Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#161 In which our hero bores you with advertising stuff.

Wow, it’s Friday already. It’s been a busy week. I’m one of nine writers on staff at the agency, but this week I’ve been one of only two who are here all week. Everyone else has been either gone all week on vacation, or in and out of conferences, radio production or other stuff that takes them away from the office.

However, I haven’t been as slammed with overflow work than I thought I would be (maybe the other writer is, I dunno) but I have been busy with… stuff. It’s funny, I haven’t actually been doing a lot of writing this week, but I have been doing a lot of thinking. And a lot of going to meetings… good Lord, the meetings.

I’m currently involved in a couple of RFPs (“RFP” stands for “request for proposal). It generally goes down like this: a company has a new marketing/advertising goal. It may be rolling out a new product or launching a new website or doing something different for their distributors… anything, really. And while most bigger companies have already hired their own advertising agencies (i.e., the “agency of record”) they often go to them to launch the new thing… but not always. Sometime they go outside to find a new agency. This is extremely common in the advertising world, and it’s not the “if you can’t do it then we’re just find someone who can!” slap in the face to their agency of record that it might appear. Sometimes the agency or record just doesn’t have the resources to pull off a 100+ market distributor program or whatever. So they find an agency that’s strong in the area that their agency of record may be weak.

My agency does a lot of that kind of stuff. We’re actually not the agency of record for most of our clients. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Take a gigantic company like Procter & Gamble. They make hundreds of consumer products like laundry soap (Tide, Cheer), shampoo (Head & Shoulders, Pantene) toothpaste (Crest, Gleem) pet food (Iams, Eukanuba) and just a ton of other stuff.

They make billions and billions in sales every year. In the advertising world they are sometimes referred to as “Procter & God.” They’re big. So it would be a pretty tall order for ONE agency to handle all their advertising. My agency actually doesn’t do any work with P&G that I’m aware of. Anyway.

So you have a company that’s looking for help in attaining some new goal, so they put out a Request for Proposal (RFP). This is basically a document that says, “here’s what we want to do, here’s the goals we want to hit, come back and tell us how your agency would do it.” A bunch of agencies scramble to respond with the most impressive RFP response the company picks one, and suddenly you’re in business together.

This is a good way to land some new business, but more importantly, it’s a foot in the door. If the company likes the job you do with X, then maybe next year they let you try Y and Z. Play your cards right and suddenly you don’t just have a new project, you have a new client who’s pushing you lots of work (and, of course, paying you lots of money).

But the problem with RFPs is that you generally aren’t as familiar with the client, so there’s a lot of second-guessing about what they want to see. And a lot of RFPs are frustratingly vague; the company says “we don’t want to hinder your creativity with example of what we’ve done before, we want you to have a fresh perspective,” etc., etc.

This results in a lot of meetings with people sitting around saying, “um, how about this?”

It also involves a lot of thinking. It’s funny… thinking takes a lot more time than writing, for me at least. The great thing is that you have a blank slate and you can do anything you want. The sucky thing is that you have a blank slate and you can do anything you want.

So this week has been one big black hole of meetings and trying to figure out how best to respond to these RFPs. And, of course, they have to be realistic. We can promise to paint the client’s logo on the side of the space shuttle if they don’t have the budget to do it.

Boy, that’s probably more than you wanted to know, huh?

In happier news, Lily’s lip is once again little girl sized. I’m amazed at how quickly it healed. Monday it was huge and ugly (“my lip is dripping,” says Lily) and by Tuesday it was mostly back to normal.

I wonder what adventures next week holds?


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