Revamping the RFP Process
The request-for-proposal process is becoming more contentious, time consuming and demanding of b-to-b magazine publishers, who say they are often in the dark with regards to knowing just what the advertiser at the other end of the paper, e-mail and fax trail is after.
But that process may be changing. Challenged by Prism Business Media SVP Jeff Reinhardt, American Business Media's Media Advisory Committee has proposed a new system for submitting RFPs that is close to getting the seal of approval from American Association of Advertising Agencies;the so-called "4As";and is being readied for a roll-out by ABM this spring.
"Every day our fax machine is jammed with RFPs that go nowhere," says Reinhardt. "The biggest reason is that the agency doesn't know enough about what their client wants."
In June 2005, Reinhardt challenged the committee;an eight-person board comprised of publishers and agency reps;to overhaul a system he says is wrought with a lack of detailed information about what the client really wants. "The premise was to have better relationships," says Reinhardt, who partly blames the disconnect on young media planners. "They are often not qualified to make a good buying case based on what they are given, and what they give us. Hopefully, this will change that."
"I was stunned at the lack of information these guys were getting," says Vickie Szombathy, vice president and media director of Starlink, an affiliate of the Starcom MediaVest Group [see accompanying Q&A with Szombathy]. "Young planners and buyers are being told to get an RFP, but they are not given background at all on the client."
"It's about getting to the real information," says Reinhardt.
The new format asks the agency for the client's marketing goals and the goals of the overall campaign. Says Szombathy: "ďľ‘What is the target audience? What are the key factors in the competitive environment?' And probably the most important: ďľ‘How is the campaign going to be measured for success?'"
John Holden, ABM's senior VP of business media services, says the impetus for the new process boils down to helping publishers make better presentations. "There is a fundamental disconnect," says Holden. "When [Reinhardt] brought it up, the committee discussed it and this was the best outcome."
The next step, Holden and co. say, is adoption by publishers, agencies and;ultimately;their clients. "We wanted to get support from the 4As first," says Holden when asked why no clients were represented on the committee. He notes that the committee will seek approval from the Association of National Advertisers.
And at this stage, committee members are hoping;and expecting;widespread acceptance of the new regime. "I think they'll accept it," says Holden. Szombathy notes: "There is a whole format laid out. The majority of the large agencies already have all the general requests."
Reinhardt says any downside to a new system that threatens to change;and, with new, more accurate information about clients' goals, perhaps lose;business for publishers. "We might lose business," says Reinhardt. "That's not a bad thing, if in the end we're serving the client better."