Review process

No one likes to work for free, but that's what's happening in the agency world with the stubborn resilience of the speculative creative presentation. At issue is the basic inefficiency of the process. The Association of Quebec Advertising Agencies' (AAPQ) Yves St-Amand says vive la révolution, but hold all that angry boycotting stuff. Hey, we're all adults here.

No one likes to work for free, but that’s what’s happening in the agency world with the stubborn resilience of the speculative creative presentation. At issue is the basic inefficiency of the process. The Association of Quebec Advertising Agencies’ (AAPQ) Yves St-Amand says vive la révolution, but hold all that angry boycotting stuff. Hey, we’re all adults here.

Demands for presentations are costly. For the past few years this practice had been in decline. Regrettably, the issue is back and it’s still a bad idea.

Over the last 18 months we have received reports that more firms are requesting spec pitches. These processes involve up to 10 agencies and full creative presentations.

A number of years ago the AAPQ undertook a year-long research effort to evaluate the impact of these presentations. The conclusion was that, even if an agency was retained, in nearly all cases the creative material presented was not. This waste of time and money was attributed to a number of factors, including incomplete briefings by advertisers.

Briefings are often candy-coated because of a reluctance to divulge the real problem behind their situation, including true statistics. Incomplete candour can lead to ineffective advertising. The agency wants to win the account. Thus, the creative presented is designed to please the client, rather than to convince the consumer.

The research also demonstrated that, after salaries and rent, these presentations were the largest expense category for the agencies.

To reduce waste, the industry formed guidelines for agency selection (see www.ica-ad.com). These include clearly defining the requirements, and process, visiting the short-listed agencies and requesting a capabilities presentation from finalists to assess problem-solving and chemistry.

The only way to solve this problem is for agencies to collaborate and speak with one voice. However, this shouldn’t be done in opposition to clients – a boycott shouldn’t be the first solution. We have to better educate advertisers and stop taking for granted that this approach will be taught and passed on from one marketing generation to the next.

Yves St-Amand is GM for the Montreal-based Association of Quebec Advertising Agencies.

Who’s getting it right?

RBC Financial. ‘[Working with] RBC was a good experience,’ says Simon Creet, associate CD at TBWAToronto (TBWA did not win the account). ‘Our agency encourages our prospective clients to go through a ‘disruption process.’ They have to

provide a number of pretty important people from their organization. RBC was great. They were very open about information we needed.’