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The rise in request for proposals: Marketing in the age of accelerations

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Undertaking a new project can be a painful part of a marketer’s job. Sifting through dozens of potential agencies, processing Request For Proposals (RFP) that can take longer than the work itself, sitting through long, ambitious pitches from agencies you know full well you’ll never work with. No wonder, then, that so many brands opt to stay with their established agency networks, no matter how overpriced or unsuited to the project at hand.

Enter Globality. With backing from the likes of former U.S Vice President, Al Gore, and board members that include ex-PwC chief executive, Dennis Nally, Globality hopes to become the world’s largest consultancy company without completing a single consultancy project. The first global B2B services marketplace, Globality matches major brands with pre-vetted SME service providers using A.I, together with vertical in-house industry experts.

“The work of finding a new supplier can be risky and complex” says Rick Mans, digital marketing director of Roche Diagnostics. “Often you’ll be choosing between the well-known names of those you have worked with previously, recommendations from others or a stab in the dark through an internet search or networking event. This is made even harder when finding a provider in a different country.”

Offering a secure platform for companies to collaborate and transact, the Globality model is useful for finding help to handle one-off projects that might otherwise prove expensive and time-consuming. Like, for example, the Scandinavian company producing jet engines, who, with the help of Globality, were able to connect with a South Korean agency to help with their brand strategy and social media.

Admittedly, the time seems ripe. With marketing project work on the increase and agency of record relationships (AOR) fixedly on the decrease, more brands now are choosing to work with independent agencies.

Consider a U.S sports company looking for a UK social influencer marketing strategy for the launch of new trainers aimed at 18-25s. If their AOR lacks international network and expertise, they might instead turn to an independent agency like Social Chain, where the average employee age is 21 and experienced in working with brands like Puma and Apple Music.

“There remains a huge amount of inefficiency and wastage in the agency/partner selection process and the legacy processes within organisations can be responsible for a lot of that. Enterprise level companies tend to be quite poor at understanding the advantages of working with smaller independents or even how to engage them,” stated Steve Antoniewicz, director of marketing intermediary, the Recommended Agency Register.

Globality connects brands to the right independents, who are often more specialist and can represent significantly better value. Sourcing the best independent agencies globally, the company will often get a direct line to a partner, who is hands-on with the project and, according to Globality client, Rick Mans, “their extensive vetting process makes it easier to find the right partner.”

Antoniewicz expands on the problem, adding that the request for information (RFI) procedure is used mainly by brands who “don’t know where or how to find information” He continues: “Or maybe what they can find doesn’t fit their template/forms. Some of the questions asked of agencies at an early stage of a process can be completely over-the-top and needless. Larger agencies have new business departments employing people almost exclusively to form fill and respond to these RFI’s and RFP’s, smaller agencies do not have that luxury so have to be far more selective.”

While Brexit and Donald Trump dominated the 2016 world stage, each were arguably driven by the fact that globalisation has left too many people behind. According to government statistics, the top 1% of firms – large multinationals – account for 90% of U.S. services trade', who are actually net reducers of jobs. Instead, it’s the SMEs or ‘Mittlestand’ in Germany who are the real job-creators and Globality is set to help them.

The company believe that it’s possible to take advantage of what author and New York Times journalist, Thomas Friedman, refers to as `the age of accelerations’. Using machine learning to take data from project briefs created on the platform, individual projects are matched to Globality’s store of data built from their partner agencies. Ed Major, who leads the marketing vertical in the U.K, says that “this way, brands can do granular matching at scale and make sure that they’re working with agencies with the right chemistry.”

With a background working at his own independent agency, as well as Oracle Marketing Cloud, he adds that “the rating service is driving transparency into a traditionally opaque industry.”

The RFP process is considered a necessary evil in the corporate world, but it’s perhaps no longer the greatest fit for the modern marketer. In the world of ‘always-on’ social media, most brands recognise the need for pragmatism and are theoretically open to collaborations with new and untried freelancers or smaller agencies. Globality claim they can fast-track this process, improving companies’ speed to market while developing new partners internationally.

But will the platform make the great waves that they anticipate? If so, they’ll have to work hard to overcome the chorus of ‘but this is the way we’ve always done it’ - a struggle only really understood by anyone familiar with the procurement methods of a major corporation. It might be about time for a new digital platform but the jury’s still out as to whether the marketing world is ready for it.

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Natalie Nezhati

All by Natalie