Monthly Archives: December 2010

Turning the RFP Process Around: A Maverick’s Guide

How Creative Agencies Can Control Their Own Fate

You are a maverick. You have your own creative business or career. That’s a fairly intangible and subjective commodity. You survive and advance on guile. You succeed through desire — the greatest of all inspiration. You grow serendipitously, through good work and karma. At the end of every year, you wonder not only “how did it go by so fast?” but also, “how can i keep this up?” It’s no game for kids, selling creative ideas that sell. You understand the difference between creating content and communicating. You know how to communicate well and effectively for your clients. Yet you are too busy or modest to do this for your own business or career — often preferring to “let the work speak for itself.” It sometimes does but it often remains silent.

You are not a conformist. Yet, you conform to the rules of engagement for agency growth. You comply with the RFP process. This is unlike you. It quietly eats away at you — particularly in a pitch against agencies that you know you are a better fit than. You put yourself in this position. You played the game. You played by the rules. You allowed everyone to level the playing field. You allowed yourself to look and sound the same as everyone else. You are supposed to be a creative agency and yet you let creative “speak for itself” in the engagement process. You did nothing creative about the creative. Did you think all clients can tell the difference?

You have a chance to do something about it. You can begin by first vowing to take fate into your own hands. Then you can pick 5 – 15 companies/brands/clients you KNOW you can help and should be working with (no more than 3 in any one category). Then you can tell them why. But, as it stands now — you are just playing the new business game, responding to RFP’s, kissing consultants’ asses, bringing in some smile-and-dial monkey, or some of the new Twitterati to blog and tweet your way to fame and fortune. You realize tweeting for new business is just a technologically advanced form of “cold calling.” Whatever you want to call it — you’re at the mercy of unknown and therefore sinister forces. That is NOT the way to control your own fate.

You can tell them why they should be working with you in a creative way. You can tell them why in their own language, in their own format. You can send them an RFP. Why not? They have no problem sending you an RFP. Why can’t you return the favor? If nothing else, it will get their attention and you will stand out from the pack. And if the RFP is crafted and worded intelligently with relevant and insightful questions, you will score more points than directing them to your web site or blog. Your insights should be unexpected and dramatic based on the homework and research you’ve done on that particular brand and its category.

You are a maverick. Act like one.

Next: A Sample RFP Sent TO a Prospect

The Sporting Scene: Turkey Awards 2010

“Someday, I will be a sportswriter”. That’s what I said to myself in 1968 after I saw Walter Matthau play Oscar Madison in the film version of The Odd Couple. Well, that day is today. The wide world of sport is winding down another year, and there’s plenty of bird to go around. So let’s get right down to it, the biggest BOOS of the year go to:

Tiger’s Turkey:  Hank Haney — He was so busy fixing Charles Barkley‘s swing and Ray Romano‘s swing that he forgot to, you know, fix someone else’s swing.

Turkey Tiger:  Jim Joyce — This is the umpire that blew a routine out call at first base, costing Detroit Tigers‘ pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. People are human and they make mistakes. But, this was egregious. Someday, a player will take an umpire or referee to court and win. Why is it that you and I are liable for our professional errors and omissions and sports officials aren’t? Has anyone else noticed that his proper name is James Joyce?

Turkey Apartheid: Koman Coulibaly — This FIFA World Cup Official cost the US a historic win. Not that I care about soccer. But, it’s one thing to miss a call on the global stage, or blow a call, or choke on a call. It’s another thing entirely to manufacture a call. Does anyone with half a brain believe that the World Cup is not fixed?

Evil Empire Turkey: George Steinbrenner — The Boss takes a posthumous Turkey with him down below. In the year of his passing, Georgie managed to make sure he got his monument in Yankee Stadium. In a clear-cut case of penis envy, it dwarfs DiMaggio’s, Ruth’s, Gehrig’s and every other Yankee’s monument.

Turkey Jingo: “God Bless America” – I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I’m some Pinko Commie. Just because I read Fidel Castro‘s Reflections and The Unabomber‘s Manifesto or have sneaking suspicions about 9/11 and John Lennon’s assassination, doesn’t mean I don’t love my country. I wear Levi’s and Aldens. I carry Filson. I play Titleists and Taylors. I eat lunch at Manuel’s Tavern. I love America and support its capitalist democracy by patronizing its brands. I put my money where my nationalist mouth is.

But, I’ve had enough of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch of MLB games. First, it minimizes “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” — a baseball tradition. Second, we already sing the National Anthem before the game. We don’t need another National Anthem, we have one. And most seriously, hard-working, good-paying decent American fans have been escorted out of major and minor league stadiums for having the audacity to go to the restroom or simply stay seated during “God Bless America”. When did Irving Berlin become so damn important? Oh, I know — Hilary and crew sang it on 9/11. Hey, I don’t want to be reminded of 9/11 every time I go to a ball game. Nor Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, or Nagasaki. One of the reasons I go to the ballgame is to get away from that shit.

Turkey in Turkey: Allen Iverson — I’ve always defended Iverson. When they said he was a “bad kid”, I said he was a great competitor and a winner. When they said he was a shot pig, I said he was the only guy good enough to get his own shot at the end of the 24-second shot clock. I said I always wanted him on my team. Sadly, The Answer fell victim to the NBA Maggot/Entourage mentality. He’s broke. Without a home in this great country, you would think he could have done better than Turkey. It’s like watching Tiger Woods play on the Hooters tour. I have had a bad impression of Turkey ever since that movie, Midnight Express. I feel bad for Iverson, but he’s now Turkish to me.

Traditional Media Turkey: ESPN — Like any sport fan, the network has become home — like family. Yet, it has grown irresponsible while wielding its burgeoning power. For one, Lebron’s The Decision was in poor taste. Whoever hatched the idea in LBJ’s camp should have been spanked upon proposal. ESPN housed the debacle. They should have simply said “no”. For another, who is Dick Vitale to be telling college presidents who to hire and fire? The guy spent a grand total of two years as a college coach. How would he know? Maybe because he is such a Dick? I cringe when he deifies blatant cheaters and pontificates on the virtues of running a clean program. He would know too much about the former and nothing of the latter. But, it takes a thief to …

Michael Milken Turkey: Ted Forstmann — This is a late-breaking story, but if it’s true, it’s pretty gooey. This guy runs IMG, the company that manages coaches, athletes, events, licensing, et al — they touch professional and collegiate sports at every level and every touchpoint. In a 3-year period (’04 – ’07), he allegedly gambled some $600,000 on games and events that his clients played or coached in. It just feels like insider trading to me.

Turkey Leftovers: Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, Gilbert Arenas, Reggie Bush, Bruce Pearl — You can read about these guys on Fox Sports. But only on mikepalma.com do you get the real turkeys.