RFPs Are a Broken Crutch

Feb 26, 2014

Marketing Consultant John Malmo

While "Requests for Proposals" can be a useful tool for some,  they are bad for choosing advertising agencies.

It occurs to me that if you don’t know what an RFP is, you’re lucky.

RFP stands for 'Request for Proposal." It is highly popular, sometimes required by law in government purchasing. Even outside government, RFPs are somewhat popular.

Usually, it’s because the issuer knows little or nothing about what he’s buying, and if you’re buying something that makes comparison easy, such as number-one-common, 2.25 by 25/32, unfinished Red Oak flooring, I suppose an RFP can be of value.

Regrettably, though, RFPs have become popular for selecting advertising agencies. I have heard of five such RFPs recently. It may possibly be the worst way to select an advertising partner. The overwhelming majority of better agencies in America won’t respond to RFPs.

They’re a monumental waste of time. RFPs are, by nature, quantitative. Good, perhaps, for buying quantifiable items. Selecting an advertising agency is qualitative. RFPs are an abysmal yardstick.

To hire an advertising agency, talk to several advertisers you admire. Then choose up to three agencies with records of doing effective work. Be sure they have the capacity to do your work, and that they pay their bills. Spend time with key people of each.

Give them insight into your company. Then pick one. It’s faster, cheaper and a whole lot more effective.

To reach Mr. Malmo, hear and read more of his commentaries, or to ask him your own marketing question, go to http://askmalmo.com