The inside story of why the Glasgow Caledonian pitch will end in tears

By Tender Spot

April 3, 2012 | 4 min read

Okay, so you’ve got two tasks facing you. You need a bit of help developing your brand platform so that your communications are consistent and coordinated. Makes sense. And you’ve got to develop a new ad campaign to attract students to your University. Fair enough.

You decide you’ll feed two Tenders into the old procurement mincer to recruit an agency or two to deliver these. Logically, of course, you’ll put the Brand Tender out first.

Well, unless you’re Glasgow Caledonian University.

They have put out two Tenders, one for Brand Development, and one for Advertising. And responses to the advertising one are required first.

Still it’s not the end of the world, because the advertising one will be strategy only. I mean it’s not as if they’ll be looking for Creative in an open Tender. Apart from anything else, when the Branding Tender is completed any creative would be obsolete. And sure enough there’s no brief attached – how could there be if the Branding platform is about to change? That would be…what’s that? There IS Creative required? Ah, but they only want "scamps", so that's alright. Except that nobody has even used the word "scamp" since the last marker dried up. (How do you do a scamp on a Mac - turn the screen resolution down?)

So how’s that going to work? Isn’t this just going to be a huge waste of everyone’s time?

Meanwhile the gist of the Branding Tender is that somebody has already done some of the work, they just want someone else to make some sense of it. At least there won’t be Creative required for that. Oh, there is. They want brand guidelines and templates for different markets and perhaps some brochure designs?

In fact they want everything except a new logo. The logo isn’t going to change. It is awful after all, so it makes absolute sense that the logo is the one thing they wouldn’t want to change.

The budget guide for the Advertising brief is £30k to £60k. No budget given for the Branding one. Thanks for that…

So that’s not one but two Tenders, both demanding creative work based on no brief and little time. The Tender for Advertising will be awarded before responses to the Branding Tender are even due to be submitted. So the creative that wins the first Tender will immediately be out of date once the second one kicks in.

Why two Tenders? Why in that order? Why would any agency be daft enough to respond?

Simple, times are tough and clients can do what they like, because agencies need the business. Despite all the bravado that we don’t do creative for tenders etc, there will be agencies who respond to these briefs. The roles will be filled and one or two agencies will be grateful to have gotten the job.

Then, however, the real problems start.

As the actual work unfolds, the agencies will find they have painted themselves into a corner. They’re going to struggle to produce their best work after such a muddled process.

The client will then compare this with the output of other Universities who, by following a more enlightened approach, end up with brands and ads that actually work.

So the agency gets canned, and the process starts again.

All because the client WAS LOOKING FOR THE WRONG THING when they embarked upon the Tender process. Tendering is about finding a starting point, not about ideas for an end solution. It's about creating relationships, not scamps.

Meanwhile skills and craft are forgotten, competitiveness is eroded and standards are driven down.

Standards are what give our institutions and businesses a future. That applies to management, marketing, manufacturing and every other means by which we make our way in the world. And they are never more important than in challenging times.

In our business, standards are the responsibility of agencies and clients. Which is why getting the Tendering process right is so important.


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