Craig Redmond: Diary of a Twitterlicious RFP

Like any self-respecting parent, I first joined Facebook and Twitter to spy on my kids. Admittedly since then, Facebook has become an enriched alternative to my daily email. But Twitter was different. Beyond the minute-by-minute updates on Ashton Kutcher's bowel movements, the novelty of Twitter wore off pretty quickly.

Like any self-respecting parent, I first joined Facebook and Twitter to spy on my kids. Admittedly since then, Facebook has become an enriched alternative to my daily email. But Twitter was different. Beyond the minute-by-minute updates on Ashton Kutcher’s bowel movements, the novelty of Twitter wore off pretty quickly.

Then one morning, our most tapped-in associate Courtney Johnston happened upon an intriguing Twitter feed. She alerted partner Rob Dawson and myself that the marketing director for a TV specialty channel in the U.S. had posted an RFP on Twitter. Turns out that the channel was Current TV – the brainchild of Al Gore.

The insatiable curiosity of the business mind catapulted the account guy to his Twitter homepage with a smart, provocative and alluring tweet:

Rob Dawson @jkretch Deep consumer insights is key to your brand strategy. concerto marketing. Experts in Morphological Psychology. http://tiny.cc/1hOyV Friday/ 09:22 am

I, on the other hand, posted silly shit:

Craig Redmond @jkretch Heads spontaneously explode at the sight of our agency model. Brain splatter, blood, Windex. Please stay away. http://tiny.cc/1hOyV Friday/ 09:45 am

What neither of us could have anticipated was how those first Twitter RFP responses would foster a new client relationship and turn the two of us into twittering schoolboys overnight.

It was pretty obvious from the outset that this was more than just a Twitter stunt. Jordan Kretchmer at Current TV in San Francisco was seeking a mainstream agency that was current in the world of social network marketing. So what better way to outwit the patented ‘we do everything’ agency response than to cast the lure into the social network itself?

@jkretch Toasting the end of another mind-blowing day with client brain smoothies. We’re Canadian. Waste not want not. Friday/ 5:35 pm

What struck us most, aside from the utter freshness of the approach, was that it was completely transparent. As a participant, you knew exactly who you were competing against and able to evaluate what they were proposing. No backroom manoeuvres, no preordained winners, not who you knew or how far you were willing to lower your trousers. This was a fair RFP fight where you had nothing more than 140 characters to make a convincing agency proposal.

The transparency revealed who was participating but more importantly, who was conspicuous by their absence. Digital mavens like Modernista were there. And curve surfers like Creature had found the feed. But the mainstream agencies that Kretchmer had sought out in the first place were notably absent. So much for all that buzz about social media littering big agency blogs.

@jkretch Spent the night in the cooler. Refuse to divulge mind blowing secrets to anybody but Current. Mmmm brain bits. Saturday/ 10:07 am

Even more interesting was that we appeared to be the only Canadian firm engaged. Here was a medium-sized U.S. client, who seemed unfazed by agency scope or geography, yet Canadian shops renowned for their digital prowess and creative currency were either unaware or uninterested in the opportunity. So as sole representatives of our great nation, we decided to give’rrr.

@jkretch In accordance with NAFTA, you are obliged to include at least one mind blowing Canadian agency in your search. Saturday/ 4:45 pm

While I continued to post silly shit to keep Kretchmer entertained, my wily business strategist worked over the logical side of his skull. Rob Dawson cracked the Twitter wall and began having real conversations with the guy. And before we knew it, he had secured a meeting with Kretchmer in San Jose later that month, regardless of whether we were invited to pitch or not.

@jkretch So a little collateral brain spray at Current after all. Thanks Jordan. Will send our cleaning crew shortly. Sunday/ 11:22 am

Eventually, industry press caught on to the story of the first-ever RFP posted, moderated and evaluated on Twitter. The floodgates opened with Kretchmer’s legion of agency followers ballooning into the hundreds. And we found ourselves singled out alongside shakers like BBH New York and Chiat Day L.A. as noteworthy contenders.

In the end, we didn’t make the not-so-shortlist of 17 agencies. But we got a one-on-one meeting with the prospect. We got our spotlight in press coverage and we got about 400 unique visitors to our website in less than 72 hours – and all without spending one agency dime or suffering the usual man-hour carnage that comes with a pitch.

I think I might just give this Twitter thing another chance.

Craig Redmond is VP creative director of Vancouver-based Concerto Marketing Group. www.concertomarketing.com