Ethics in The Bidding Process
Responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) is an important part of agency business. But it also involves significant risk.
Agencies like ours routinely take that risk, allocating time and resources to companies that may or not choose us. But what happens when those companies don’t choose our agency but do choose our ideas?
Here, creative director Julie Schneider writes an open letter to a company that stole our creative.
Dear Director of International Events,
You may not remember me. My name is Julie Schneider, and I’m a creative director at The XD Agency. A while back, my team and I responded to an RFP from your company. And since that time, it’s come to my attention that we’re due for a talk. While I’ll spare you the embarrassment of calling you out by name, you need to know that what you did was wrong.
My team loved working on your RFP. We took it as an opportunity to reimagine your event, and we were proud of the inventive ideas we delivered. Naturally, we were disappointed when we didn’t win the work, but of course, that’s the nature of the business. You put out an RFP, agencies respond, and you choose the proposal that best fits your vision. Often that’s us, but sometimes it’s not. We get it.
But that’s not what happened here.
Imagine my disbelief when I watched the broadcast of your event and saw the creative we designed for you — the staging design, opening number, reveal tactics — deployed precisely as we’d proposed but by another agency.
How does that happen?
Were you unaware of how much time, effort, and money agencies like ours pour into these proposals? Did you fail to consider the extent to which our talents — our intellectual property — are represented in the creative solutions we share?
When corporations like yours use an RFP to shop for ideas and then have another agency deploy them, you’re stealing. It’s an unquestionable breach of ethics.
I work with a brilliant team at an agency I love. Part of our growth as a company involves taking smart risks — and as an independent, privately owned agency, we are responsible for every one of them. These risks are a routine part of the RFP process — a part we embrace and one that has powered our growth.
But when you plainly plunder ideas, you upend the good-faith trust on which our industry relies. You create an unfair playing field. You steal not just our ideas, but the money we spent to come up with them — the hard-earned money that enables us to keep my brilliant team employed.
I hope the next time you’re presented with the opportunity to steal someone else’s creative you’ll remember what you’re really doing. Consider if you’re living values your company would be proud to espouse. And know that your reputation is everything.
When we partner with one of your competitors next year, we will give them our finest thinking, just like we did for you. Stop by and see not only some best-in-class work — but also the look of an ethical client-agency relationship.
Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais,