Agency Compensation for RFPs? A Procedure Whose Time has Come

We have been receiving our fair share of RFPs lately and as usual, the discussion turns to “are we going to get paid for this?” or “they’re just going to steal our ideas and give them to another firm to implement.”

To combat this we have been doing some research into the question of compensation for the effort that an agency expends in order to reply to an RFP, much less win the contract.

According to a recent ADWEEK article, “too often, agency executives view RFPs as take-it-or-leave-it documents, frequently ignoring the risk of giving away ideas “for free” for a chance at a lucrative contract.  Additionally, some RFP issuers have long viewed the process as an opportunity to solicit creative ideas from a range of sources without having to pay.  Neither of these scenarios is desirable.”

AutoZone, a national automotive parts retailer, recently offered to purchase ownership of pitched ideas.  On the surface, it may seem that AutoZone, and subsequently other prospective agency clients, are devaluing the creative and or strategic planning process by requesting ownership of campaign ideas in exchange for meager financial compensation.  Note: Autozone is also requesting a two-year ban preventing agencies participating in their RFPs to pitch competitors – essentially a non-compete clause.

But perhaps this might signal a procedural shift among those requesting RFPs and evaluating agency proposals.  Are agency clients now recognizing property ownership?  Will this be a trend-shift?  The ADWEEK article suggests that this is a starting point for pre-proposal compensation negotiations.  Concept development fees can be explored.  This seems like a stretch.

At a very minimum, agencies should be able to copyright the information contained in their proposals, even if they are not compensated.  Wording should be developed where the ownership of the concept, plan and execution model belongs to the developer until payment is rendered.  Alternately, a non-disclosure agreement could be entered into.  Wouldn’t this be a new idea!

Ultimately, we believe agencies need some legal protection if their ideas and plans are used without payment.

What do you think?

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