The recent Zappos pitch debacle shows serious issues with our industry that have always been there. Issues that make agencies who are trying to sell a successful process rather than a successful pitch insane. Issues that always have us defending the last agency that screwed things up. Our plea is simple:
The Zappos pitch had 104 agencies involved. 104. (We were not one of them, mind you.) That means outside of the incumbent and a few hand chosen agencies, the other 100 or so didn't have a snowball’s chance to begin with. Yet more than 100 agencies threw in their hats, their ideas, their time, their resources, and their puppy-dog-like enthusiasm. All to be a part of - get this - an already successful brand.
I can think of 5 things wrong with the agencies involved and the process itself (I’ve reduced my list from over a hundred, just to make it fair and palatable).
You don’t know anything about Zappos. You’ve done no research. You haven’t talked to them. You don’t know their long term goals. You don’t know their needs. All you know is what they know and put on an RFP. Stop going in there and showing them that you have the answer. You don’t even know the question yet.
In our industry, our time is valuable. Our thinking is even more valuable. Instead of showing the value, you are quick to fly to Vegas (appropriately) and invest the time, energy and thought it takes to affect a brand. They don't value your time because you don't.
We’re change agents when we’re working at our very best. Instead of trying to help the best brands in the world get 2% better, why aren’t more agencies jacked about the prospect of actually creating those brands out of far more challenging circumstances? Zappos doesn’t need you as much as you need them.
It shows your desperation. Publicly. The fact that Zappos employees were Tweeting how much food, fun, and booze they were getting from the gaggle of pitching agencies. It’s pathetic. Have some self respect, people.
Spec work is very dangerous - for the brand. Putting all the creative energy into the pitch will diminish the thought – all you are trying to do is impress the people in the room, not achieve the brand goals. Congratulations, you got some executives in a room to laugh or say "wow". But are you now a good steward of the brand? Have you done your work for the real audience: consumers?
So to the winner, I say congratulations. To the other 99.1% of respondents I ask: was it worth it?
Addendum to this blog post: OK, I admit. It has a more negative tone than I originally intended. I'm really looking to help clients choose an agency in a more rational manner. I don't just want to defend agencies and their practices. I want to help companies go through more rational processes to serve the greater brand purpose. It does little good to throw 104 or agencies and countless ideas against a wall to see what sticks. Narrow down an inital search to 3-5 companies who have a legitimate shot. And then listen closely to how they want to serve your company/brand. The rest is diminishing returns.