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RFPs Suck. Here’s How to Fix Them & Respond

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In the world of creative and video production every so often we are asked to respond to an RFP (Request for Proposal). To break it down a company is seeking to find a vendor to do work for them, be it architecture, web-design, creative services, and video production to name just a few. Generally companies want to get a few quotes to kick around and some concepts from outside their organization to use in a campaign, design etc. So the company will pick a group of companies or put out an open call for applicants, just as you would with a job opening. This seems like an interesting and cool concept, even one where the playing field can be levelled for competing companies, but in reality it is a terrible, terrible way to go about business.

Some companies are governed by ethics rules, in many cases brought on by the Sarbanes Oxley rules (SOX) which came to be after the Enron debacle. For some companies, they are required to get multiple quotes to avoid any ethical hiccups which in and of itself is not a bad idea at all, but the RFP takes it a step further to the point of absurdity.

At MEDIAPOP we now have a strict policy that we will not respond to RFPs…for these reasons:

  1. The RFP came to you out of the blue.
  2. The RFP is way too vague.
  3. They won’t respond or are very vague to critical questions about the RFP.
  4. The man-power and time it takes to respond may not equal the budget.
  5. The competition will always be cheaper.
  6. The company is justifying an already chosen vendor.
  7. You don’t know who the competition is.
  8. You don’t know who is evaluating your proposal.
  9. The client already likes someone else.
  10. Chances of an ongoing relationship are very low.
  11. The RFP is unrealistic.
  12. Your knowledge is limited to what’s in the RFP.
  13. Companies may default to an RFP for everything.
  14. Cookie cutter approach.
  15. Your creative service isn’t a commodity.
  16. Circumvents relevant communication.
  17. Without meaningful scope, how can you accurately quote?
  18. They have no idea who you are.
  19. RFPs are an invitation for competition, not suitability.
  20. The client’s budget is woefully ridiculous.


The reasons above seem pretty obvious, especially in the creative realm. For owners, marketing teams, and managers this is a lazy and uninformed approach to finding someone to fulfill those creative needs. The companies that rely on the RFP for creative will no doubt get 75% of responses that are bottom of the barrel both in price and skill. Creative skills cannot be considered a commodity. There aren’t barrels of this, or piles of that, Creative is concepts, ideas, and thoughts that aim to shift perception or enlighten an audience to something. Sure, you can go to the creative factory and get subpar concepts churned out for bottom dollar, but will they truly make the impact you’re hoping to achieve?

So if the idea of an RFP, specifically for creative services, is asinine and counterproductive then what is the alternative?

The first step for any company is research. Specifically for creative/video head over to Vimeo and see what the creatives in the area are doing. What grabs your attention? What gets you emotionally? What project changed the way you see something, that shifted your pre-conceived notion? Pick vendors that speak to you and what you’re trying to achieve. Once you’ve found those people, give them meaningful information about what you want…be as specific as you can, and open to change. Once ideas have come to the forefront have collaborative conversations with the utmost honesty. Here are some more alternatives:

  1. Do your research.
  2. Find vendors that are inline with your vision.
  3. Have a vision.
  4. Communicate often with the vendors.
  5. Be specific about your goals.
  6. Be upfront and honest about who the vendor is in competition with.
  7. Don’t let cost guide your choice.
  8. Don’t let cost guide your choice.
  9. Be open to new ideas and concepts.
  10. Don’t expect oodles and oodles of work for free.


This approach to finding the right vendor will most certainly elicit the greatest results. The fact of the matter is you’ll get greater results by searching for the best fit, rather than highest amount of responders. As in life, you attract what you project as a business. If you blindly put out RFPs it seems clear you’re not truly interested in the end creative project you get. You’ll certainly get responses, but there’s a difference between “we want the money” responses and the very few “we care about what you’re doing” responses that you probably won’t get.

RFPs suck. Stop doing them. Find your voice. Have a vision. Be better and reap the rewards.

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