Starter thoughts to fix the client / agency search process

Ugh. The latest large client to search for an agency, Sears, seems to have a fairly awful way of going about it. This Ad Age story offers up some of the deets. Apparently, Sears is telling agencies that pitch the business that all ideas pitched become the property of Sears. Even if you as an agency win nothing.

You read that right, sports fans. They own all your thinking. For nothing.

Today, you won’t be reading about how awful this is. Or how pleasing it is to know that some agencies have said, “thanks, but no thanks.” I also applaud the 4As for getting involved. We need their continued leadership on this issue.

This much is stuff you already know.

Today’s quick ditty is about suggesting a few ways we as an industry can fix this. Here are a few thoughts, all of which need some additional thinking around tricky little details:

Pay for some outside counsel. We as an industry have tried to fix what has been a slippery slope. But have had no luck. For many reasons. Let’s pay someone to treat this like a real problem that needs solving. And not someone that has a vested interest in the outcome. (Sorry, match-makers and search consultants.)

Put five guys in a room. The vast majority of our industry’s spending is managed by our top holding companies. All of them can agree that this kinda behavior – bad pitch process – is not helping anyone. Is this a starting point? You bet.

Identify punishment for non-compliance. While the afore-mentioned five guys might have the best of intentions…we need consequences when we break the rules. What might those be? Not sure right now. But I do know additional understanding, homework and immersion into the problem would help identify some ideas.

The alternatives: market-driven changes. Crowdsourcing and other model changes are the kind of thing that happens when we let the market identify the solution. These are part of a massive slide down a slope that wasn’t perceived to be that high to begin with.

We are an industry chock full of brilliant people in what has been a fun business. It surprises me that we can’t solve a problem that hurts most of us. Am I naive to think we can solve this? Meh. And yours truly will be the first to admit he has not treated this like a billable problem. Not that I am raising my hand.

Got anything to say about it?! Let’s hear it. Even if it’s just to rant a bit. You’ll feel better. Thanks.