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Weekly Wrap - James Allen, MD, Guerilla

A six month free process and a thirty way beauty parade......feeling lucky punk?

Well that’s apparently been the Eurostar tender process to design their train interiors - and not surprisingly we hear that a fair few consultancies may have pulled out of the running.

Before the recent downturn, the free pitching situation was starting to get worse. Now it seems that ‘the crunch’ is an excuse to get more agencies to have a pop at a tender. At what point are we going to stand up and say enough is enough and have some self respect for our profession and industry? If not, we’re all going to find that we are competing for free with more competitors over smaller budgets.

Bear with me here over this well-documented rant as I use an example of why this madness is getting out of hand. We are currently moving to a bigger office, which is either a stupid move, or, as I would like to think, is focusing upon long term results and being optimistic. So as I am signing off a huge number of payments for electricians, builders, decorators etc., I started thinking about how we appointed the different companies who completed the work and how this compares to the processes within our industry.

At Guerilla, we did our research on ten or so building companies and then short-listed two or three companies based on their references. We then comprehensively briefed them to provide costs and a short project plan. We also gave them enough time to consider the project and time scales required. The chosen supplier was appointed within twenty four hours of the submission deadline; the ones who lost out were advised why and we thanked them for their efforts.

But what we do is more complicated and creative, we cannot surely be even likening our allegedly important profession to that of the building industry- can we? The point is that if joiners, electricians and builders etc. worked in the way our industry does they would have been competing against a huge number of competitors (you wouldn’t be able to move for white vans). In theory, they would have all built that extension we needed for fun. The best bit is that only one would have been paid for doing it, the others would have gladly accepted a ‘Dear John’ letter if they received one at all.

As an industry, what we produce at the initial stages is not as tangible as a building or piece of office furniture. We make our living supplying creative solutions to our client’s marketing problems, as we all know, a good, strong concept is worth its weight in gold to a client, increasing their bottom line and raising their profile - and yet we give our ideas away for free while still expecting clients to value them – surely we can’t have it both ways?

If we as an industry don’t start respecting our most precious product – our ideas -how can we expect a client to do it? Particularly in the current economic climate, when businesses are coming under increasing pressure to cut spending!

So if you were one of the lucky 30 consultancies asked to spend six months undertaking the allegedly ‘tortuous’ tender process for the Eurostar job speculatively, we hope you see light at the end of the tunnel soon.

James Allen is the managing director of Newcastle-based agency Guerilla.

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