Ok. Big stink about the Zappos RFP process. Does this sound familiar? Agencies asked to give ideas away for free. Agencies complain privately. Agencies do it any way (with smiles on their faces). Agencies lose. Agencies complain publicly.
Both clients and agencies deserve to share the blame. And I wish the combination of good old fashioned empathy and self-respect would be enough to make the whole process a bit more civilized.
Despite cries for all agencies to band together and refuse to participate in these sorts of reviews, it will never happen. As long as one agency is more desperate than others, there will never be a unified front. To their defense, clients also do deserve the opportunity to get to know the philosophies, personality, working style and capabilities of potential vendors.
So how about this for an idea, Zappos?
Prove to those begrudging you that you’re not just soliciting free ideas. Show the world your motives are pure and you really are interested in finding the smartest, most creative talent available.
Years ago, you used to donate money to San Francisco’s St. Anthony Foundation. Have the 15-or-so finalists develop pitch work for this non-profit. Let them bring out all the dogs and ponies for a worthy organization that can’t otherwise afford the world-class thinking national agencies provide.
Be a part of the selection committee but put your brand’s issues and challenges on the sideline for now.
You’ll get to meet the agencies, interact with them, ask questions, see how they work, evaluate their ideas -- all of which should be more than enough to gauge who will be the best agency partner for Zappos.
Maybe all pitches could be run this way.
Now, agencies... instead of vowing to never pitch again (which is a promise we all know you’ll never keep), tell the client you’ll do the free work. But only if it’s for a non-profit. It can even be one of their choosing. This way, the only organizations receiving free work are those that can’t afford anything else.