As standard media has become more and more commoditized, publishers and media sellers have diversified their offerings. Rather than racing to the bottom on prices for banners and pre-roll videos, we've clambered up to the high ground of content creation, video programming, events, social optimization and data engineering.
The switch can be a jarring one. The work is harder and more detailed, involves more people (account management, client services, creative, production et al), eats up more time and is far more expensive. The uninformed, unqualified RFPs that used to aggravate us in the banner age are devastating us today. Too many sales teams take the bait and engage in a full-blown idea-fest, spinning out fully-baked programs, proposals and bespoke ideas... great work that ends up going nowhere 80-90 percent of the time.
There's a better way.
For starters, when we start the value creation process for a client brand, we almost always start by asking a question that begins with what: What are we going to sell them? What should we build? What do we include in the program? Instead, we should be starting with why: Why do they need us at all? Why are they not selling enough of their product? Why do their best customers not understand their value?
Asking these why questions early in the process helps you quickly expose the fatally flawed RFP and cattle call invitations. Often the understaffed and undercompensated agency planning teams may not even know the answers to these questions. They too are focused on what. As well-intentioned as they are, the planning team is at best an unreliable narrator in a process that is causing publishers to swing at too many bad pitches, bankrupting their bottom lines and alienating their internal teams.
The second big change that must be made is quite fundamental. Accept that this kind of work must be proactive, early stage, left of budget. We must be the ones who identify client marketing issues, approach them with strong points of view, and create our own white spaces. Since we can't count on decent RFPs in this new age, we have to start writing them ourselves.
Clients have told us what's important to them. Real data. Real contextual integration within meaningful content. Real solutions to real marketing problems. They really mean it, and they really don't care who brings them the fresh take on their situation and offers the fresh idea.
All we have to do is believe them. And act accordingly.