to poor outcomes. Until recently I took the RFP process for granted, assuming that this was simply the way it had to be. Now I believe that the process can change and I hope to explore new ways organizations can hire agencies. In order to discuss ways the RFP could change, we first have to explore what is wrong with it today.

Efficiency or Quality? The Client Perspective

The question of efficiency or quality seems to come up a great deal in the digital creative business. It is routinely asked by both clients and agency management and is not an easy one to answer. There is a deceptive amount to learn about what these two concepts really mean and how they affect the way agencies are run and the way clients make decisions. For most of my career, I was unaware that I was even making a choice between these two approaches and have recently begun to think very critically about this question. At Playground, this has become a central question to our business, one that is reshaping the way we are structured and how we build projects.

Efficiency or Quality? The Agency Perspective

The question of efficiency or quality seems to come up a great deal in the digital creative business. It is routinely asked by both clients and agency management and is not an easy one to answer. There is a deceptive amount to learn about what these two concepts really mean and how they affect the way agencies are run and the way clients make decisions. For most of my career, I was unaware that I was even making a choice between these two approaches and have recently begun to think very critically about this question. At Playground, this has become a central question to our business, one that is reshaping the way we are structured and how we build projects.

Don't sell your soul for financial security

When we set out to start our agency we did so by following the advertising agency model. Our plan was simple: pitch great ideas to a few great clients and get them to sign large AOR agreements. For anyone who hasn’t come across this acronym an AOR or Agency of Record agreement is basically a contract between a company and an agency that stipulates a right of first refusal on any work that falls within the services the agency provides. It often includes a guaranteed annual budget and a high level overview of what the money will be spent on.  This seemed very sensible as having two or three big clients who all were committing to large annual budgets would give our company financial security and allow us to focus on the work and growing the agency rather than finding the next job. Unfortunately for us this plan didn’t work, despite making some great pitches with some big ideas we couldn’t get anyone to sign an AOR. We did get a few projects but these only lasted a few months each which hardly gave us the long term security that we wanted.

Defining a creative agency

If you work in the creative services industry, one of the hardest questions to answer can be, “what does your company do?”. This is especially tough if it’s asked by a friend or family member who knows very little about the world of creative services. How do you answer that question while balancing the need to be clear and concise with the desire to convey what makes it interesting and challenging? This is the question of identity, and I think it is a central challenge of building a business, particularly if the industry you work in is not well defined. It’s much more than just explaining to your mom what you do for a living, your identity helps you find your clients, gives direction to employees and helps the business leaders create a vision for the future.